What is an Orangery?

What is an Orangery?

What is the difference between a conservatory and an orangery? Our guide will help you choose which is best for you.

What is an Orangery

The most common questions we're asked about conservatories are "What is the difference between a conservatory and an orangery?" and "What is an orangery?"

A conservatory is a glass structure with a brick base and a pitched glazed roof.

An orangery is a brick structure with large windows and a flat roof with a glass lantern.

To really understand the subtle differences between a conservatory and an orangery we need to understand how conservatories developed from orangeries. To do that, we go back to when large glazed windows were used to maximise sunlight.

An orangery

The history of orangeries

In Renaissance Italy and in Holland, the development of glass technology allowed the production of large expanses of clear glass. Because of this, large glass windows could be constructed, for the first time.

Taking advantage of large window technology, solid structures could be built to maximise light and benefit from sunlight. In 17th century northern Europe, buildings with large windows appeared that enabled citrus fruits and exotic plants to grow protected from the winter cold.

These buildings were constructed from brick or stone and had a solid north-facing wall to protect against the cold and a stove to keep them warm. The tall windows were positioned south-facing to maximise sunlight and usually had wooden shutters to retain heat at night.

The original orangeries in the 17th century had solid roofs, but in the 19th century began to feature the central glazed lantern to allow more light to flood in.

Although they originated as a practical means to cultivate fruits, the orangery quickly became an ornate status symbol trend featuring impressive architecture. Wealthy owners of grand houses and estates would delight in showing off the ornate architecture and the collection of exotic plants they owned.

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An orangery drawing

What is an orangery?

A brick-based structure with large windows and a flat roof with a glass lantern.

A traditional orangery can be defined by a distinctive look of:

  • Large tall windows on one side (south-facing)
  • Stone or brick built
  • A flat roof with a central glass lantern
  • A heating source such as a stove
  • Wooden shutters on the windows to retain heat at night

The history of conservatories

In the 19th century, orangeries gave way to fully glazed structures and the conservatory came into existence.

In 1832, the introduction of sheet glass production by Chance Brothers enabled the development of fully glazed structures. Sir Joseph Paxton embraced sheet glass by building Crystal Palace in 1851 which at the time had the greatest area of glass in a building.

After this, the English began a love affair with glass buildings. As architecture developed to fully glazed structures, grand municipal conservatories with exotic plant collections began to appear in most cities.

A 19th century conservatory

These large greenhouses were standalone structures of great size that housed a collection of exotic and rare plants and sometimes birds and animals. The Palm House at Kew Gardens is another fine example of this time.

The World Wars halted architectural development and after in the 1950s and 60s, the building of glass structures began again.

Sunrooms were the first glazed 'rooms' to be built on ordinary houses. A basic structure attached to the side of a house to take advantage of sun warmth and views from a house. Made from aluminium frames and single glazing they would be very cold when the sun wasn't shining.

In the 1970s, architects further developed the idea of the domestic conservatory. For inspiration, they looked back at the popular Victorian conservatories and began to develop the classic conservatory structure we know of today.

Everest was founded in 1965 and with the development of uPVC frames in the early eighties domestic conservatories really took off. Once again, they became a status symbol, but this time for the average family.

What is a conservatory?

Technically, what is classed as a conservatory:

  • A fully glazed structure with a low brick base
  • The roof is more than 75% glass
  • The walls must be at least 50% glass
  • The structure is built against the wall of a house with a closing door or window
  • Must have a standalone heating source separate from the main house

A conservatory drawing

What is the difference between a conservatory and an orangery?

Conservatories, orangeries and extensions are becoming blurred as more people opt for fully glazed extensions to their homes. What we consider conservatories are technically extensions and what we call orangeries are really conservatories.

The main difference between a conservatory and an orangery is the amount of coverage of glass in the structure.

A conservatory is a fully glazed structure with a low brick base wall.

Orangeries are often confused with conservatories. But a real orangery is quite a grand structure that adds real elegance to a property.

The following table will help you to understand the subtle differences between a conservatory, an orangery and an extension.

Flat solid roof with a central glass lantern - less than 75% glassPitched glazed roof, more than 75% glassTiled roof, can have skylights - less than 75% glass
Large tall windows - less than 50% glass in the wallGlazed walls, more than 50% glassWindows that are less than 50% glass of the wall
Standalone or built against the side of the house with windows or a door into the houseBuilt against a wall of the main house, separated by a closing door/windowAn extension of the main house without separation
Brick-built corner pillars and/or wallsFully glazed frameBrick or stone built with windows
Square or rectangle shapeCan be rectangle, P or T shapedAn extension of the house, usually rectangular
Built to be a similar style to the houseA glazed structure that doesn't look like the houseThe style is integral to the house

Is an orangery warmer than a conservatory?

An orangery was originally designed to capture as much sunlight as possible to grow fruit and exotic plants. To achieve this, the windows had to be south-facing, with a solid north-facing wall protecting against the cold and wooden shutters to retain heat at night.

An orangery is fundamentally a brick structure with large glass windows, so the brick will provide more insulation than a fully glazed structure.

A conservatory is a structure predominantly made of glass so is naturally susceptible to fluctuations in temperature - hot in summer, cold in winter. Glass technology does mean that conservatories built today are far more energy-efficient than twenty or thirty years ago. But, by its very nature, glass will always be less efficient than brick at retaining heat and managing a constant temperature.

On balance, a traditional orangery is slightly warmer than a conservatory. But, conservatories with quality glazing are not far behind.

Do you need planning permission for an orangery?

For planning permission purposes, orangeries are considered as single-storey extensions.

Permitted development rights offer a homeowner a lot of possibilities to extend their property without the need for a full planning application. The Rights for single-storey extensions are surprisingly generous and allow for a reasonably sized extension.

Therefore, orangeries DON'T need planning permission IF they're built within the permitted development guidelines*.

Planning permission can be confusing (and serious if you get it wrong) so it's essential that you fully understand the guidelines before you start a project. For this reason, you should only work with expert tradesmen who can help you.

*Note, if you live in a listed building or a conservation area you have tighter restrictions.

At Everest, we manage all the planning permission and regulations for an orangery or a conservatory on your behalf and guarantee what we build is within guidelines.

You can read our guide that covers the permitted development rights and building regulations for an orangery. Do I need planning permission for an orangery?

Does a conservatory or an orangery add value to a property?

Most home improvement should add value to your home IF it's done to a high standard and in keeping with the property.

A conservatory can add between 5-12% to the value of a property. Whilst an orangery can add as much as an extension depending on the finish.

Bad DIY can seriously devalue a property - adding uPVC windows to a period property (instead of traditional timber). So, anything that you do build must be of a high standard. Old, badly built uPVC conservatories can put off potential buyers if you want to sell.

It's important to consider the style of the property and what would best suit the house. For example, an Edwardian semi would better suit a conservatory whilst a traditional stone-built detached house would suit the grandeur of an orangery.

Gardens are a desirable feature of a house so if you have limited garden space you should consider how much garden area you want to retain to maximise the property value.

If you speak to a local estate agent they can offer advice on what is popular in your area and what will most add value to your property.

Should I choose an orangery or a conservatory?

If you want to extend your home and are considering either a conservatory or an orangery you would need to ask yourself the following questions:

Do I have a traditional detached house that would suit a luxurious structure?Do I have a Victorian, Edwardian or Post War semi, or a modern build?
Do I want to use the space in winter/all year round?Do I want a space to enjoy sunny days?
Do I prefer a space with more climate control?Do I mind fluctuations in temperature?
Do I want a grand looking structure that could add significant value?Do I prefer the look of an all-glass structure?
Do I want a building in keeping with the style of the house?Do I want a structure that is a different style to the house?
Do I want a structure that is standalone?Do I want a structure that sits against the side of the house?
Do I want a structure that is bright but avoids too much glare?Do I want a structure that is flooded with light from the roof and the walls?
Do I want a sunny room but not a lack of privacy?Do I want to feel like I'm sat outside?
If yes to most of these questions, choose an orangeryIf yes to most of these questions, choose a conservatory

An Edwardian conservartory with half-brick walls is very similar in styling to an orangery and an alternative choice.

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With Everest, you get an expert team to help you build your dream conservatory

We offer a full end-to-end conservatory advice, design and installation service. We work with your local planning authority to ensure your new conservatory conforms to all UK building standards and requirements.