We are frequently asked to define the difference between conservatories and orangeries - the answer lies in the elements of their construction!

Forerunner to the conservatory, orangeries first appeared in Renaissance Italy. Similar to the conservatory in the sense that they were originally used for horticultural purposes, but rather than built for the growth of plants - as was the case with Victorian conservatories built for the colder climates of Northern Europe - orangeries were used for the protection of trees in winter; in particular citrus trees - hence their name - orangery / orangeries.

The earliest orangeries did not have glazed roofs, so to ensure the maximum penetration of nurturing warmth and light from the low winter sun, the fenestration which punctuated the stone or masonry construction of their south, east and west facing elevations, would include arrangements of generous width floor-to-ceiling glazing. With time the opening arrangement for these shafts of light became more and more sophisticated, from doors with removable panels above, to fantastic triple-hung sashes. The surrounding terrace was integral to the design and purpose providing a plinth for the huge container bound trees which annually made the transition from inside to out. Charged by the sun the stone or masonry elements of
orangeries would absorb energy thus radiating warmth during the cold winter evenings. During the warm summer months the solid roof of the open orangery provided welcome shade whilst promenading the sun bathed citrus filled terraces.

Typically long and narrow with very tall symmetrically ordered elevations, these remarkable orangeries became the focal feature of the formal gardens of the wealthy land owners throughout central Europe. With time the fashion to import the defining elements of the classical period clearly became irresistible. Hence it is that albeit on a domestic scale, the orangery of today will reflect the same sense of symmetry and order in its elevations; and whether in timber, masonry or stone, will incorporate plinths, pilasters, entablatures, pediments and columns typical of the classical period.

Orangeries of today will almost certainly have a glass roof (although not necessarily), typically supported off a cantilevered integral guttering assembly. Curiously it is this latter detail which has become the primary focus in defining orangeries within the contemporary conservatory market, but clearly there is much more to it.

Click on the peripheral images and case studies to sample just a few of our beautifully designed orangeries.