If you’re looking to build a sunny extension or living space and you’ve begun researching your options, you’ve probably run into both of the following terms: orangery and conservatory. What’s the difference? That’s what this guide will explain!
Modern conservatories and orangeries have a lot of overlap as they don’t tend to be used for their traditional uses anymore. But understanding the root of those traditional uses is important to understanding how the terms are used today.
Orangeries were developed in the 17th century as a type of greenhouse that was used specifically for the nurturing of citrus trees. These structures provided the elite with a way to protect these fragile tropical plants from the harsher winter climate. Over time, however, the availability of citrus fruits spread, and as these fruits became more affordable year round, the orangery lost its initial purpose, but remained a status symbol.
One of the reasons you’ll note an overlap between the purposes and designs common between orangeries and conservatories is the simple fact that conservatories evolved from the orangery concept. The major difference between the two was the fact that conservatories were traditionally used more frequently to protect herbs and shrubs, rather than citrus trees. As a result, conservatories generally provided somewhat less (but still substantial) light through the use of glazing and other materials than orangeries. The same remains true today, with orangeries typically having less glazing and less frequently incorporating panels of other materials.
Orangeries, traditionally, are not designed to be so much an extension of the house but as a more elegant addition to it. That is, instead of being a continuation of the home’s decorating themes, orangeries are often more elevated in design concept, incorporating more luxurious materials.
Conservatories, on the other hand, are typically an extension of the feel of the rest of the home. They provide a way to enjoy the beauty of the garden from a space that feels like the house as a whole. The design features of a conservatory frequently mimic the design features of the home’s existing interior and exterior, while the more luxuriously-oriented orangery tends to depart from those elements.
As a result, conservatories can usually be constructed from a wider variety of materials, including uPVC and aluminium. Orangeries, on the other hand, are still almost always constructed using timber, although some modern examples are challenging this tradition.