Orangery or Conservatory?

What is the difference between an Orangery and a Conservatory?

Well these days that’s a tough one to answer definitively as the difference between them has become blurred and many of our customers are equally mystified and resorting to the Internet does not provide a definitive answer.

It is probably easiest to start with what they both have in common.

The purpose of both a conservatory and an orangery is to create a space that is full of light which essentially means they use a lot of glass both as windows and for the roof.

This generally means that they will be an extension to the house and attached in one way or another to become an extra room, although an orangery can be a stand alone building placed in the grounds to get the most sunshine. However, most people would refer to this building as a summerhouse.


Orangery Origin

The word orangery originated around the 17th Century for buildings that were used to protect orange and other fruit trees in the winter. These were generally large structures placed to face South to get the best of the sun. As they became fashionable they became smaller and were often a glass extension to the main property – very similar to a conservatory.

So far, so confusing.

However there is one big difference between an orangery and a conservatory and that is the construction of the building itself.


Conservatory definition

A conservatory is generally a structure consisting of a metal, uPVC or wooden frame filled with glass that stands on a solid foundation with at best a small low wall around the base.


Orangery definition

Orangeries typically are a more solid structure built of brick, stone or hardwood very similar to an ordinary extension to the house but with a glass roof.

house with Orangery attached

This makes it seem much more like an extra room with a glass roof creating a light and airy space that can be put to many uses. The design, both internally and externally, can be styled to harmonise with the main building in a contemporary style or to match Georgian, Victorian, Stone Cottage or any other architectural fashion.

Orangery Roof – Lantern roof differentiates Orangery from Conservatory.


The Glass Lantern Roof is the Giveaway

It is the glass roof itself that gives the biggest clue as to whether you are looking at a Conservatory or an Orangery.

An orangery will typically feature a lantern roof on the top of a structure. It is a glass roof that does not cover the entire width of the orangery, leaving a strip of flat opaque roof on all sides of the orangery.

Internal View of an Orangery Roof – Lantern roof differentiates Orangery from Conservatory

Internal View of a Conservatory RoofFurther clues can be seen if you look closer at the way in which the roof is designed to work. For example with a conservatory the roof line ends in the gutter for water run-off, whereas with an orangery the lantern roof doesn’t run into guttering. Instead there would be a perimeter around the glass lantern which could either be a solid structure with an epdm ( rubber ) surface or a glass surface,  the rain water then runs off into a gutter system which is contained within a cornice. See the image below – note there is no guttering visible.

Orangery showing Cornice detailing – note there are no visible gutters

If you look at the image below which shows an orangery roof under construction, you will see there is a lot going on inside the structure regarding reinforcement of the roof structure because the perimeter needs to support the roof lantern whereas, with a typical conservatory, the roof would supported with a ring beam fixed around the top edge of all the supporting frames.

This is one of the reasons why Orangeries typically cost more than Conservatories because of the extra design and construction work involved, but then as we all know really you get what you pay for.

At the end of the day both a conservatory and an orangery will fulfil the same function – creating a versatile glass extension, full of light, that can add extra room and value to your home. Developments in the thermal properties of modern glass also mean that whether you choose a conservatory or an orangery, both will be economic to run and provide useable, comfortable surroundings all year round.

If you are looking to extend your living space, take at look at our Glass Extensions and Contemporary Orangery pages for more information. Better still why not contact us and let one of our expertly trained and highly experienced designers come and discuss your requirements and prepare you a free, no obligation quotation.

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