A true conservatory is a room essentially framed in glass, where one can enjoy light the whole year round. The architecture is symmetrical, with a strong three-dimensional form and visual presence, filled with fine period details. It provides a perfect setting for furniture and plants, where the seasons’ changes can be enjoyed from within.
Conservatories evolved from an earlier building type – orangeries, which were generally grand masonry buildings, partially-glazed towards the south, sometimes with a partially-glazed roof, and intended to grow and display exotic specimen plants signifying their owners’ wealth and status. They were heated by various means, all of which were complicated to install and expensive to run.
During the 19th century, manufacturing innovation provided increasingly larger, better quality and cheaper glass, as well as more practical technology for space heating. This encouraged the emergence of a new building form – the conservatory, incorporating progressively more glass (although originally still intended for “conserving” plants). During the Victorian period, fully-glazed conservatories became both highly fashionable and domesticated, being mass-produced in large quantities and becoming affordable for the emerging middle classes.
In this way we are able to achieve greater strength and spans using sealed glazed units carried on finely-moulded rafters. The benefits of this technically-advanced system can be achieved without compromising traditional details, so that the slender appearance and delicacy of single-glazed conservatories of the past can be maintained.