Even though spring has officially arrived, it may not feel like it yet in many parts of the country. Cold weather can continue well after green shoots appear in the garden and buds start popping on trees and shrubs. Deterred by the chill, we’re also deprived of the simple joys of being outdoors, taking in the sun. The Victorians had a splendid answer for that: the conservatory.
Depending on where you live, conservatories come in many names, shapes, sizes and designs. Some are called solariums, sunrooms, or Florida rooms. Some are free-standing, others attached; some formal and elaborate, others plain and utilitarian.
In Europe, early conservatories were often used to grow citrus during the winter and were called “orangeries.” Sunrooms are often manufactured off site and attached to part of a home. A conservatory usually fits seamlessly with a home’s construction. A conservatory for a Victorian home will have a fanciful look, while a contemporary home calls for a sleek and simple design.
Some of the most famous conservatories include historically significant orangeries in Paris and Versailles; examples at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa.; and London’s Kew Gardens. One of the most famous in the U.S. is the elaborate brick and glass extravaganza at the Biltmore House in Asheville.
A conservatory differs from a greenhouse in that a conservatory is also a living space. Conservatory floors are finished, and while plants may fill much of the space, they are typically grown in decorative pots or with saucers to protect the floors. Conservatories often have seating areas, lighting, fountains or other water features. Sculpture is a popular touch.
One considerationis the cost for heating and cooling. While some can strain the budget, with insulated glass, they are not as expensive to maintain as in the past.
Another major cost is construction. If a conservatory is custom fabricated on site, the price can be significant. A simple sunroom might start at $350 per square foot and run upward from there to $100,000 or more, depending on features and complexity of design.
Styles and options
From simple glass framing to copper and glass roofs, unique roof lines and detailed architectural accents, a conservatory can be suited to your home’s design – and your imagination. A conservatory can serve as an extra room for relaxing, a study-like retreat, pool house, winter garden, orchid sanctuary, even a greenery-filled dining room for parties or other special occasions.
To find the look best suited for your home, start by checking the Internet. Entering the term “conservatory” on the Houzz.com website will pull up designs in a wide range of styles. Visit the websites of companies such as Tanglewood Conservatories for in-depth profiles ( Tanglewoodconservatories.com).