What is an orangery?

While everybody knows what a conservatory is, not everyone will instantly know what an orangery is. For many people, the image of a glass house in a stately home may spring to mind. While these elegant and historic constructions were the origin of the orangery in Britain, today orangeries are becoming increasingly popular as home extensions for people outside the aristocracy!


The history of the orangery

The classic style orangery originated during the Renaissance in Italy. Italian nobility would use the glass rooms to grow citrus trees – hence the name. The building became very fashionable with architects and with Lords and Ladies in Britain in the 17th Century, as they made it possible to grow exotic and tropical fruits in a colder climate.

Orangeries quickly became regarded as a status symbol among the upper class, as glass was very expensive, and being able to afford enough to build an orangery was a great display of wealth. Orangeries were often constructed using the walls of the garden as the foundations, building glass walls and rooves around them. They were designed to be aesthetically pleasing, often with intricate wrought iron designs to hold the glass panes in place.


The orangery today

Today the orangery has evolved into a more modern and adaptable space. While people today use an orangery in much the same way as they might use a conservatory – as an extension of the home rather than as a separate space, the orangery has maintained the traditional touch of elegance.

The large windows, brickwork and glass ceiling make the space very different to that of a typical conservatory. The décor might be different to the rest of the home, with summer house style furniture like wicker or light fabrics.

An orangery gives a sense of privacy and security due to the half brick construction, which can be an advantage if you’re building into a garden that isn’t entirely sheltered from view. It also gives the space more versatility – the more robust and permanent feel of an orangery means it could be used as a kitchen or dining room.

Construction of an orangery

An orangery depends on a solid base to support the roof. This base is usually constructed of a matching material to the house, making it a part of the building rather than an extension. Large windows rest on top of a low brick or stone wall, with supporting columns to take the weight of the roof.

A typical orangery will feature French style doors made from glass which allow the room to open out into the garden in warm weather. The roof or an orangery is a large plastered flat roof with a lantern placed centrally to allow maximum light into the orangery. The lantern can vary in size depending on how open and airy you want your orangery to feel. Similarly, you may prefer to fit it with bi fold doors rather than French to give the room a more open feeling.