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For those who appreciate the difference

What's the difference between a Conservatory and an Orangery?


Updated: 24th October 2023

With over 40 years' experience in designing and making conservatories and orangeries, it is a question that we often get asked and you would not be alone in wondering what the differences between a conservatory and an orangery are.

What is the difference between a conservatory and an orangery?

What is an orangery?

An orangery is a home extension which has a much more substantial feel, a key signature of an orangery building is the bold colonnade effect. If missing this element, you are left with a glazed structure without architectural merit or identity. An orangery will typically feature wide classical pilasters flanking each window or door set, often mirrored internally.

Orangery typical uses

Open plan kitchen orangery extension

Kitchen Extension: Many homeowners choose to use orangeries as kitchen extensions. The combination of natural light and a well-designed space makes for a delightful cooking and dining area. It's an ideal choice for those who enjoy open-plan living.

Dining Area: Orangeries make excellent dining spaces. With their abundance of natural light and a strong connection to the outdoors, they create a welcoming atmosphere for meals with family and friends.

Open plan kitchen orangery extension

What is a conservatory?

A conservatory will generally have lighter and more delicate framework with pitched roof sailing straight from the frame work head section. They are also a more appropriate structure for some periods of building.

Conservatory typical uses

Open plan kitchen orangery extension

Living Space: Many homeowners use conservatories as extended living rooms or sitting areas. The abundance of natural light makes them ideal for relaxation, reading, and socialising with family and friends.

Dining Area: Conservatories are excellent spaces for dining. They create a welcoming ambiance for meals, and the connection to the garden or outdoor surroundings adds to the dining experience.

Open plan kitchen orangery extension

What's the main difference between a conservatory and an orangery?

The main difference between a conservatory and an orangery is a combination of factors, primarily related to the amount of glass within the structure. These differences are evident in both the roof and the sides, as well as in the general construction of the roof.

In terms of roof construction, a conservatory typically has over 75% of the roof glazed, while an orangery has less than 75% glazed.

In the construction of an orangery, the design often reflects the architectural styles of the original 18th-century buildings. It features an inset roof within the surrounds of a concealed secret gutter externally, which reduces the amount of glazed area. A shallow roof pitch also contributes to a diminished roof profile, aligning with the architectural styles of that historical period.

Drawing of how a conservatory roof is different to a orangery roof.
Conservatory Roof Drawing
Drawing of how an orangery roof is different to a conservatory
Orangery Roof Drawing

Similarly, a conservatory will have a more delicate side framework and larger proportion of glazing to other features that may be found within the side. In contrast, an orangery will incorporate generous sized pilasters and entablatures, creating the feel of a more substantial build.

Here are a couple to images which clearly show the different roof designs:

Example of a glazed roof conservatory
Example of Conservatory with fully glazed roof
Example of how an orangery has a different roof to a conservatory
Example of Orangery with inset glazed roof

Internal differences

The internal difference between a conservatory and an orangery is primarily due to the structural variances in the roof and sides.

In an orangery, you'll typically find an inset ceiling running around the perimeter of the room. This design choice creates more shade and shadows, enhancing the ambiance of the space. It also provides opportunities for downlighting. Additionally, external columns are often mirrored internally, providing an ideal location for wall lighting.

In contrast, the interior of a conservatory has a lighter and more open feel. This is because of the increased proportion of glazing in both the roof and sides, allowing more natural light to flood the space.

Please see the examples below for comparison:

Example of a conservatory interior
Example of a Conservatory Interior
Example of a orangery interior
Example of an Orangery Interior

What came first the orangery or the conservatory?

The orangery, originating from the Renaissance gardens of Italy between the 17th and 19th centuries, predates the conservatory. Orangeries were luxurious extensions or freestanding buildings designed to house orange and lemon trees during the winter months, protecting them from the elements. Owning such a structure was a symbol of wealth and prestige, and owners would often impress their guests with tours that showcased not only the architectural design of the orangery but also the interior citrus trees.

Architecturally, the Roman-inspired designs were typically constructed from stone and featured tall, narrow windows, usually facing south to maximize light for nurturing tender orange and lemon trees during the winter—hence the name 'orangery.' These structures had solid roofs and were generally heated throughout the winter to maintain a temperate climate, similar to that of the Mediterranean. The primary focus of the orangery was ensuring the survival of the plants during the winter months.

As glassmaking technology evolved, the Dutch adapted the designs by creating larger expanses of window glass. In the early 19th century, they introduced sloping glazed roofs, allowing even more sunlight into the building. This marked the birth of the greenhouse, and keen horticulturalists, whose cultivation of exotic plants had reached new heights, began to understand the benefits of light for plant growth. The practice of glazing orangery roofs also became increasingly common during this century.

During the mid-19th century, manufacturers emerged to cater to a growing middle-class market. Advances in heating and glazing led to a wealth of designs for horticultural buildings constructed from both iron and timber, often embellished with elaborate decorations. While most of these structures were freestanding or abutted walled gardens, it was the practice of attaching them to houses that further developed the concept we now know as early conservatories.

Below are two examples of early conservatories:

Example of an early conservatory
Image of an old conservatory design

Cost and Budget Differences

The cost of building a conservatory or orangery can vary significantly depending on factors like size, materials, and additional features. Generally, conservatories tend to be more budget-friendly compared to orangeries due to their predominantly glass construction. On the other hand, orangeries can be more expensive due to the use of brick or stone walls and the glass lantern roof.

Due to every project being bespoke and having varying factors, to get a better idea of the costs involved, we suggest getting in touch with our sales and design team who can provide cost estimates tailored to your specific requirements.

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Planning permission considerations

The next most asked question after understanding the differences of these two structures, is whether or not your choice of home extension requires planning permission. We suggest reading our dedicated article for understanding permission required for a conservatory or orangery installation.

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Get inspired for your own project

example of a open plan orangery

View our conservatories page to read about our townhouse conservatories, linking conservatories and solid roof conservatories.

Our Conservatories
example of a open plan orangery

Learn about our bespoke orangeries and see examples of different designs such as solid construction, open-plan and solid roof orangeries.

Our Orangeries