Can you imagine the joy of spending late autumn afternoons warmly lounging in the midst of your garden, of growing and harvesting your very own tropical fruits and of twilight summer suppers that are guaranteed rainproof? No, this is not a description of life on a faraway tropical island, but a glimpse of the bliss to be had when you own a conservatory.
Yet another inspired Victorian concept that we are revisiting and appreciating anew, despite the disparity of lifestyles between then and now. A conservatory gives life a new dimension. It allows us to enjoy a garden year-round and stretches the living areas of our homes. All age groups can benefit: it provides an ideal space for a toddler to play in (the semi-outdoor finishes should stand up well), for an elderly person to relax in out of season, and for people of any age to enjoy atmospheric dinner parties.
Should you be on the brink of deciding to construct a conservatory, be sure to pin down your ideas well in advance;
How much do you want to spend? A finished conservatory may cost more than you imagine and such extras as heating, lighting, wall and floor finishes, furnishings and plants can add considerably to an initial estimate.
How will the finished conservatory look from outside? Do you wish its style to reflect the architecture of your home?
Which direction do you wish your conservatory to face? A southerly orientated conservatory will be full of sunshine, but unless a good ventilation system is installed and shade provided (by blinds or by painting the glass), it is likely to overheat in summer. A north-facing glass house will receive little sunshine and so will require an efficient heating system for cooler days.
To what purpose will you put your conservatory? Is it to be a place for indoor gardening, relaxing, dining, cooking or playing?
Do you wish your conservatory to become an integral part of an interior living area and/or to open up to and become one with your garden or terrace? The larger your opening on to either or both of these areas, the more linked they will appear. Double, sliding or folding-back doors will help to achieve the connection you desire.
Because the conservatory represents a link between the house and its exterior, the most appropriate furnishings will be those that reflect this connection. Well-designed garden furniture, softened with table cloths, cushions and upholstered seats, will help to blur the line between inside and out, as will rattan, wicker or cane furniture.
A floor of flagstones, scrubbed wood planking or terracotta tiles will underscore the connection. Accessories can provide a similar link – garden statuary, urns, plants and terracotta pots are all particularly suitable.
The best window treatments are ones that do not detract from the view or interior planting. Tailored blinds or curtains of muslin or calico in a simple style are ideal.
When it comes to selecting a color scheme for your conservatory, the choice is yours – but do remember that the exterior views will become your ‘wallpaper’ and indoor plants your ‘accessories’, so choose colors that blend well.
Lighting a conservatory is a relatively easy process so long as electrical points have been well positioned and there are sufficient sockets for free-standing fittings. Wall- or ceiling-mounted lanterns will look good, as will discreet spotlights focused on features.
A well-lit garden will form a magnificent backdrop at night and a dining table might be lit by a simple country-style chandelier or candles in glass hurricane lamps on the table. Free-standing uplighters placed behind plants will add some magic to the room.