AP photo by Melissa Golden|
A chandelier from Marston and Langiner, which designs and builds custom glass structures, hangs in the conservatory of the Hinds residence in Washington.
Conservatories create magical year-round living under glass
By Della De Lafuente
For The Associated Press
Summer soon will come to an end. But that’s not stopping plenty of homeowners from finding a way to create sun-soaked days year-round.
Borrowing an idea from the glass houses traditionally used in England as horticultural buildings to grow delicate plants, some high-end homeowners are adding conservatories and orangeries to their residences to combine the comfort of being indoors with the splendor of the great outdoors.
They’re vibrant and roomy, and enhance a home’s existing architecture without the worries of adverse weather or climate changes ruining the experience of bringing nature inside. Families are finding them to be a great everyday gathering space, not just a room for plants or parties.
“People today are looking for a different way of living and of connecting with the outdoors,” says Peter Marston, author of “The Conservatory Book” and founder and design director of Marston and Langinger, the U.K.-based firm he started in 1978 with Adrian Langinger that is at the forefront of this design movement.
“The delights of living under glass have transformed the conservatory from its functional beginnings (as greenhouses) to an imaginative modern space,” says Marston, whose own passion for gardening (and growing his family’s own tomatoes, peppers and camellias) introduced him to the idea of greenhouses as a living space.
Boasting a growing list of affluent U.S. clients with high-end luxury homes, Marston’s firm designs elegant glass structures that lend sophistication and curb appeal.
“In a lot of homes, it’s what’s missing,” says Marston, whose firm has designed and constructed some 1,500 conservatories and orangeries, including several in California, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan and Washington D.C. “You’ve got the swimming pool, the home theater, the library, the wonderful garden — and you need the conservatory or the orangery to go with it.”
AP photo by Melissa Golden|
Richard Hinds opens the doors to his conservatory at his Georgetown home in Washington. Borrowing an idea from the glass houses traditionally used in England as horticultural buildings to grow delicate plants, some high-end homeowners are adding conservatories and orangeries to their residences to combine the comfort of being indoors with the splendor of the great outdoors.
It doesn’t come cheap: Construction costs for a conservatory or an orangery range in price from $50,000 to $500,000 to $1 million, says Marston.
Some recent Marston projects include a $260,000 conservatory for entertaining and an adjoining patio renovation at the historic Georgetown town house (built in 1850) of Washington, D.C., attorney Richard and Pamela Hinds.
“The idea of being outside, but in a controlled environment — without bugs and air-conditioned in the summer — really appealed to us and was our motivation for the project,” says Richard Hinds, who served as the general contractor, overseeing the work involved with the 25- by 17-foot addition to their five-story home. “Now we have a year-round outside room — inside.”
The Hinds conservatory addition has helped to widen their eating space into a much larger room and made the outdoor patio more accessible, says Pamela Hinds.
“When it’s finished (by September), it will be a fabulous sitting room and breakfast room off of the dining room with spectacular views of the first snowfall in the winter,” she says.
Conservatories are used for a variety of reasons: entertaining, home offices, pool houses, casual family dining, indoor gardening and as havens for those who need a place of respite from the household chaos.
But if you live in a region where sunshine and warm weather dominate, glass-encased buildings can get too warm in direct sunlight, creating a greenhouse effect that’s not conducive for everyday living. It still can work for plants, though.
“The biggest use I’ve had among clients with larger homes and estates is with orangeries, which are used essentially as greenhouses to keep delicate fruit trees indoors during the winter,” says Kevin Harris, an architect in Baton Rouge, La. “In the summer, these spaces are used as conservatories to grow exotic plants and as large spaces for entertaining large events.”
Conservatories and orangeries are similar to glassed-in porches or greenhouses, but a conservatory is primarily wood and glass construction and an orangerie is masonry (brick) and glass.
‘Self-cleaning’ roof glass
Electric and manual roof blinds can soften sunlight, help to control temperature and protect furniture and shade-loving plants. Designers can also use double glazing on glass panels to reduce the transmission of ultraviolet light and install “self-cleaning” roof glass to reduce the frequency of cleaning.
An orangery is considered to have the most straightforward architectural design, with a central building large enough to house different activities, and with tall, glazed window or door sets, says Marston, whose design team provides a no-fee consulting service from the company’s showroom in New York City’s design-trendy SoHo neighborhood.
In Springfield, Mass., Peter A. Picknelly, president of Peter Pan Bus Lines, and his wife, Melissa, opened up a dreary breakfast room into a light-filled, kid-friendly $300,000 conservatory and orangery with a new eating space, studio and garden room with fireplace, adding about 1,500 square feet to the 12,500-square-foot home.
The gothic-style project was completed so seamlessly that the Picknellys were recognized by the area’s historical society for flawlessly maintaining the integrity of the home’s design, including using the home’s existing bricks to extend a wall into the new construction.
The upgraded living spaces are more commonly known by the Picknellys and their four children (twin girls, 11, a son, 7, and a daughter, 4) as the family eating area — a casual room for family meals that’s less formal than the dining room — and family room.
“It’s a four-season room for us,” says Peter Picknelly.
As the third family to live in the 1929 English Tudor home, Melissa Picknelly says the new rooms give the home her family’s personal touch, calling it, “The nicest area of our home.”
Modern-day conservatories owe their roots to Italian gardens
Though most conservatories are found in European homes, U.S. homeowners have been incorporating the designs into renovation and additions projects since the 1970s, which is about the same time that innovations in insulated glass entered the market and made construction more widely accepted, Marston says.
Conservatories owe their origins to the Renaissance era, when imitating classic Italian gardens in the colder, northern European climate was common.
That resulted in the conservation of delicate Mediterranean plants including oranges, lemons, pomegranates and palms through the winter.
What began as a simple screen to ward off frost evolved into functional glazed glass-fronted sheds that became elegant glass orangeries in the parks of 18th century houses. Many of the orangeries built between the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 19th century have survived and can be seen in stately homes throughout northern Europe and in world-class botanical gardens in London.
Della De Lafuente, For The Associated Press
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