What is an Orangery?

What is an Orangery?

An Orangery or Orangerie was a room or a dedicated building in the grounds of fashionable residences between the Seventeenth to Nineteenth centuries where orange and other citrus fruit trees were protected during the winter, similar to a glass house or Conservatory.

The Orangery was generally a much more luxurious extension of the normal range and season of woody plants, extending the protection which had long been afforded by the warmth offered from a masonry garden fruit wall.  A century after the popularity of the Orange, Lemon and Lime trees had been established, other varieties of tender plants and more exotic plants also came to be housed in the Orangery, which often gained a stove for the upkeep of these delicate plants in the cold winters of northern Europe. As more imported citrus fruit, including pineapples and other tender fruit became generally available and much cheaper, Orangeries were used more for tender ornamental plants and gradually became a room of retreat for peaceful relaxation.

The Orangery originated from the Renaissance Gardens of Italy, when glass-making technology enabled sufficient expanses of clear glass to be produced. In the north, the Dutch led the way in developing expanses of window glass in Orangeries, though the engravings illustrating Dutch manuals showed solid roofs, whether beamed or vaulted, and in providing stove heat rather than open fires. This soon created a situation where Orangeries became symbols of status among the wealthy. The glazed roof, which afforded sunlight to plants that were not dormant, was a development of the early nineteenth century. The 1617 Orangerie (now Musée de l'Orangerie) at the Palace of the Louvre, inspired imitations that culminated in Europe's largest Orangery. Designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart for Louis XIV's 3,000 orange trees at Versailles, its dimensions of 508 feet (155 m) by 42 feet (13 m) were not eclipsed until the development of the modern greenhouse in the 1840s, and were quickly overshadowed by the glass architecture of Joseph Paxton. Notable for his 1851 design of the Crystal Palace, his "great conservatory" at Chatsworth House was an orangery and glass house of monumental proportions.

The Orangery, however, was not just a greenhouse but a symbol of prestige and wealth and a feature of gardens, in the same way as a summerhouse, folly or "Grecian temple". Owners would conduct their guests there on tours of the garden to admire not only the fruits within but the architecture without. Often the orangery would contain fountains, grottos, and an area in which to entertain in inclement weather.

An Orangery is still regarded as a prestigious extension today, and it's appeal is just as strong. However, modern Orangeries, as long as you choose wisely and add a building of of quality, now provide all year round use, whilst adding value to your home. This is often a more cost-effective solution to moving, if it's extra space you are looking for.

The current trend for larger kitchens with a dining or informal living area has  had an impact on how a Glass Room Extension, Orangery or Conservatory is linked to the home. If the new space is to accommodate a kitchen or open-plan living area, then access provided by a single door will probably be inadequate. Opening up the back of the house into the new extension requires substantial structural alterations, which, although perfectly feasible, will mean planning regulations will most likely apply and certainly Building Regulations.

The modern Orangery today has much heavier framing than the usual Conservatory, with pilasters or posts and sometimes extended brickwork, with a roof lantern surrounded by a plaster ceiling, in order to make a more substantial structure and the feel of a room.

The trend for adding a light, modern airy space to your home is an increasingly popular option. Contemporary glass room extensions, Orangeries or Conservatories are bespoke, so prices tend to range from the mid to top end of the scale, but there is a wide variety of materials and styles available and even English Heritage will frequently use modern conservatories as well as Structural Glass Box Extensions alongside period buildings, it's fair to say that sympathetically designed structures will work, if well designed.