Today when you’re looking to extend your home there are a handful of very popular options available to you. Whether it’s a full-height extension adding space to one side of your home or a conservatory, which adds an extra space in exchange for a piece of your garden, there are plenty of ways to get that crucial extra space
However, one less popular – though no less valid – option for your home is an orangery. These extensions might look at first blush to be similar to conservatories, but look closer and you’ll realise a number of significant differences.
Generally, orangeries feature a brick-based construction, with a small brick wall complimented by large glass windows. This not only improves the thermal retention properties of orangeries but gives them a more established, classical design. Indeed, orangeries are also often more rectangular than they are square and usually feature a flat-roof with a glass ‘dome’.
Orangeries are, overall, far more liveable spaces than conservatories with more even year-round temperatures and often more living space – but that wasn’t their original purposes. In fact, orangeries served a very different purpose entirely.
The story for orangeries begins in Italy when the first true orangery was built in Padua, Veneto in 1545 by a local nobleman.
Originally designed for the grounds and homes of European nobility, orangeries were built to aid in the cultivation of – you guessed it – oranges and other exotic fruits in the 17th to 19th century. Often including some sort of heating system (usually a stove) and rudimentary insulation, these structures helped the wealthy enjoy what were (at the time) rare and unusual fruits.
They were made possible thanks to technological advancements in glassmaking which, combined with the exotic plants and fruits that were able to be grown inside them, made them a highly prized object for the rich and noteworthy of the day.
To suggest that novelty and vanity alone were the primary drivers for orangery popularity would be disingenuous. In fact, the real reason behind their ballooning popularity over the period was the end of the 80 years war.
Phillip II, the Hapsburg King of Spain and though marriage sovereign of the Hapsburg Netherlands, had for a number of years levied taxes on and restricted trade between his Dutch subjects and the Americas.
With the independence of the Dutch Republic and lifting of said embargoes, the Netherlands entered a new age of prosperity, and the exotic fruits and plants of the Americas were much cheaper. This led to, amongst other things a boom in construction of orangeries, not just in the Low Countries but all over the region, with a number being built in Germany, France, Britain and the Holy Roman Empire, built by the gentry and filled by the newly emancipated merchant classes.
Today, orangeries are back in fashion for their style, versatility and comfort.