Town & Country (UK)
LET THERE BE LIGHT
Whether a grand pavilion or a simple conservatory, glass extensions should create harmony between indoor spaces and the landscape beyond
Inside meets outside: elegant orangeries and garden-rooms
No matter what the weather, having a house with a garden-room is one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors all year round, bringing light and space to the darkest of interiors. For centuries, orangeries were status symbols, first appearing in Italy to shelter prized citrus fruits over cold winters, and becoming ever more elaborate as they spread across Europe. A particularly fine early example can still be seen at Versailles: dating from the 1660s, it surrounds a vast formal courtyard and was designed to hold more than 1,000 trees.
The first British versions were intended primarily for the cultivation of oranges and lemons, but they were quickly considered desirable in their own right, particularly as glazing became more affordable. As time went on, hot-water pipes were built beneath the floors, fountains made a dramatic focal point and orangeries were used as venues for evening soirées and glittering parties.
These rooms, lush with tropical plants, were a sought-after addition to the grandest country houses, their
soaring panes of glass proclaiming wealth through their fragility. In the 1981 adaptation of Brideshead Revisited, Charles Ryder paints a mural on the walls of Castle Howard’s Garden Hall, which comes to symbolise a perfect, fleeting summer. Cecil Beaton, famed for his romantic portraits, photographed the actress Leslie Caron in his conservatory at Reddish, where climbing hothouse vines flourished against a backdrop of rolling Wiltshire hills.
Traditional conservatories have glass roofs and walls; orangeries differ in that they have full-length windows set in a brick elevation. Nowadays, a gardenroom has become a blanket term to describe all manner of partly glazed extensions that accommodate extra living spaces or kitchens. This trend is helped by favourable planning regulations towards these structures. ‘They are often considered a permitted development, even within designated conservation zones or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty,’ says Nick Bashford, the managing director of Marston & Langinger. Depending on its dimensions, a project of this type might not even need planning permission. Even so, good design is of vital importance to its success.
‘For the structure, you need to make sure it’s either in keeping with the house or it should be something completely different,’ says the interior designer Janie Money, of Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler. ‘What you don’t want is a pastiche of the property, which always looks terrible.’ She cites the impressive Zaha Hadid glass extension at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in Hyde Park as a triumph of new and old, where the flowing modern building coexists harmoniously with the original Georgian pavilion.
For Money, who oversaw the refurbishment of the spectacular Grade Ii-listed orangery at Weston Park in Shropshire, it is important to keep the connection with the external environment – in that instance, 1,000 acres of Capability Brown parkland. ‘At Weston Park, I commissioned a refectory table and curved benches hewn from English oak, furniture made from willow, and added lots of terracotta pots and organic fabrics,’ she says. Local stone is her preference for flooring, while the paintwork should ideally be neutrals or greens.
Even for the most opulent of schemes, Money says that her colour inspiration comes from ‘old potting sheds’, and this simple formula perhaps explains the perennial attraction of the garden-room. At their best, they are places where you can unwind and connect with the natural world, without ever having to venture out of doors. www.marstonandlanginger.com; www.sibylcolefax.com.
THESE ROOMS, LUSH WITH TROPICAL PLANTS, WERE A SOUGHTAFTER ADDITION TO THE GRANDEST COUNTRY HOUSES