Giving our conservatory 'project' some more thought

We're already considering our conservatory as our next big project. It started with the idea of bi-fold doors, because, well because they are just great aren't they? The idea of being able to open one whole section to the garden still appeals, but the more we've looked into and thought about how we tackle our conservatory, the bigger job it's got.

Our conservatory isn't a typical design, there's no uPVC but plenty of wood and steel, and glass of course, as well as a wall of bricks. It's large too and it's where our dresser is, as well as two bookcases where I have all my cookbooks, and there's at least one or two of them. As any project manager will tell you, we have three options: do nothing, tinker with what we have, or start again. Ok I might have paraphrased the project management terminology, but you know what I mean.

Doing nothing isn't really an option for us, and for any house renovator the natural option is to tinker with what you've got, unless it really isn't viable.  We think it's still our most likely option, but when the start again option was mooted, we gave it some serious consideration. What would it be like to have a brand new conservatory, built from scratch. What would we need to consider and what, if anything would we do differently.

Or indeed do we actually need a conservatory.  The answer to the last question was, we need something, conservatory or otherwise as it's a large room and a useful addition to our ground floor.  And we have nowhere else to put the dresser.

But what if we were to start again from scratch?

Well apart from the mess and disruption that any building project brings, however good and considerate the workmen, I think the items below are what anyone designing a new conservatory should consider.

1. Decide how you will use the space

It might sound obvious, but knowing how you'll use the space is essential. Will it be a dining room, or an office, or as some people do, will you make it a kitchen? For us we want our conservatory to be lots of things. We want it to provide additional seating and an alternative dining space for those days when you want to experience the garden, but when it's just not warm enough to be in the garden.

Knowing how you'll use the space means you can consider what power and lighting you'll need and plan accordingly. It'll also help determine some of the materials you use, as if you want it to be the link between your house and garden you can cleverly use your flooring choices to accentuate this.

Image: Unsplash

Image: Unsplash

2. Decide what materials and where 

For many of us there isn't much choice on where to site our conservatory. If you're fortunate to have a choice then a south facing site will get the most sun, but it will get warm during the summer.  Our garden is north facing, and we don't have an option where our conservatory goes, it isn't all bad as it does get warm in the summer, but it does need additional heating in the winter.

Any conservatory will need good insulation as there's often a lot of glass by their very nature, which we all know means they'll lose heat easily. It's also worth considering how you'll ventilate your space for those very hot periods, and how to do this safely if you're not at home throughout the day. That's a big consideration for us right now.

Lots of conservatories are made from polycarbonate and these can be noisy when it rains. Ours has a strengthened glass roof, with the glass sitting on RSJ-like steels. As I said before, it's an unusual design and for us, that's part of its charm.  Ours has a low-height radiator which runs the length of the conservatory and we're thinking about replacing that with underfloor heating as we think it'd be more effective and efficient. And if we were starting from scratch, I'm not sure we'd opt for radiators, as they can restrict how you'll use the space.

Image: Unsplash

Image: Unsplash

3. Get the roof right

I've alluded to the type of roof we have on our conservatory already, and we've looked at options to replace it, maybe introducing a roof lantern. Getting it right will make a difference to how your conservatory deals with heat and cold, as well as noise.  If you're starting from scratch it's worth looking at what's on the market so you can make an informed decision. There's plenty of developments in the field of conservatories and no doubt there will be new products coming to market all the time.  It's unlikely that we'll change the construct of our roof as it works well for the space we have and our design, but it's been on our list of considerations.

4. Consider how you'll dress the windows

For me curtains don't work in conservatories, they have to cover a lot of window and to do it justice will need at least twice the width of the window they're due to cover. And for most of the time they'll be open, so that's a lot of material to find a space for, which will most likely end up blocking out some of your light. Blinds are another less bulky option, but blinds don't always insulate very well, and you might need to need to think about fixings for blinds and/or curtains in advance too.

A solution is installing shutters, wooden window shutters are sturdy, last for many years. They're often a stylish option with sleek lines that can create a greater sense of space. Like curtains and blinds you can get them made for any size or shape of conservatory window and they can provide an extra layer of insulation in winter. When you choose shutters with movable louvres, you can control the amount of light and block out the sun on those days when it gets too hot.

Image: Unsplash

Image: Unsplash

5. Add furnishings for comfort and style

Conservatories are used for many things now, long gone are the days when it's simply a lean-to on the back of a house - yes, I remember those, who else does? Your conservatory might be a kitchen, a dining room or an office or like ours another reception room, which provides much needed storage. Whichever use you choose, it's a great opportunity to get the furniture to match how you want to use the space.

We've already bought a two seater sofa for our revamped conservatory, yes I know it's slightly out of order, but we saw it, loved it and got a good deal, so we bought it.  It's one of those modern lightweight garden sofas which can be left outside, but it's comfortable and stylish enough to be used in a more relaxed setting too.

As with any room, you'll need to think about lighting if you want to get the most use out of the room. I read somewhere a while back that each room needs seven sources of light for it to work well, clearly with a conservatory with many windows, and most likely a clear roof, you'll have a couple of those light sources in the bag. We've got wall lights, because we have a brick wall on one side, but you might consider a ceiling pendant or a chandelier as your main light feature.  I'd also recommend a standard light and some table lamps, as well as candles so that you really can make full use of the space, and make it cosy too. 

Image: Unsplash

Image: Unsplash

So, quite a lot to consider and we haven't even touched on budgets. But knowing what you want and more importantly don't want will help you work out a realistic budget. Conservatories, like many projects, can be expensive so having a plan beforehand has to be the way forward.

Have you added a conservatory to your house, or are you considering revamping an existing one, like us?  Leave a comment and let me know if there's anything else to add to this list?


* This is a collaborative post, but all views and opinions are my own