Armed with the best conservatory ideas, you can create a beautiful new room within your home that seamlessly extends into the garden, giving you fantastic views and a sense of being outdoors whatever the weather.
By designing a conservatory as an addition to your home, you can extend your living spaces and boost its value but, before you get started, it is important to understand the difference between conservatories, sunrooms, orangeries and glazed extensions. Conservatories need to have at least two thirds of the room's roof and a minimum of 50% the walls made of glass to fall into this category.
Orangeries generally feature a flat or mansard roof with a glazed lantern for extra light, while sunrooms often have a solid roof and large panels of glazing. These distinctions are important regarding Building Regulations, but the ideas associated can be generally carried from project to project.
Conservatories comes in all kinds of designs and configurations, from off-the-shelf options to fully bespoke designs and the one you choose should be based on your budget as well as the style of your home. Here, we have gathered together some of the best ideas around to ensure you have all the inspiration you need to get started.
Which conservatory ideas will suit your home best?
Conservatories have really come on so much in recent years and are no longer confined to those with traditional-style homes — in fact some designs are super contemporary and would suit the most modern of homes as well as providing a pleasing contrast on more classically-styled houses.
As well as finding a style of conservatory that you feel does justice to your existing home, you should also think through what you will use the new space for as this will have an impact on the sizes and designs that will best suit your needs — kitchen conservatory extensions, for example, need a different approach to those that will be used as living space.
"Considering the functionality of the room at design stage is paramount — traditional uses for a conservatory include a living room or dining room but they have evolved in recent years to include creating space for a larger kitchen extension and, during the pandemic in particular, as a home office," advises Karen Bell, sales director at David Salisbury.
"A conservatory will add multi-functional living space that can be used for a wide variety of uses," she adds.
"A bespoke conservatory can be designed to suit almost any style of property, from period or listed buildings to more contemporary-style homes. Perhaps the most obvious benefit of a conservatory is the abundant volume of natural light that will fill the room during the day. Conservatories are often added to the rear of properties that were previously quite dark, suffering from low light levels."
1. Swap French doors for bifold or sliding
While the most traditional conservatories tend to feature French doors that lead out into the garden beyond, there is no reason why this has to be the case.
For a more contemporary look, consider a conservatory with bifold or sliding doors instead. Not only are they a great way to bring light streaming in but they also work well for those trying to decide between an extension or conservatory, as they allow the entire new space to be completely opened up to the outdoors and really connect it to the garden.
Here, bifold doors from Thames Valley Window Company have been used, along with a smart level threshold, to create a seamless transition between inside and out. They are available in uPVC, timber, aluminium or composite, meaning there is a solution to fit with every style of house.
2. Tie your windows and conservatory together
It is particularly important when adding a conservatory to a classic or period property that it really enhances and complements the original details of the house — particularly the windows, as well as the cladding materials. It is also crucial that it sits in proportion to the building and doesn't overshadow it in any way. In addition, it helps if its design in some way mirrors the form of the house. Although many owners of period homes grapple with the idea of orangery vs conservatory, the latter really can work well.
This design, from Vale Garden Houses, is a great example of how, with the right care and attention, a conservatory can work brilliantly with any style of home. The beautiful Georgian house it has been added to features pale brickwork and stunning, elegant sash windows — both of which have been reflected in the design of the new structure so that they work in perfect harmony.
3. Use your conservatory to connect with the garden
One of the biggest draws of adding a new conservatory or upgrading an existing one is the instant link it forms between the house and the outdoor spaces.
A mid-way sanctuary, conservatories offer the best of both worlds, and modern advancements in glazing and insulation mean they can be suitable for use all year-round.
Here, matching indoor and outdoor porcelain floor tiles means that when the patio doors are opened, the boundaries are blurred and the space feels beautifully light and open.
4. A small conservatory can still have a big impact
Light is the best way to open up a small space, which is why compact conservatories often appear more spacious than they are and can sometimes work better than building an extension.
A smaller conservatory cost will also be lower than a traditional brick-and-block extension and will come with a fraction of the disruption and disturbance.
Small designs work well with terraced homes and cottages, but it is best to give them a purpose. They make the perfect light-filled hobby room, a spot for reading or even a home office design.
5. Consider adding an orangery in period properties
Classic orangery ideas tend to be sympathetic to the existing property, blending in with the look and feel of your home. An orangery is a more substantial building that has less glass and more structured walls. They tend to have a solid roof with a large glazed roof lantern in the centre.
Look at including colours and materials that complement, and pay attention to the overall design and roof style.
“Where possible utilise matching building materials for the base works — reclaim or handmade bricks, stone, flint facings and render, all need to be appropriate to the building and the area in which you reside,” says Lisa Morton, director at Vale Garden Houses.
6. Add a lean to conservatory to extend your home
Lean to extensions are a really popular option when it comes to adding space to all kinds of houses. They tend to offer simple, clean lines, are cost effective to construct and can add useful space and considerable value to a home.
Lean to conservatories are perfect for all kinds of houses and can be as big or small as suits you — they are also a great option for those looking for a simple way to extend their existing spaces and bring in light. Rather than have a door leading into the conservatory, many people choose to remove the rear external wall entirely to link the two spaces — something that will require the input of a structural engineer.
Here, the modern black aluminium frame of the conservatory has been matched by the Doblo Polished Porcelain floor tiles from Tile Mountain.
7. Opt for conservatory colours that complement your interior
Manufacturers can add colour to your conservatory frame to match your existing home, or to create a striking contrast. Natural shades and muted greens are a popular choice for period properties, while grey and white tend to be better suited to modern houses.
“If you’re looking to add colour into your conservatory, PVCu or timber are now widely available in an array of colours and finishes and can even be made with wood grain details. With the option of choosing a dual colour combination, homeowners are allowed to add colour into their conservatories in a variety of ways,” says Ryan Schofield, managing director of Thames Valley Window Company.
8. Think beyond a uPVC conservatory
While uPVC is the most cost-effective option for a conservatory's structural material it isn't the most long-lasting of choices. Modified timbers like Accoya or oak frame conservatories provide a characterful and sustainable alternative, but often come with a hefty price to match.
Softwoods like larch or Douglas fir also require more maintenance than a homeowner might want from a larger structure, although could be styled to match a period home with painted timber windows.
Aluminium is a strong contender for the contemporary appearance and uninterrupted views of a uPVC conservatory and has the benefit of being a strong, durable material.
9. Take care when adding a conservatory to a bungalow
It can be really tricky to get conservatories for bungalows to look right and work well. That said, this is a great way to extend the footprint of a single storey house.
"They’re ideal for bungalows that are limited on space, providing that extra bit of desired living space at a fraction of the cost of an extension," says Ryan Schofield, managing director of Thames Valley Window Company.
"When it comes to bungalows, there are two main styles that work best," says Ryan Schofield. "The first is to install it on the gable end, which means you can adjoin the conservatory to the pitched roof to ensure the conservatory and roof are at the same height.
"If a gable end isn’t an option, you can install a box gutter, which allows the conservatory roof to slope backwards towards the bungalow’s guttering, meaning the box gutter would join the property and conservatory together seamlessly — this is a very common option for installing a conservatory on any type of property."
10. Take a modern approach to conservatory interior design
Existing conservatories can often be left to date due to their ancillary nature to the rest of the 'more permanent' spaces inside the house. However, considering conservatory interior ideas while designing the structure of your new garden room will make all the difference when it comes time to enjoy it throughout the year.
Taking it's cue from a sunroom, this space masterfully adds a pop of colour and personality with a full-height bookcase full of personal items and books. A similar effect can be produced in a conservatory with freestanding units or a characterful shelving display along the exterior wall of the main house.
11. Match conservatory flooring to it's purpose
Conservatory flooring ideas should be practical as well as aesthetically pleasing.
As the conservatory sits between the interior and exterior zones of a house it must always be durable and ready to take on heavy footfall. Porcelain and stone tiles are great options for spaces with a lot of through-traffic as they're quick and easy to clean — plus they can be matched with exterior anti-slip options for a seamless transition onto the patio.
While carpet can offer a warmth of conservatory living rooms, they have the potential to get wear quickly, so be sure to research the best carpet types for your room.
LVT and laminate options are often a smart choice for conservatories as they're more cost-effective, easy to maintain and can come in a range of styles.
12. Echo architectural elements of the existing house
It is important that the design of your new conservatory doesn't jar with the style, proportions or details of the house is it being added to.
While it is not essential to choose a style of conservatory that matches every part of your home, it is important that some nods to the building it is adjoining should be made. This could be through using the same colours or window styles, including the same materials used for the house in the dwarf wall of the conservatory or, as has been done here, by mirroring the lines of the roof.
This conservatory is by Vale Garden Houses and its roofline perfectly picks up on the shapes used in the roof of the lovely period property it now sits alongside.
13. Consider a glass box extension
If you're considering replacing conservatory with an extension, carry over the best elements you enjoyed about the garden room, such as views out to the garden or a contemporary finish.
An extension will be a more permanent addition so include stylish conservatory designs, such as floor-to-ceiling glass walls which will look stunning from every angle and bifold or sliding patio doors to retain that connection with the outdoors.
Glass extensions can come in all shapes and sizes and for a range of budgets — they might be a good compromise between a long-lasting structure and a garden room.
14. Concentrate on getting the conservatory roof right
If your conservatory is looking tired or feels cold and unpleasant to inhabit, opt for a conservatory roof replacement to give it a new lease of life.
This could be with a solid roof featuring roof lanterns or roof lights or a fresh design which suits the style of your home more.
Insulating a conservatory roof in this way will create a more welcoming room that doesn't fluctuate in temperature in summer and winter — while reducing energy wastage.
15. Use your conservatory as a kitchen extension
A large glazed extension is perfect for creating a multipurpose living space, especially if you're accustomed to a glass garden room but are weighing up the benefits of choosing an extension or conservatory.
Ideal for a light and airy kitchen, adding a kitchen conservatory extension will open up your house to create a social space, with garden views — perfect for cooking and entertaining come rain or shine.
16. Install blinds to keep your conservatory cool
Curtains don't often match the modern appearance of a conservatory and obstruct the views outside, but to make the most of your space, you will want to focus on adding conservatory blind ideas or window films to create shade, as well as privacy.
Electric blinds are a great way to cover a glass ceiling area that is hard to reach, but can become expensive as there will be a lot of glass to cover. You can however get poles to help you manually open roof blinds to keep costs down.
17. Don't overlook how you will heat your conservatory
Heating a conservatory might seems counter-productive as so many of us have memories of sweltering summers in a glass box, but as more modern conservatory structures are better insulated, adding a heat source will encourage use during colder winters as well.
Whether it's underfloor heating, a radiator, or a log burning stove, adding a source to stay warm in the winter is a great idea for all glazed structures.
This is especially important to rooms designed to be used in the evenings, such as a living or dining room.
18. Get the planners on side with a lean to conservatory
The most popular conservatory is a lean to conservatory with a single, angular sloping roof. Often referred to as a modern-day garden room, it is a simple and affordable design that can be adapted to suit both period properties and modern homes. This style of structure often makes conservatory planning permission far more straightforward.
“Lean-to structures are simpler in style than traditional conservatory designs, with large expanses of glass that make the most of outside views. These structures also pair perfectly with bifold and sliding doors and suit nearly every home,” says Ryan Schofield of Thames Valley Window Company.
"In addition, a lean to conservatory can be designed to wrap around a corner of a property, extending dual aspects of the home. This is particularly attractive if outside space allows it and there are different views to be enjoyed. If extending a listed property, a lean to style conservatory is also most likely to be looked on favourably by planners," adds Karen Bell, sales director at David Salisbury.
19. Finish a conservatory off with beautiful patio doors
When designing a new conservatory, one key decision to make is which type of patio doors to include.
Sliding and bifold doors are ideal for contemporary styles that need to be pulled back for a seamless inside/outside environment, while traditional French or Belgian offer a charm to match period properties.
20. Ensure your conservatory doesn't overheat
With such large amounts of glazing, it's no wonder old conservatories can be unusable in the height of summer. However, taking this into consideration when designing or upgrading a conservatory is essential for a modern space.
Looking for glazing which has a special coating is one way to combat overheating, while retrofitting solar control window films is a cost-effective option for existing spaces.
21. Use the right lighting to bring the space to life
Although conservatories and orangeries will be flooded with natural light during the day, they can become dark and uninviting at night, so it pays to consider your artificial sources of illumination — and this is where conservatory lighting ideas come into play.
Consider any, a combination of, or all of the following:
- Well placed, dimmable, wall lights will twinkle against the glass
- The addition of softer table lights will create a relaxing, warm glow
- Built-in, discreet spotlights can add directional lighting along walls and are especially suited to orangeries and glazed extensions
- LED strip floor lighting is also a good choice along any steps or split level areas
- Light your garden with outdoor lights to create something that glows beyond the glass
22. Use your conservatory for a light-filled dining room
Searching for dining room ideas? Come rain or shine, experience the joys of eating outside with getting soggy by using a conservatory as a dining room.
Elegant and effortlessly stylish, this modern dining room feels light and bright for a morning brunch, while the wired pendant light means the space is ready for dazzling on an evening with guests.
23. Add instant elegance with a traditional conservatory
For something architecturally striking, an Edwardian-style conservatory often has a square shape and large glass panels, which gives a timeless yet stylish look.
Victorian-style conservatories, on the other hand, are elegant and spacious and feature a rounded bay frontage that allows for panoramic views of the garden.
Gothic and Victorian style conservatories often have a steeply pitched roof and ornate detailing. Choosing this style is an effective way to add an eye-catching design feature that suits period properties.
24. Get the positioning of your conservatory spot on
Think about how and when a new conservatory will be used before deciding on its location. A south-east direction will make the most of morning rays while south-westerly orientations will capture sunset views, for instance.
Think too about where will be the best spot to enter your conservatory internally — it might be necessary to consider your new addition as part of a wider remodelling project.
25. Embrace all the benefits a conservatory can offer
Awareness of how our houses can affect our wellbeing has been steadily growing in recent years. From good home ventilation to spaces which spark a sense of relaxation, there are many ways in which home design can impact our lives beyond the obvious.
Consider adding greenery to a conservatory, creating an oasis away from a home office, or introducing the theory of daylighting into the design.
26. Renovate an existing conservatory
Got an existing conservatory that's looking a little tired? Don't assume demolition and replacement is your only option — it may well be possible to rescue it from ruin.
In this case of this 17th-century Cornish farmhouse, a timber conservatory had been added by the previous owners. While the original hardwood frame remained in good condition, the metal fixings had rusted away, causing leaks and leaving the entire frame held up on one corner by its own weight.
It has now been restored and brings light flooding into the kitchen that lies within.
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Assistant Editor Amy began working for Homebuilding & Renovating in 2018. She has an interest in sustainable building methods and always has her eye on the latest design ideas. Amy has interviewed countless self builders, renovators and extenders about their experiences for Homebuilding & Renovating magazine. She is currently renovating a mid-century home, together with her partner, on a DIY basis, and has recently fitted her own kitchen.