The word conservatory originally comes from the Italian “conservato” (which means preserved or stored) and the Latin suffix “ory”, which means “a place for”. It was used to describe a non–glazed structure utilised for storing food. The word was later used to describe glazed structures for protecting or conserving plants from low temperatures and cold weather.
Nowadays conservatories are commonly considered structures connected to our homes. We don’t know exactly when the transition of the concept conservatory to its modern meaning happened, but it has probably been a slow process that has been steadily changing through generations.
Conservatories were very popular in Britain in the Victorian era. Basically, the development in glass production caused that longer panes of glass were produced with the cast plate method. This huge feat of engineering inspired many higher and medium-class families – and consequently saw a massive increase in the number of conservatories nationwide as innovative builders brought them into the properties of the average family. Conservatories remained very popular up until World War II, because here the limits on glass production slowed their manufacture.
A brief history
The first conservatories were actually built in the seventeenth century. They were used to preserve and conserve tender plants during the colder months and winter. The first conservatories were made of wooden panels and offered very basic protection from the elements.
Many early conservatories were utilised to protect delicate plants, but in Europe more innovative and sophisticated conservatories were built to conserve orange trees. These conservatories, later called orangeries, were large brick structures with very tall vertical windows.
When this name was coined it was to describe non-glass buildings or structures used for food storage. Only later when glass structures started being built to house plants from harsher and extreme weather did it start being used to describe constructions more like the conservatory we know today. Modern conservatories are structures that are built onto the properties.
The first conservatory
You would barely recognise the first conservatory ever constructed in the mid-seventeenth century, as it was a very basic stone structure mostly made of glass. It was a very long way from the look of the conservatories we have today. Our modern conservatories are more commonly PVC conservatories or hardwood conservatories, it really depends on which side of the market you look at.
We have gone through different eras of conservatory styles, purposes, designs and looks. As time moved on, so did the conservatories. Styles and designs became much more complex and decorative, the size of the structures itself grew with their popularity and it eventually became the must-have home extension for many homeowners. With their popularity growing every day, manufacturers started to spot patterns in the styles and designs that buyers wanted. This generated as a consequence more descriptive definitions of the conservatory.
Conservatories of our times
Today, conservatories remain an interesting addition to several contemporary properties, and can be tailored to fit many styles, budgets and tastes. The living room feel they provide opens up the possibility of more furnishing options. It also allows you to enjoy the natural light from your conservatory with the feel of a home extension.