Orangery vs Conservatory: A Comprehensive Comparison Guide

Written by  John Davies
Last updated: August 21, 2023
Orangery vs Conservatory Featured Image

Almost everyone has difficulty telling the difference between an orangery and a conservatory. To most people, they are both home extensions with a higher-than-average amount of glazing. They also serve the same functions. 

Plus, to build the perfect relaxation space, modern installers often build orangeries that look more like conservatories and conservatories that look more like orangeries. So, the lines are only getting more blurry. 

Therefore, sometimes, the “orangery vs conservatory” conversation seems unnecessary. After all, as long as you get the perfect structure for your needs, does it matter? But that’s exactly why you need to know the differences between these two.

What Is An Orangery?

An orangery is a solid structure with large glazed windows and a glazed roof. We used the term “solid because” the brickwork is a big part of the structure of an orangery. This frame is usually made with brick or stone and is designed to fit in with the style of the main house.

As for the glazed surfaces, they are the main things that differentiate an orangery from a traditional single-storey extension. However, only the large glazed windows are integral to an orangery’s structure. The roofing is constantly changing.

For instance, the original roofs of orangeries were solid. However, over time orangeries started to have glazed roofs. This started with lantern roofs and then expanded to flat and pitched glazed roofs. Of these three, the first two are the most common.

However, roofing is not the only thing that has changed over the years. When orangeries were invented in 1545 Italy, they were designed to protect oranges and citrus trees. They did this by keeping out the cold and allowing sunlight to reach the plants.

This purpose remained the same when orangeries got to Britain in the 17th century. Over time, they became status symbols, more decorative and less functional. Today, we use orangeries for relaxation spaces, offices, kitchens, dining areas, etc.


What Is A Conservatory?

A conservatory is a glazed structure. Therein lies the most significant difference between an orangery and a conservatory. The latter is, first and foremost, a glazed structure. It has limited brickwork that’s only there to provide structural support. Sometimes, this brickwork is nonexistent. Other times it is as tall as a dwarf wall. 

In a way, conservatories are descendants of orangeries. The latter started the idea of building glazed structures to protect plants started. This idea then evolved to create sunrooms and conservatories. So, orangeries are the originals. Conservatories just lost more brickwork and gained more glazing.

Of course, they have also seen their fair share of evolution since being invented in the 19th century. Their designs have changed. So has their original purpose of protecting plants from the cold months. However, the best way to differentiate between a conservatory and an orangery is still by looking at their design and architecture. So, let’s start there.


Orangery Vs Conservatory: The Key Differences

There are five key differences between an orangery and a conservatory. So, let’s explore each one of them in detail.

Design And Architectural Differences

This is the most significant difference between a conservatory and an orangery. In simple terms, it’s about the amount of glazing involved. Orangeries include more brickwork. It is an essential part of their design.

The brickwork makes them look more like a traditional extension and complements the main building. It also creates an opportunity to build grand walls and pillars. In fact, this grandiosity was a key feature of orangeries. That’s how their original purpose evolved from protecting plants to symbols for wealthy people.

On the other hand, a conservatory has more glazing and less brickwork. In fact, the brickwork on a conservatory is only there to provide structural support. Every other purpose is secondary. So, glazing usually makes up at least 50% of the walls and 75% of the roof of a conservatory. Orangeries are the opposite. For them, glazing makes up less than 50% of the walls and 75% of the roofing.

This makes a conservatory look more like an airy greenhouse while an orangery looks more like a traditional home extension.

Design And Architectural Differences

Purpose And Usage

Orangeries and conservatories have always served similar functions. Both were originally designed to protect plants and are mostly used for relaxation spaces, kitchens, dining areas etc, today. So, there is a lot of similarity regarding purpose and usage.

However, remember that there is still a big structural difference between them. So, an orangery won’t give you the same effect as a conservatory. For example, orangeries have a lot more design options. That’s why the people of the past used them as showpieces and status symbols. 

Meanwhile, conservatories have always been smaller structures. It’s one of the reasons why they are so popular. Their lower price tag and higher sunlight supply also contribute to this.

functions of Orangeries and conservatories


An orangery is usually bigger and grander. It also includes more brickwork. Therefore, when every other variable is constant, an orangery costs more than a conservatory would.

Insulation and Heating

Brick is naturally good at thermal insulation. Glass is not. However, glazing technology has improved significantly over the years. So, there is no denying that a modern conservatory could be as good as an orangery in this area. However, between the average conservatory and orangery, the latter is usually better with insulation and heating.

Plus, some orangeries include shutters and a solid north-facing wall. Both of these help with insulation.

Impact on Resale Value

The average extension, conservatory, orangery or otherwise, will add to the resale value of a property. Property value will increase as long as the structure is well-installed and well-maintained. However, an orangery has more to offer in this regard. It can add around 5% to 15% to the retail value of a property. A conservatory only adds about 5% to 12%. This is because an orangery is usually bigger, grander and more expensive.

Do You Need Planning Permission To Build A Conservatory Or Orangery?

No, you don’t need planning permission to build either. They are both permissible developments. However, building regulations often include specific guidelines. For instance, the rules often say a conservatory or orangery can’t be higher than 4 meters or the main house’s roof.

So, check local building regulations before starting construction. Then, apply for planning permission if your orangery or conservatory needs it. Your installer can help with this.

Making Your Choice: Orangery or Conservatory?

From everything discussed, it’s easy to see why people have difficulty differentiating or choosing between an orangery and a conservatory. They are both unique home extensions, similar to each other yet very different from others. The only thing close structurally is a sunroof.

So, here are some simple questions (and answers) for choosing between a conservatory or an orangery.

Making Your Choice: Orangery or Conservatory?

Question 1: Do You Want A Structure That Fit In With The Style Of The Main House?

This is where orangeries shine. You can design the brickwork to suit any style. So, if you have a Victorian or Edwardian property, an orangery is your best bet for matching that style.   

Question 2: Do You Want A Contemporary Look?

If yes, a conservatory would be the perfect choice for you.  

Question 3: Do You Want A Structure With Better Insulation And Heating?

If yes, you will be better off with an orangery. However, technology has come a long way. So, you won’t have insulation or heating problems when you install a conservatory.

Question 4: Do You Want A Structure With A Higher Sunlight Supply?

Conservatories win this, hands down.

Question 5: Do You Have A Small Or Large Garden?

If you have a small garden space, go with an orangery or a lean-to conservatory. For a small space, a normal conservatory is better.  


Even though conservatories are more popular today, orangeries have existed longer. They are the original glazed house building. More importantly, they are still stunning and trendy. So, whichever you choose, you will make a worthwhile investment. They will both bring a lot of kerb appeal and functionality to your outdoor space.  

However, it is still good to know the difference between an orangery and a conservatory. This small information can help you choose a structure that is perfect for your garden instead of one that is just good enough. 

So, when the decision-making time comes, remember the following. A conservatory has more glazing, at least 50% of the walls and 75% of the roof.  Meanwhile, an orangery has more brickwork (less than 50% of the walls and 75% of the roof are glazed). 

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