What is meant by the term ‘orangery’?

You may have heard the term ‘orangery’ when it comes to glazed extensions, but what are orangeries, where do they originate from, and what are they used for?

An orangery is a large glazed structure, similar to a conservatory or glasshouse. Originating in Europe during the Renaissance period, orangeries were often built within gardens or palaces and grand estates, boasting impressive architectural features.

In the present day, orangeries are a popular choice, alongside conservatories, for extending a home or commercial property. Orangeries, conservatories, glasshouses, garden rooms and greenhouses are often used interchangeably, but despite their similarities, orangeries are unique structures in their own right.

What are the defining features of an orangery?

Similar to all the aforementioned types of glazed extension, a key characteristic of an orangery is that it comprises of an abundance of glazing. Orangeries often boast floor-to-ceiling windows which maximise the natural light flowing into the interior space and provide panoramic views of the surroundings. 

Classical architectural elements such as columns, arches and entablature are commonly incorporated into orangery design, adding elegance and sophistication to the structure. This is an ode to the original architectural styles prevalent during the Renaissance period, the early era of popularity for these buildings.

The key differentiating feature between an orangery and a conservatory comes down to the roof composition. A conservatory roof is often entirely glazed, but an orangery roof will be solid and flat, with one or more roof lanterns strategically positioned. 

Roof lanterns enhance the architectural appeal of the structure, but have a practical purpose too. A roof lantern allows natural light to enter the space from above but with more guidance than a fully glazed roof. Orangery designers will carefully curate the ideal layout and design of roof lanterns for each individual build, taking into account the position of the extension and its intended purpose.

What was an orangery used for in the Renaissance period?

The earliest orangeries originated in Italy during the 17th century. As exotic fruits like oranges, bananas and pomegranates began arriving in European ports, it became clear that the plants couldn’t survive the harsh winters in the region. Glazed structures were designed to house these plants throughout the colder months, protecting them from the elements whilst allowing enough natural sunlight in so they could continue to grow and thrive while indoors.

The glass-making advancements in Italy at the time meant that the country was well equipped to produce large amounts of glazing for the structures, but it didn’t take long for other European countries to design their own form of orangeries to protect citrus trees.

How have orangeries evolved over time?

Since the 17th century, the design and purpose of orangeries have evolved significantly. 

Designed for a practical purpose, the first orangeries weren’t particularly ornate. However, due to the high cost of glass at this time, orangeries became a symbol of the elite, and wealthy homeowners began designing orangeries with decadent architectural features. Since citrus trees could survive outside throughout the warmer months, many would use their now-empty orangery to host prestigious events and social gatherings.

They became multi-functional spaces, often furnished with comfortable seating, dining areas and other decorative elements to create an inviting space for relaxation and entertainment.

Aristocrats would integrate orangeries into the overall design of their gardens and estates, creating a sophisticated and luxurious focal point. They were often strategically positioned to take advantage of the natural sunlight and provide picturesque views of the surroundings.

What are orangeries used for today?

Due to advances in technology and changes in lifestyle, the practical function of orangeries has evolved to meet modern wants and needs. Orangeries are a popular choice for home and commercial extensions, used to connect indoor and outdoor spaces, and enhance the overall aesthetic of the property. Although commonly used for additional living space, modern technology allows orangeries to be purposed for a variety of functions.

There are plenty of orangeries dating back to the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries that are available to visit, showcasing the classical style and proportion of the structures from this time. These incredible buildings are full of history and heritage, and can also be a great way to get inspiration for your own orangery design.


If you’re interested in a bespoke orangery for your home or business, contact us today to find out how we can help make your dreams a reality.