My latest design obsession has led me back in time to 19th century England and the ornate greenhouse-like structure known as "the orangery."
Especially now in the midst of a very gray January, the concept of a beautiful space to showcase orange and exotic fruit trees sounds like a dream. In the age of all things practicality and efficiency, what a precious notion.
Upon saving countless designs for inspiration, I did a real deep dive and am convinced an orangery full of actual fruit trees must be in my future.
By definition- the term orangery refers to a room or separate building dedicated to storing fruit trees during the winter months. Similar to a greenhouse or a conservatory, they were popular during the 17th through 19th centuries (particularly in Northern Europe) and built on the estates of the wealthy.
The goal of the original structure was to combine a solid stone or wooden foundation to protect the delicate trees from the elements while incorporating large expanses of glass to allow in maximum sunlight.
The traditional orangery was grand in style with a solid north-facing wall for protection, small stove for warmth and a south-facing wall featuring tall windows for maximum sun exposure. A glazed glass roof lantern provided copious amounts of natural light and wooden window shutters helped retain heat at night.
The original orangeries of the 17th century had solid roofs but the 19th century brought about the development of glass technology during the Renaissance period in Italy. This allowed for the construction of large glass panes and therefore structures that could benefit from sunlight were created.
Often confused with greenhouses or conservatories, orangeries essentially serve the same purpose with the main difference lying in roof construction. Most of the time, a conservatory features an entire pitched glazed glass roof while the orangery has a solid perimeter roof with lantern panels.
And compared to a greenhouse, the classic orangery is larger, provides a more consistent temperature and was typically designed as a beautiful room.
The orangery quickly grew to become a status symbol featuring unique architecture and elaborate designs. It served not just as a utilitarian room but as an elaborate entertaining space to show off exotic plant collections. Many famous historic orangeries still survive, notably those at the gardens of Versailles in France and Kew House in London.
Though sadly many today no longer have the need to protect a prized citrus collection, orangeries do remain popular in construction and restoration projects and function as truly beautiful sunrooms.
all images via
The ornate detailing, material combinations and a modern indoor/outdoor living concept built upon on classical principles make the orangery so desirable today. Perfect for an office, family room, or even guest cottage the options are endless.
Though I may start out small with a potted orange tree in my apartment, the orangery now has a spot on the vision board.