The orangery originates from the 17th century Renaissance period of Italy. Early in this century, there were breakthroughs in glassmaking technology, allowing large panes to be produced with great repetition.
The first orangeries were never meant for human habitation; they were used to shelter woody plants mainly. It was common for them to shelter citrus plants in the summer and evergreens in the winter.
Because of their inherent cost to build, orangeries in Renaissance Italy were a wealth symbol – a luxurious extension of a stone-built home. But they also served the practical purpose of replacing the fruit wall (a fruit wall is a high wall that borders a garden, often on all sides, to form a walled garden).
In the late 17th and early 18th century, the Dutch were making significant advancements in the manufacture of glazing too. They were able to develop expanses of window glazing and significantly reduce the cost of production.
The popularity of orangeries spread across southern and northern Europe during the late 17th and early 18th century. People loved orangeries for their ability to shelter plants and give a stone-built home a futuristic, glazed extension. Russia also adopted them, and in fact, one of our favourite ever orangeries is the orangery at Kuskovo.
Solid and glazed roofs
The orangery as we know it today can have either a solid roof with a lantern or a glazed roof. But early in the 17th century, all orangeries had a solid roof. This would be beamed or vaulted, depending on who designed it.
The development of the glazed orangery roof came in the early 19th century. A good example of an early application is the orangery at Dyrham Park. When it was built in 1702, it had a slate roof. 100 years later, it gained a glazed roof.
The aforementioned orangery at Kuskovo, Russia, has a solid roof. It was built between 1761-1764. However, unlike the European use of sheltering plants, this orangery served the guests of Kuskovo as a large, prestigious banquet hall.
The Orangeries of today
The orangeries of today are nowhere near as ornamental or as intricate as the orangeries of yesteryear. However, they are far more efficient and modern.
Advancements in double glazing mean an orangery can now be true of an extension of one’s home, with central heating and an open extension into a kitchen. Some orangeries also have triple glazing, especially in colder Nordic countries.
There are also a wider variety of roofs available. Customers can have a solid, glazed or hybrid roof. The most popular roof type is a glazed lantern, which provides the airiness of a glazed roof with the warmth of a solid roof.
Regardless of the time period in question, however, orangeries have always been a luxurious home improvement project. Prices today range from £10,000 for a simple orangery with a partially glazed roof to over £20,000. The cheapest orangeries tend to have a timber frame; the most expensive has an aluminium frame.