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Home & garden.

Updated: 8 Dec 2021

Choosing an orangery

Our guide explains what an orangery is, why it’s different to a conservatory and whether you’ll need planning permission to have one.
Adam Snook
Orangery with garden visible

Building an orangery can be a major outlay when it comes to time and money. This guide will help you decide if it’s the right decision by explaining what an orangery is and why it’s different from a conservatory. 

We also explain the planning permission issues you'll need to think about, and run you through some style ideas to consider.

Interested in a conservatory instead? Find out more about getting a conservatory

What is an orangery?

An orangery is a type of home extension primarily built of brick, with large windows. 

Traditionally, orangeries were a feature of houses with large estate, used for growing orange trees. The solid brick structure provided shelter for the oranges, while the large glazed areas allowed plenty of light and heat in so the plants could grow. 

Today, orangeries serve as a way of extending a property that brings indoors closer to being outdoors, without the same exposure as a conservatory or the bulk of a full single-storey extension. 

If you’re looking to create more space in your property, but you're not sure an orangery is the right option, head over to our advice guides to other types of extensions such as porch extensions, basement conversions or single and double-storey extensions

What is the difference between a conservatory and an orangery?

An orangery is a brick structure that has large windows and a flat roof with a glazed section in the centre, known as the lantern. A conservatory is a glass structure that has a brick base and a pitched, glazed roof.

Orangeries are also often integrated more fully with the rest of the property, sometimes with no dividing door, so that can add a real wow factor to your home. You can choose different elements to suit your needs and style. 

Because they can be made more bespoke, it's perhaps not surprising that orangeries tend to be more expensive than a traditional conservatory. They also need to comply with building regulations and often need planning permission. 

If you think you might prefer a conservatory, check out our breakdown of the different types of conservatory available. 

orangery added to orange brick house

Do you need planning permission for an orangery?

An orangery is considered to be a single-storey extension for planning permission. This means that if specific limits and conditions are met, you're allowed to build the structure without planning permission under your ‘permitted development rights’. 

The following requirements must be met to be able to build an orangery without planning permission:

  • it’s a single-storey structure
  • you haven't already extended the property
  • the orangery won't take over more than half of the garden
  • the top of the structure doesn’t extend higher than your property’s roof eaves
  • it isn't higher than 4 metres, or 3 metres if it’s within 2 metres of a boundary
  • side extensions do not go beyond half the width of your property
  • it doesn’t include balconies, verandas or other types of raised platform
  • the materials used in construction of the orangery must be similar to those used to build the rest of the property.

Check if your house is classified as a new build, as the developer may have put extra limitations in place. 

If your property is a listed building or is in a conservation area, there may be additional requirements. 

If you do need planning permission, you’ll need to allow extra time (around eight weeks) and money. Remember to check whether any quote for building an orangery includes the cost of applying for planning permission.

Planning permission can be confusing and problematic if incorrectly handled, so make sure you fully understand what you're trying to build and how it relates to planning laws, before your project begins.

Depending on the style and size of your orangery, you may also need to check that it meets all necessary building regulations.

For a thorough explanation of the process, read our article on building regulations and planning

Orangery extension ideas

A great advantage of orangeries is how customisable they are. This means you can create an extension to your house that fits in perfectly with the existing structure, and is shaped to suit your requirements. The following are some aspects to think about when designing your orangery. 

Start by figuring out what layout and dimensions you need, which will be determined by how much space is available and what you want to use an orangery for. 

A key decision is the relative proportions of brick and glazing, as this has a big impact on the structure. The number, width and height of any brick pillars you wish to have will also shape the aesthetics of your orangery. 

Using different types of wood, such as pine or oak, is a relatively simple way to alter the style of an orangery, and can help reduce the building costs if you use cheaper wood. Stains and paints can then be used to further enhance your design and ensure it matches with the rest of your home. 

The size and design of the roof lantern is also an important consideration. Different shapes will alter how much natural light enters and the types of internal styling available, such as supporting beams or lighting. 

For more design inspiration, check out our conservatory types guide. Many style and structure options such as Victorian, lean-to, Edwardian or gable are also possible for orangeries. 

If you need professional help to build your orangery, use our Which? Trusted Trader search tool to find a reliable trader who has been vetted by our endorsement scheme:

Can you use an orangery all year round?

In the past, a common problem with orangeries was that they got too hot in the summer and too cold during the winter. This can still happen, but with modern technology it's possible to stop wild fluctuations in temperature across the year. 

For the summer months, make sure you have good ventilation, as it will help cool your orangery. You can also put up blinds to reduce the incoming heat from the sun. If this doesn't drop the temperature to a satisfactory level, you could have air conditioning installed.

During the cooler winter period, make sure your roof is sufficiently insulated, as heat will rise and escape. You can also add radiators, underfloor heating or electric heaters to help fight off the cold if necessary. 

Our advice guides have tips on how to regulate your conservatory temperature, which will help you make the most of the room all year. 

What plants can you grow in an orangery?

The following five plants are classics of indoor growing and well suited to being planted in an orangery or conservatory environment:

  • Bougainvillea - brightly coloured climbers, ideal for an orangery border. Requires a minimum winter temperature of 4-7°C.
  • Epiphyllum oxypetalum - the 'orchid cactus' will develop large, fragrant white flowers. Requires a minimum winter temperature of 10-13°C. 
  • Gloriosa superba - a climbing lily from tropical Africa and Asia. Requires a minimum winter temperature of 3°C.
  • Sparrmannia - visually striking with hairy, lobed leaves, white flowers and stamens that move if you touch them. Requires a minimum winter temperature of 7°C.
  • Citrus - lemons, oranges and calamondin and makrut limes will all grow if given good attention, such as ericaceous compost and protection from insects. Requires a minimum winter temperature of 4°C. 

For more tips on how to get the most from your garden, check out our gardening through the year advice guides or how to grow guides.