Turning a conservatory into a conservat-sanctuary
I used to hear the word “conservatory” and think of nanas and bungalows with igloo-esque domes containing brown leather sofas and coffee tables. To me, a conservatory was the British equivalent of a stereotypical American’s front porch. It was where older people sat and wondered where the years had gone.
Now, I live in a house that has a rather sizeable conservatory. It is the width of the entire house, and depth wise is probably our largest room in the cottage. Accessed via the kitchen, it sits above the garden and leads to the steps into our countryside green, an enjoyable view.
Casting back to October 2020 when we first viewed our home, the conservatory barely registered with me. It was painted magnolia on the three walls, had a couple of sofas and a few lamps. It was used by the previous family as a room to relax in with their pet dogs. There is unfortunately, no light fittings and no heating, however there is power and many a plug socket.
After moving in, I started to feel an affinity towards this room; that didn’t require a bed, or a wardrobe, or a space for a television. It was a room with no agenda. It could be anything that we - or rather I (sorry, boyf) - wanted it to be, effectively.
Throughout the winter months of early 2021; freezing cold, in a third national lockdown, the nation losing the will, I tackled the conservatory. This is what I learned.
You want to keep a conservatory light and bright. Most don’t have light fittings but are placed purposely to be in direct sunlight (available for a limited time only in the UK) for both warmth and light. Therefore, it is important to consider that over time, the sun exposure will dye whatever is in its gaze. We’re talking whites turning a little off, yellow tones raising to the surface, and gradual fading of colour.
Our conservatory has three brick walls and one glass. I decided to make one a feature wall by painting it Lick’s Red 03, and the others with Grey 03. I left the Lick tester sheets in there for a while to check how they looked in different sun exposure and from day to night.
For décor, I have tied in all of my favourite elements of the rest of the house but allowed myself to push it a little further in this room due to not being restrained as much as you do in traditional every day rooms. Using greens and blues connects the outside with inside, and a mixture of clashing patterns helps to create texture and make it a fun place to be.
Time to get practical
The conservatory also extends storage space. In the future, I’d love to add bay seating with storage, but for now a large cabinet houses our board games and items used whilst entertaining guests whilst also providing a countertop for serving food or placing drinks. This frees up considerable room in other areas of the house, and allows freedom of buying lovely items to display as well as serving a purpose.
I opted for wicker chairs (4 for £40 from Facebook Marketplace!) as these are durable, easy to move and can be taken outside. As a rule, I like to keep a wicker chair length as a walkthrough from conservatory door through to the house so that everywhere is accessible when we are using the garden – also, to hang washing on the clothes horse to dry!
Lamps are a conservatory’s best friend and really do bring the place to life come sunset. I use one with a spotlight head that moves to easily illuminate when I am reading, or where I am sitting. However, battery operated lights are also great as they can be moved and cast lovely shadows.
Keeping a glass dome clean...
The conservatory is my cat’s favourite room in the house as he overlooks his territory. I call it his garden, as he's a house cat. Therefore it’s also the fluffiest room. I have tried to combat this by opting for an indoor/outdoor rug, which is also perfect for under the dining table for any spills and wipe clean garden chair seat cushions. These make fur easy to get up but also are forgiving for muddy gardeners.
Also, the conservatory gathers a lot of dust and unfortunately, dead insects when the windows have been open. For this, scented candles are brilliant and feather dusters become part of the daily routine.
It's hot hot hot... until it's not.
Conservatories during the summer can become very, very hot. Even in England! I have learnt that with this, they can become rather dry and lack humidity. This has had tragic effect on a few of my house plants, so it is worth researching which plants are best for your conservatory and how they may be looked after in the winter months.
In addition, items in the conservatory can suffer from the heat – it’s not an ideal working environment, and candlesticks often fall victim to a slow bendy death. I wouldn’t advise storing food, either.
However, in winter, the space can be extremely cold. I try and keep the doors open to the conservatory when I know I want to use the space, to try and warm it. Also, blankets and rugs help to keep it cosy, and electric heaters can be used safely and responsibly.
Overall, my conservatory is my conservat-sanctury and provides a peaceful place to read and relax, a tucked away place to host guests away and an extension of a garden to be enjoyed whatever the weather.