Conservatory Planning

Taking the First Steps in Planning Your Conservatory

So you are ready to begin planning your conservatory…now what? The first and best place to start is by writing down a collection of all your ideas. Take your time and make note of any conservatories or accessories you see on our site that you may want to include in your project.


Feeling a little overwhelmed? No worries—a conservatory designer can discuss your project with you and help you through the process. The conservatory designer will ask you for specific information such as dimensions, glass type, required accessories, and the aesthetics you wish to achieve through your design.

If you have specific or general questions about your conservatory during any portion of the project, you can discuss it with your representative. The designer will then have an estimate prepared for your project that will include an itemized list containing the estimated price of the structure along with each accessory.

Building Requirements and Sizing

Building in Regulated Areas

conservatory requirements

Townships, cities, and even developments may have specific construction regulations that could halt or change certain aspects of your project. To avoid any mishaps, it is important to adhere to any municipal ordinances from the start of the project.

We recommend submitting preliminary plans for approval to your local regulatory agency as soon as possible. It is also worth noting that specific building codes and regulations are generally required for structures located in historic districts.

Sizing Your Conservatory

conservatory sizing

Deciding on the size of the conservatory you wish to install can be challenging, especially if you are not limited by the size of your property. Before finalizing your plans, ask yourself the following questions to determine what size conservatory is appropriate for you:

  • What will you be using your conservatory for? The first consideration when sizing a structure is identifying its desired function. Conservatories are versatile structures which can serve as family spaces, entertainment areas, dining rooms, home offices, and even greenhouses. Deciding what you want the space to function as is an important step in the process.

  • How much space do you need? Consider your conservatory’s desired capacity for both people and/or plants. Most plants have specific space and location requirements, so furnishings and grow areas must be planned during the preliminary design stage to create the correct orientation. In addition, if you plan to use the space for entertainment, consider the maximum number of people you expect to occupy the space at one time.

  • What do you want the space to look like? An interior floor plan, including walkways, windows, and doors, can be created on-site, but having a general idea of how you want the space to flow always helps. Stakes and string are used to mark wall dimensions and to create a visual representation of the size and layout of the conservatory. Also, remember that roughly one foot will be lost from each wall due to the foundation and framing. For reference, note that a comfortable walking path is 36 inches wide.

Location and Orientation


conservatory with grass

Existing features of a property play an important role in determining the location and orientation of a conservatory.

The site must have proper access for the delivery, storage, and installation of construction materials for all necessary subcontractors such as masonry, plumbing, and electric.

If the site’s location requires access through a property that does not belong to the homeowner, arrangements and agreements need to be made prior to the beginning of work commencing. Also note that if the location of the project is on a rooftop in an urban area, crane access and/or a freight elevator will be needed to transport materials. This will make component size and project design critical to successful planning.

Elevated Applications

conservatory elevated application

Conservatories are not limited to ground floor installations. In urban areas where vertical expansion is the only option, rooftop conservatories can provide creative solutions for entertainment and dining areas.

Other applications for elevated conservatories can also include attachment to a balcony or terrace. These installations often provide unique views of a city or the surrounding landscape.

Solar Exposure

conservatory exposure

When choosing the location of a conservatory, the structure’s solar exposure must be taken into consideration. A misconception about conservatories is that they must face south to properly function, but each cardinal direction has its own effects and benefits.

A south-facing conservatory will receive the most consistent amount of direct sunlight and passive heat gain. This may be beneficial to some plants, but without a cooling system, this may create an uncomfortable living space during the summer.

North-facing conservatories maintain diffused light levels throughout the day, which may be desirable for an artist’s studio or home office, but may require a heating system during winter months.

Eastern conservatories function well as a kitchen extension or breakfast nook because they receive early morning light and warmth, while western conservatories receive most of their solar exposure during the afternoon and evening hours, making them ideal for dining rooms or children’s playrooms.

Western orientated conservatories receive most of their solar exposure during the afternoon and evening hours, making them ideal for dining rooms or children’s playrooms.

Regardless of location, most conservatories, ventilation accessories (doors, windows, and ridge vents), and shade options can be utilized to modify solar exposure and achieve your desired comfort level.

Trees and Solar Blockages

conservatory solar blockage

Conservatory customers are often worried about trees surrounding the proposed conservatory site, because they are concerned that a falling tree or branch may damage the conservatory.

In actuality, existing trees may turn out to be beneficial to the heating and cooling of the conservatory. During the summer, deciduous trees can provide shade to help cool the conservatory and during the winter, the trees will allow solar gain as they shed their leaves.

Conservatory Configurations

Straight Eave Double Pitch

A straight eave double pitch configuration is the prototypical conservatory shape for free-standing structures. It provides a uniform space that is tallest along the center axis where the ridge runs directly overhead. This configuration and often features a traditional gable roof.

The roof can be set at virtually any pitch, so if you are worried about size or . Irregularspace, irregular shapes can be created by combining various pitches. When attached to another structure, a gable end will typically serve as the attachment point.

straight eave double pitch conservatory straight eave double pitch conservatory

Straight Eave Lean-to

A straight eave double pitch configuration is the prototypical conservatory shape for free-standing structures. It provides a uniform space that is tallest along the center axis where the ridge runs directly overhead and often features a traditional gable roof.

Straight eave lean-to conservatories are also versatile and can be used in areas with space constraints or can look equally impressive when utilized in long spans. The walls of existing structures can act as thermal storage for solar heat in this configuration, helping to create a comfortable year-round environment.

straight eave lean-to conservatory straight eave lean-to conservatory

Curved Eave Double Pitch

In a curved eave double pitch configuration, the conservatory’s eaves—the point where the walls and roof meet—are curved. Ornate decorative elements can adorn the conservatory to achieve a classical appearance or the conservatory can be left untouched for a modern look. Curves can begin high on rafters to allow tall interior elements or low on the rafter to provide a traditional appearance.

curved eave conservatory curved eave conservatory

Flat Roof

This conservatory configuration features a portion of the roof that remains completely flat. A flat roof is used when a view cannot be obstructed or when interior elements require a certain roof height. In the example shown, the conservatory roof could not extend any higher or it would have obstructed the view of an existing window.

flat roof conservatory flat roof conservatory

Bull Nose

Bull Nose configurations are also commonly referred to as “conservatory nose” or “Victorian style” conservatories. This design consists of a double pitch section that tapers into a “nose” and, typically, the “nose” projects half the width of the structure and is comprised of six to eight sections that form the radial shape. The “nose” of the structure can also be designed as an attached lean-to without the double pitch section and attach directly to an existing structure. Decorative accessories create a traditional aesthetic.

bull nose conservatory bull nose conservatory

Hip End

A hip end conservatory is typically selected for aesthetic purposes. Each section of the roof slopes downward at a gentle pitch, eliminating gable ends. A hip end can be adapted to fit numerous design styles. It is worth noting that the volume of a hip end structure will be smaller than a comparably sized double pitch conservatory, which may correlate to lower heating and cooling costs. Hip end conservatories can be attached to a building (shown below) or be constructed as freestanding units.

hip end conservatory hip end conservatory

Custom Configurations

custom conservatory

Custom conservatories can include multiple turns, additional walls, several roof pitches, and/or unique accessories regardless of the size of the conservatory.

While the function of custom structures must be carefully considered, adding operable walls, sliding doors, or a venting skylight can help you to achieve both functional and aesthetic goals.

Conservatory Hybrids


conservatory atrium

An atrium conservatory blends traditional framing, a glass roof, and windows with conventionally constructed walls. Various materials can be utilized to complement the framing such as masonry, stucco, or siding.

Finials and ridge cresting can also create decorative accents on these conservatories. If desired, traditional walls can be designed or altered to include folding glass walls as well.


conservatory sunroom

The sunroom can be an addition or a conversion of an existing space by replacing the roof with a glass roof. Grids can be integrated into windows, ridge cresting can adorn the structure’s roof line, and/or a Palladian arch can be inserted into a gable end to provide stylistic accents.

Ornate Conservatories

Skylights and Lanterns

conservatory latern

Decorative skylights are typically found in residential homes, universities, and cultural centers such as music halls. Finials and ridge cresting may be included in the skylight for a more decorative appearance. The conservatory skylights can also incorporate a lantern into their design, creating a classic feel and drawing attention to the skylight. If the lantern is large enough, operable windows can be added to assist in ventilation.

Canopies and Walkways

conservatory canopy

Canopies and walkways are functional structures that provide protection from the outside elements. A canopy is attached to a building, supported by posts, and has no vertical walls. Canopies provide overhead protection to users from the elements. In contrast, walkways are entirely enclosed and used to join two buildings.

These structures are typically a feature of contemporary design, but with the addition of a few decorative elements, a walkway can achieve a traditional conservatory aesthetic. Ridge cresting and finials can be added to the roof line, grids can be included in the glazing, and lanterns can be utilized in the design to enhance the aesthetic appeal of the structure. 

Specialty Conservatories

Industrial Revival

Industrial Revival conservatories evoke the aesthetic of the late 1800s Industrial Revolution, a time when advances in technology brought steel and glass structures into popularity. During that time, these conservatories were used for the propagation of out of season plants.

Unlike the conservatories of the past, the aluminum framing will not rust, warp, or require constant finish maintenance. This is especially important in moist environments, such as greenhouses and pool enclosures.

In addition, thorough design and engineering can achieve an aesthetic of steel with durable aluminum framing. Aluminum’s malleability allows columns, webbed trusses, and caps to be cast and incorporated into a conservatory’s design without the negative aspects of steel framing.

Ogee Conservatories

ogee conservatory side view

An ogee style conservatory is a unique configuration that few manufacturers can produce properly. To ensure quality, Solar has brought bending capabilities in-house, further demonstrating a dedication to vertical integration.

Ogee configurations are named in reference to the roof’s shape, which features inverted curved eaves, comes to a peak, and is capped off with a finial. This shape is also sometimes referred to as an “S-curve” or an “ogee curve.” Inside, the conservatory’s trusses are used to support the roof.

When grids and decorative base panels are incorporated, the design presents a traditional feel; when no ornamentation is added, the conservatory evokes a minimalist aesthetic.

ogee conservatory

Conservatory Interior Design

A common concern of home owners is that their conservatory will not get enough use to justify the investment. While conservatories are a considerable investment, it is important to remember that the interior layout should be a priority as well. You should not create a unique conservatory and leave the interior blank; by furnishing your conservatory, the space will feel more like a part of your home and get more use.

conservatory interior

The interior layout of a conservatory is typically determined by the space’s intended function, so it is important to figure out what exactly you want the space for. For example, what is the conservatory’s main purpose? Will it serve as a play room for children or a space for entertaining dinner parties? Answering a few questions will get you on the right track for your conservatory’s interior design.

Typically, there is no set conservatory style, but the following are a few design suggestions to consider:

conservatory layout

Formal Conservatory

  • Rich colors
  • Queen Anne legs
  • Sofa with rolled arms
  • Mahogany furniture

Classic English Look

  • Wicker furniture
  • Rattan or cane materials
  • Wrought iron table with glass top
  • Pastel colors

conservatory floor plan Modern Conservatory

  • Straight line furniture
  • Neutral colors with splashes of primary hues
  • Glass top tables
  • Acrylic chairs


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