These days when we’re looking to add more floor space to our homes, we look towards conservatories and orangeries. They’re gorgeous ways to expand the space in our homes without bumping up against planning guidelines.
Orangeries, in particular, are becoming a popular addition to our homes once again. With a brick construction, large windows and a solid roof (often with a dome or cupola), they offer far superior thermal insulation than a conservatory and blend seamlessly into the architectural design of many homes.
Their recent surge in popularity belies the fact that orangeries are an invention which can be traced back to the 16th century. But what is the history of the orangery? Join us as we take a look.
Noble Beginnings The first true orangery was constructed in Padua, Veneto in Italy in 1545 by a local nobleman. Its purpose? To aid in the growth of oranges (and other fruit) throughout the year, regardless of external weather conditions. It’s no secret where orangeries got their name from, then.
Taking advantage of then-recent technological innovations in glassmaking and construction to create a glass-heavy growing room, much of the early orangery design was intended to improve growing conditions, with a stove for heat and water features for visual style and humidity.
A spate of orangeries followed as word spread and rich individuals sought to exhibit the bounties of the new world like citrus fruits, pineapples, bananas and other tender fruits and ornamental plants. Harsh winters made up the ‘little ice age’, ensuring it was impossible to cultivate these then-exotic plants in Northern Europe at the time, further driving their popularity.
Post-War PopularityAlthough a smattering of orangeries appeared throughout Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, the true catalyst for the explosion in orangery popularity was the end of the 80 Years War.Phillip II, the Hapsburg King of Spain and (through marriage) the sovereign of the Hapsburg Netherlands, had for a number of years levied taxes on and restricted trade between his Dutch subjects and the Americas.
Following the end of the 80 Years War and the independence of the Dutch Republic came a lifting of the trade embargoes which had held back the Dutch economy. The result was a new age of prosperity, with exotic fruits and plants from the Americas making their way over to the Netherlands where they were cultivated in… Orangeries!
This new boom in orangery construction wasn’t just limited to the Low Countries either, but across Europe and beyond, with a number being constructed in Britain, France, Germany and in the Roman Empire too, largely built by gentry and newly emancipated merchant classes.
The 17th to the 19th century can be regarded as the true boom period for orangeries, but they continued to be constructed for the centuries following. As fruits and plants became less scarce, their purpose became less specialised.
These days, you’re more likely to find a comfortable sofa, a coffee table and a few houseplants in an orangery than a variety of rare fruits, but orangeries remain a tremendous way to expand the floor space of your home.
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