The word ‘conservatory’ was first used by the writer and gardener John Evelyn in 1664, although his definition is simply just a building that ‘conserves’ the plants inside, and he (as well as most other people in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) used it interchangeably with ‘greenhouse’.
By the late 1700s, many more people desired a closer relationship with the landscape, resulting in larger windows, French doors and flower gardens close to the house. Then, in the early nineteenth century, when it became common to have the main reception rooms of a house on the ground floor rather than the first, the conservatory as we know it today was born.
The advice surrounding the placement of conservatories in houses was notably modern too, and most designers suggested that it live alongside the library, drawing room or breakfast room. John Loudon, a garden designer in the early nineteenth century, recommended that, ‘if it communicates by spacious glass doors, and the parlour is judiciously furnished with mirrors, and bulbous flowers in water-glasses, the effect will be greatly heightened’. A statement that, save for the phrasing, wouldn’t be out of place in an interiors book or magazine today.
Aside from taking a leaf out of Loudon’s book when decorating your conservatory, one of our favourite ideas is to paint the woodwork and any walls in a shade of green or green-blue. Doing so creates continuity between the architecture inside the conservatory and the view beyond the windows, blurring the boundaries. We also like to mix indoor and outdoor furniture here – materials like all-weather wicker, Lloyd Loom, metal and stone are important for making the garden connection, while there’s no reason you can’t make use of pieces like dressers for storage or textiles for comfort, colour and pattern.