Sunroom Semantics: Definitions of a Sunroom, Solarium, Conservatory & Orangery

Auburn, MA | November 26, 2018

Among those who prefer to have a more precise understanding of the terminology, and do not mind a bit to split hairs on the shades of meaning among synonyms, sunrooms can present a few variants that may leave you wanting to clarify your vision, or at least be able to refer most appropriately to those installations that you see as you are cruising through the neighborhoods.  The semantics of sunrooms are not as set in stone as many of the terms you will find in the architectural landscape, but if you take this opportunity to explore, new ideas may present that you had never really considered.   


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In discussing sunrooms specifically, one is generally referring to any of a variety of styles of rooms or porches or decks that are attached to the home or business, and enclosed with glass and windows designed to admit and retain the sun’s heat during colder times and reflect more away in hotter times.  Without the latter abilities, the enclosure is not much better than a standard greenhouse or a cold frame at controlling the internal climate and would not be suitable as a living space for much more than the shoulder seasons of the year.  Greenhouses are more typically freestanding and are often intended more for plants than for living space and are therefore unlikely to require the quality of materials one ought to use in the construction of a sunroom that is attached to the home.  


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Solariums, however, are often envisioned as a more contemporary style of sunrooms with curving eaves along the exterior.  There are those, on the other hand, who prefer instead to divide sunrooms and solariums into separate groups altogether.  In this case, solariums would be those enclosures whose roofs are made of glass, whereas a sunroom would be those with solid roofs that may or may not include operational skylights.    


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There are a couple of other styles well worth mentioning here too.  The first of those is the orangery or orangerie, a particularly boxy style that combines the partial shade of a solid, flat roof around the edges of the structure with a more centrally positioned glass gable or peak, occasionally decorated with a row of iron fleurs-de-lis or more intricate roof patterns.  This post-Renaissance style is one that had originated among the more disgustingly opulent estates in Europe as a modified structure, intended to house tropical fruit trees like citrus and pineapple through the winter months, before the process of importing fruit became faster and more affordable.   


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Last but not least, the Victorian-associated conservatories encompass a much wider range of less traditionally shaped enclosures.  This might refer to those rooms that have a footprint whose corner are not set at right angles, such as a more octagonal format or in a rectangle whose corners are clipped.  Modifications like these would then translate above into panels, glass or otherwise, that could no longer be rectangular either, potentially resulting in a roughly conical pattern of triangular cuts.  This concept could also extend potentially into the realm of those with more standard rectangular footprints, yet with roof styles other than flat or gabled, such as many hip roofs.   

No matter how you slice it, sunrooms of any shape or style are intended bring in much more light than your traditional construction, warming your home and balancing your life by setting your internal clock by the sun, as nature had always intended.  If this is the time to begin discussing which style is best for your home, our Brady-Built designers can guide you in designing an addition that suits your home and your needs, retains the value of your investment and will provide comfort for years to come.

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