Sunrooms vs. Conservatories

by | Jan 27, 2017 | Planning

Sunrooms and Conservatories: What’s the Difference?


We recently discussed the differences between conservatories and orangeries in the Sunspace Design blog. We received very enthusiastic feedback to our article, so we’re happy to continue the trend with a new post aimed at informing potential customers about the products we offer. Today we’ll be discussing conservatories and sunrooms.

Both sunrooms and conservatories allow impressive levels of natural light to enter your home, so what’s the difference? Although terms like “conservatory” or “sunroom” or “solarium” are often used interchangeably in everyday conversation, sunrooms and conservatories represent two categories of glass spaces with some generally unique characteristics and some overlapping ones. As the top builder of Massachusetts sunrooms and conservatories, we’re happy to compare the two product lines with you today.

A stunning nighttime photograph of a Sunspace Design conservatory casting warm light onto the client's yard in Rye, New Hampshire


The Conservatory: Elegance Emerging from a Tradition of Indoor Horticulture


A conservatory is a room attached to an existing structure (like your residential home) featuring a large proportion of glass in the walls and ceiling. The term is in wide use throughout the United Kingdom, but has also seen a resurgence in the United States since the mid-70s, particularly in the New England region. Sunspace Design has been the region’s top manufacturer of custom glass spaces since 1981, and we’ve played an important role in popularizing the conservatory style in our region of operation since that time.

Traditionally, the conservatory style emerged from a European tradition of indoor horticulture which began in the 15th century. Although modern conservatories are used for a variety of purposes, the original purpose of the conservatory is evident in the large glass spans used in its construction. The large spans of glass comprising the walls and roof enables a typical conservatory to easily support plant life.

Because so much glass is utilized in their construction, conservatories require careful thermal regulation. This is also true for sunrooms and all glass spaces in a general sense. And it’s particularly important for our clients in New England, where winters can be challenging.


The Sunroom: A Catch-All Glass Structure Product Category


Before more elaborate conservatory designs caught on in New England, sunrooms were the more popular option. A typical sunroom design from the time would be a lean-to or gable with a glass roof and very little in the way of additional architectural elements. The roof would be mostly glass and occasionally partially-glass. During this time, “sunroom” became the catch-all description for even cheap aluminum and vinyl prefabricated extensions that introduce significantly less value to your home than our custom designs do.

By contrast, a Sunspace Design sunroom hearkens back to the wood and glass designs of the original glass structures which emerged in Europe. We’re operating in a grand tradition characterized by absolute quality and function. Our sunrooms are reasonably priced and structurally sound, featuring large windows that permit an abundance of sun to enter your home. Our earliest sunrooms were the precursors to the more elaborate conservatory and lantern-style rooms we offer today, but our sunrooms remain a wonderful product line for many homeowners.

An interior view of a gorgeous dining space in a pristine white Carlisle, Massachusetts conservatory

Like conservatories, sunrooms allow an abundance of light to enter a home. And like conservatories, a Sunspace Design sunroom can be built in any configuration. We can use more or less glass as is necessary to meet the needs of your particular project. This is one of the chief advantages of having an in-house design and engineering team, and we couldn’t be prouder of ours.


A Shared Range of Customization, Heating, and Cooling Options


Both conservatories and sunrooms require special considerations for heating and cooling. Fortunately, Sunspace Design offers complete heating and cooling solutions for all of our products. Whether you’re interested in a sunroom or conservatory, we’ll ensure that the space receives proper thermal regulation throughout the year. Our goal is to avoid seasonality: we want you to be able to comfortably enjoy your new space on any given day.

With a door leading directly to the main property, conservatories can function as extensions which permit a seamless transition between the home’s interior and the new space. Sunrooms can also offer a clean transition between the interior and the sunroom.

A construction shot of a beautiful New England conservatory featuring decorative elements and a finial


Variance in Glass Roofing Characteristics


Conservatories often feature traditional Victorian designs and intricate patterning in the roof. But the average sunroom’s design is less traditionally Victorian by comparison. Victorian designs emphasize elaborate ornamentation and decoration, especially on the roof, where it isn’t uncommon to see a beautiful finial or spire. Sunroom designs are more varied, with styles ranging from modern to traditional.

Sunroom roofs can be fully or largely glass like a conservatory, but it’s not uncommon for a sunroom to feature a skylight or roof lantern in lieu of a full glass roof system. Because sunrooms often contain a greater proportion of non-glass structural elements, they may offer more protection from the sun (depending on the design), and thus more privacy than the average conservatory would.

This Sunspace Design residential sunroom located in Andover, Massachusetts stands proudly beside the client's home


Two Classic Glass Structures United by Our Commitment to Quality


Sunrooms and conservatories are cornerstones of the Sunspace Design line of custom glass spaces, and both products are offered throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and the greater New England area. You can read more about these products as well as our greenhouses, indoor swimming pool enclosures, orangeries, skylights, roof lanterns, glass roof systems, and other custom glass spaces by visiting our product section.

When you partner with Sunspace, we will ensure that every architectural detail, window, trim, and visual aspect of our product matches that of the existing structure. This holds true for both sunrooms and conservatories. And both Sunspace products are constructed using the very best materials, including solid mahogany roof components, concealed steel frames, and high performance tempered or laminated glass. We do not sell prefabricated products like the vinyl and aluminum sunrooms so commonly offered by our competitors. As a result, our conservatories and sunrooms do not suffer under the limitations that so many mass-market home extension structures do.

Are you interested in an elegant Victorian conservatory or four-season sunroom? Sunspace Design is here to serve you. Our custom glass space designs are tailored to meet the unique specifications of your home. Our products are built from the ground up to achieve your specific vision. Contact us today for more information.

This stunning, lakeside gable sunroom is a gem in this Stoneham, Massachusetts client's home

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