Our guide to conservatories - what you need to know

Conservatories can ‘bring the outside in' but all too often that translates as boiling in summer, freezing in winter, and leaky...

Our guide to conservatories

Originally, they were glorified greenhouses for wealthy Victorians in which to store exotic plants from hotter climes, and in a country house, a grand colonial wood and glass conservatory looks wonderful. But a poorly constructed conservatory made from budget materials is more likely to be an under-used eyesore. However, high-tech engineering and glass technology mean that you can create stunning conservatory extensions which, if done to a high standard, will open up the back of your house and add instant glamour and square footage.

There are two ways to go. Traditional hardwood conservatories work well in semis or detached houses with large gardens. You don't have to go bespoke; there are many good off-the-peg designs available. For urban or contemporary houses, a structural glass cube with fine glazing bars or a frameless glass system will make you feel as if you are having dinner in the garden, but need not be bespoke either. High-ceilinged conservatory extensions are very much in demand and can add enormously to the value of your property. As always, check building regulations and establish whether you need to apply for planning permission, conservation or listed building consent.