From time to time, we ask our customers to write for our blog. Here’s Mrs D talking about how she replaced a less than functional conservatory with a breath taking open-plan orangery extension.
The idea to extend with an orangery was born when we first bought the house. We already had a conservatory attached to the property; however, it was so small that a table and chairs could barely fit in the space, there was no garden to speak of, no flower beds, and it was just teaming with overgrown brambles – similar to how I imagine walking into the Gardens of Helligan was when they were first discovered. But the original conservatory gave us the idea for a glass extension.
The property was previously let to tenants before us, but it is a big house with a big garden, and it required a great deal of maintenance. So when the time came for the owner to sell, he lightly refurbished the property, fitting a standard Ikea kitchen which lacked a lot of love. It was also very small because it would have been a laundry room or washroom when the property was first built, so I decided that the wall just had to come out and we needed to open up the space.
Designing the perfect orangery extension with Westbury
I had an image in my mind already of what I wanted to be built and I found Westbury whilst looking through a magazine. I simply called to arrange a visit from one of the designers, which is when we were first introduced to Alex. Initially his drawing wasn’t what I had in mind, and I was a bit embarrassed to go back and ask for him to change it, because it was beautiful but it just wasn’t what I had pictured. We also had another quote from a competitor but felt their design was more twiddley and ornate. Our house is not a grand house, it is a farmhouse and for longevity we wanted something simple to compliment the style of the property. Alex couldn’t be more helpful, he went through some pictures with us and he showed us some other orangeries from case studies, the final design we came up with was just perfect.
The original conservatory was not usable for 4 months of the year, because of the draughts in the winter. It was so cold that we had to put masking tape around the doors to stop the cold air coming in through the kitchen, even despite the original structure being double glazed, it was still freezing, and there was no insulation. However, since working with Westbury I’ve discovered that not all double glazing is made equal. When speaking to Alex I expressed that the only thing I am concerned about is that it’s going to be really cold. It’s a big room with lots of glazing, but he assured me that it wouldn’t be – and he was so right! We were invited to attend a showroom tour in the peak of winter, Alex demonstrated the difference in temperature inside and out with the Westbury glazing, and it was degrees different.
Nothing is beyond for Westbury, and they really helped us to have absolutely everything that we wanted.
Then you face the issue of what is it going to be like in the summer and sitting in a glass box. But the roof also reflects the heat away and having the automatic opening vents, they just see to it – I am so impressed. The dog lives in this room. So in the summer mornings when the sun rises at around 4am, on a hot day, it could get very hot under that glass and yet when the windows automatically open there is a breeze blowing through. So she’s absolutely fine and you don’t have to worry that you’re cooking your dog or all your plants! It looks after itself, so I’m able to use the space the whole year round.
It helped coming to the showrooms. Just walking into the orangery and having a meeting with Alex, we were in that room and in that space, so we could really imagine what it would be like to live in. It was also nice to see what options we could begin to choose from, we actually bought our limestone floor from the room we visited. Then of course you want to choose your handles. I had seen something in the brochure that wasn’t in the Westbury showroom, so I asked if these were an option. Despite no longer offering them due to a product recall, Westbury spoke to the manufacturer to see if they had solved the previous problem, which they had, and so we were able to finish our orangery with the perfect handles. Nothing is beyond for Westbury, and they really helped us to have absolutely everything that we wanted.
The team has been first class and I am yet to meet anybody from design through to installation that I wasn’t impressed with, and if you’re selling a quality, premium product you have got to get the service right, and everybody just oozes Westbury
Building the orangery extension
When it came to the installation, we had the ground works completed by our builder so it was ready for Westbury to add their joinery. But on the first day we had issues with rain filling the base with water, so this had to be emptied, meanwhile all the parts were delivered in one trip and then were wrapped up outside. The site manager paid us a visit at the end of the day to make sure that we were happy with the process so far and resolve a few issues. But I have to say, the entire process was absolutely brilliant! The team has been first class and I am yet to meet anybody from design through to installation that I wasn’t impressed with, and if you’re selling a quality, premium product you have got to get the service right, and everybody just oozes Westbury – I feel they really have it stamped on their hearts, it shows that they’re not just looking to do the job, they are passionate and they do very well in employing so many genuinely good people.
What is it like to own an orangery extension?
An orangery has a glow and a magic that you can’t achieve with anything else, we all gravitate here, it’s a family space. It’s the hub of the house, it’s the room everyone wants to be in.
I never wanted a tv in this room, because of the natural light that shines in, but also this is a quiet space to enjoy the garden. We have bushes to the right-hand side with bird feeders in and we constantly have finches and blue tits paying a visit. I said to my husband its like being in the zoo, we are sitting there watching them outside and they sit out there looking back in at us. So you don’t need a tv when you have that to look out to and enjoy. Our original conservatory didn’t have nice doors out to a patio, so now we have a patio extension, and it feels as though we have gained two living spaces, the orangery and the space beyond. It’s wonderful!
Every night we sit down in here for a meal and I just say ‘oh I love this room!’ The kids laugh at me and say ‘you haven’t said that today yet mummy’, but I do absolutely love the room, and everybody that comes to the house is wowed by it. So it’s the best and most loved room in the house.
We have two daughters who are both at university, one is just finishing a course in Musical Theatre and she was halfway through her second year when we went into the first lock down in 2020. So the orangery became a dance studio, which was not ideal with a stone floor, but she had all this space to use. All of her lessons were on zoom and the number of people, teachers, lecturers that kept saying “is that your home? I love that room!” Later on in the summer she recorded some TikTok videos with a friend and they went viral. With a number of comments from people who just said “wow, have you seen that room!”
So from a sales point of view when we eventually do come to sell the house, this is the room that will sell it. There is no doubt about it. So although you have invested that money you’re going to get that back and more because you’ve added value to your house. First of all you’ve added square footage and then you’ve added saleability, and something that makes your house that bit more special than just a farm house with a big garden – which is basically what it was before.
The Westbury Aftercare
Another reason we wanted to use Westbury was because they were local to us. We didn’t want to feel like we were being a pain if we wanted someone to visit in the event of a problem later down the line. But with Westbury it never feels like too much trouble, because there’s quite often someone travelling past or finishing work that can just nip in.
I’ve always felt relaxed knowing that if I have any issues someone is at the end of the phone to help.
Which came in handy as we experienced problems with the lantern following heavy rain and wind in winter. So I phoned Sally and she arranged for the silicone to be replaced, unfortunately it happened again so we called Sally back and she was determined to get it sorted. She said they will keep going until the problem is solved, and that is a super guarantee. Sometimes things go wrong and sometimes it takes time to show, but I’ve always felt relaxed knowing that if I have any issues someone is at the end of the phone to help.
Westbury were so determined to help. This was team of people all wanting to solve a problem for a customer from 5 years ago, not even a new customer. Sally has been our link since the start, we placed our order with her and yet we still talk to her. So there’s a continuity. A lot of firms you can be passed from pillar to post and you then have to explain any problems again to the next person, whereas she knows the project, she knows who you are, and she knows us. They came over and installed a new system that they had developed, and we have never had a problem since.
Later when they came to inspect the roof, the door was catching ever so slightly, which can happen over time. Before they even went up to the roof, they had altered the door! That to me just shows real pride.
So they don’t just call it an orangery, it’s a “Westbury Orangery” the name comes before the product.
Looking ahead to the future
We actually had the house valued, before lockdown – both of our daughters went off to uni and have moved away, in the first year we were acclimatising. We had these children in our home from their birth, and our lives revolved around them and their education, meal times, birthdays, Christmases, everything. Then suddenly, the nest is empty. Its me and my husband again and we don’t see them for weeks/months at a time. We have a big garden, a lot of land, an old pony, that is about it. Most of it is maintained by me, but we are not getting any younger, and I was suffering a bit with my hands and carpool tunnel syndrome. So we had to think about the longterm and selling this place. Think about downsizing and buying something smaller and easier to maintain.
So we had a few agents to come out – and one of them in particular from Beresford, who specialise in country homes, walked in and immediately said “this is a Westbury Orangery”. I had never mentioned it, but she said you can tell them a mile off, because of the quality. They obviously visit many homes and many with orangeries on but she could just tell. So they don’t just call it an orangery, it’s a “Westbury Orangery” the name comes before the product.
Would you chose Westbury again in future?
Ours is now is 6 years old, and it still looks as good as the day it was built. I wouldn’t have any hesitation to put another Westbury orangery if I bought another house.