The golden natural light that drenches an orangery extension can really make your home furnishings sing. The colours in your upholstery and accessories become rich and vibrant as the sun fills the room. Adding depth and interest to each and every item in its path. But how do you ensure that this incredible ambiance does not fade away over time?
Natural light works wonders to any interior space, particularly those with roof lanterns that are bathed in sunlight for most of the day. But they can have one major drawback – fading. Caused but the suns UV rays. Capable of destroying carpets, furniture and artworks, the UV rays in sunlight work by breaking down chemicals that exist in furniture and fabric dyes, known as photodegradation. Leaving behind permanent discolouration and fading. But there are solutions and things to look out for when it comes to choosing furniture for your orangerie or conservatorys, so you do not have to be limited to wicker chairs and tables from traditional conservatory furniture.
What is photodegradation?
Photodegradation is the process of polymer chains breaking from solar radiation. But how exactly does that work when it comes to interior furnishings?
In the world of furniture, fabrics like acrylic, polyester and rayon are especially prone to fading under the sun’s glare. Natural light is a full spectrum that includes every colour of the rainbow, and colours that we cannot see, infra-red and ultraviolet (UV), the high-energy portion of the spectrum that is capable of causing the most damage within the shortest period of time. It is the UV light that causes the photodegradation of textiles by disrupting the molecule responsible for colour, known as the chromophore. Leaving the resulting material colourless.
Two types of UV can reach the ground, the first is UVA where 98.8% of the UV reaching the ground after penetrating the ozone layer. Passing through glass buildings and windows. The second and more damaging is UVB. However, this is mostly absorbed by the ozone and stratosphere with only 1.1% able to reach ground level.
In polymers, these UV rays are absorbed by what is known as carbonyl groups. These are carbon atoms that are double-bonded to an oxygen atom. Creating a photochemical reaction. Conversely in natural fabrics, the UV rays transform the water found in all fabrics into hydrogen peroxide, which you may know as a common bleaching agent. This leads to the fading and discolouration of dyes.
Natural vs synthetic
When it comes to choosing materials to furnish your home we can often be drawn to the more luxurious natural fibres and finishes. Cotton, silk, leather and wood are all popular materials to furnish homes. However, some of these are prone to fading and discolouration quicker than their synthetic counterparts.
Of all the natural textiles, silk is the most susceptible to light damage. It undergoes what is known as hydrolytic (damage to the cellular DNA) and oxidative (an imbalance of antioxidants) damage. Cotton also suffers from oxidative damage and wool experiences bleaching, followed by what is known as photo yellowing when the wool keratins are exposed to sunlight.
Synthetic polymers on the other hand fade at different speeds depending on their molecular structure. Aliphatic polymers, which include nylons and silky materials like poplin, taffeta, knitted throws, and a large majority of carpets are on the more sensitive side. However, polyacrylonitrile fabrics are less prone to fading under UV light. These include acrylics used in rugs and knitted throws.
How can I minimise furniture fading in my orangery or conservatory?
Once fading has happened it cannot be reversed, so it’s important to prevent it from happening in the first place by taking protective measures regularly. Using UV stabiliser treatments and minimising the UV rays that can enter your orangery will all contribute to keeping your home interior looking fresh and vibrant for longer.
All fabrics can be treated with UV stabilisers to increase longevity. Natural fibres like cotton and silk can be sprayed with fabric protection, leather can be maintained with protectants and conditioners to avoid drying and discolouration from natural oils evaporating. Wooden floors and furniture can receive varnishes, lacquers and waxes to protect them against any harmful sunlight.
With UV rays present even on cloudy days, the best way to ensure that your furnishings remain in tip-top condition all year round is to use solar glazing that has also been laminated in your conservatories and orangeries. At Westbury, we offer Westbury Sun Guard to build a modern orangery. This is a neutral glass that lets in a very high level of visible natural light but reduces glare and some of the UV rays from entering your orangery. Our solar glass also reduces heat transmission, which in turn saves energy and keeps the room at a more consistent temperature than air-filled double glazing or single glazed panes. Additional optional enhancements to reduce UV damage to furnishings are to use film to laminate the glass.
Another option to slow the process of fading furniture is to fit blinds. However with bespoke orangeries and conservatories, it can often be tricky to find blinds that fit your windows perfectly, so check out our guide to choosing blinds for your orangery or garden room.
Finally, another simple trick to reducing furniture fade is to simply turn cushions, move furniture and rotate sofas regularly. By moving furniture you can prevent un-faded shapes from being highlighted on wooden floors or cushions fading on one side more than another. By looking out for fibre content and following simple maintenance tricks you can keep your home looking as good as new for longer.