Envisage your dream open-plan space by selecting sumptuous sofas, handsome dining tables and characterful ornaments that no one else will have. Here’s our guide for selecting unique furniture pieces for your garden room or orangery…
We are often asked how furniture can be used in garden rooms and orangeries, and our advice is always to treat your new extension with good quality furniture. After all, you have just invested in an elegantly crafted, bespoke timber extension – so you should not hold back when it comes to the interior!
These days, you do not have to be limited to wicker chairs and tables; garden room furniture has had a revival over the last ten years so you can choose a style you adore. An interior designer will often consider a glazed garden room or orangery to be a very intriguing space to work with, and most will tell you that such a special and unique space requires equally remarkable and exclusive furniture.
Always select sun-resistant materials
With such a high proportion of glazing, your garden room or orangery will be drenched in sunlight for most of the day. In the sunlight, a process called photodegradation affects furniture and textiles, causing the colours to fade. The severity of this is dependent on the particular chemical makeup of each material.
All surfaces have light-absorbing colour bodies called chromophores, which control the amount of light absorbed at different wavelengths, which makes us see a particular colour. UV rays in the sun can break the chromophores down and cause the colour to fade, like a bleaching effect.
Some materials reflect light, making them less prone to fading, but others such as dyed textiles (linen and silk in particular) and watercolours can lose their vibrancy. Wood is also at risk in an orangery or garden room. Depending on the type, it can either fade or darken in the sun.
With this in mind, you should always select furniture, flooring and textiles for your garden room with a high sun resistance that will not fade and lose their colour over time. Avoid darker woods such as Walnut, and only choose Oak if it is protected with a sealant or covering. Leather can also suffer significant fading and drying, especially if it sits directly adjacent to a window. Over time, the leather’s natural oil slowly evaporates, causing stiffening and cracking.
Natural stone is a much better material to use for flooring over carpets, rugs or wooden floorboards. Providing you pick the right stone, it is highly durable and only looks better over time. It is also much more suitable in an open plan kitchen or dining space where you might want to easily wipe away splashes or spills. Keep in mind, however, that some stones are highly porous and can easily stain, so make sure you choose something suitable for indoor use.
Our Westbury Stone Floors are ideal for use in our timber orangeries, garden rooms and conservatories. They are a very popular option for our garden rooms due to their durable and low maintenance attributes, as well as their aesthetically pleasing appeal. Have a look at the range to explore the different styles, colours and textures available, or visit our showroom to see samples first-hand.
If the idea of having one-of-a-kind items in your home appeals, then whether you are hoping to source antiques or explore custom-made designs, everything will need to be resistant to colour fading.
Choosing bespoke items for your garden room
With bespoke or custom-made pieces, you can treat your garden room like a beautiful blank canvas, allowing you to get creative with colours and patterns. Working with an expert who has a reputation for exemplary guarantees an entirely individual piece of furniture in your home that no one else will have.
Designers who are truly passionate about what they do will thrive on making you a unique piece that you will adore for years to come. Look for people like Fiona McDonald of Fiona McDonald Makes, who works with highly skilled artisans to craft British-made custom furniture, seating, mirrors and lighting.
Plenty of retailers will also specialise in sourcing one-off, iconic pieces. Look at Aram Store in Covent Garden, Mint in Knightsbridge and Talisman London in New King’s Road. Liberty London has been delighting us with its treasure trove of vibrant textiles since the 1800s, and Furniture on 4 at Liberty is great for one-off finds.
Filling your orangery with unique treasures
Antique furniture, art, sculptures, glass and ceramics can bring a distinct elegance to your garden room. Collectors, connoisseurs and homeowners alike love the thrill of discovering unusual and decorative pieces from their favourite era and enjoy learning about its past.
Whether you love the idea of a Venetian mantelpiece from the Renaissance period from Jamb or an Art-deco mirror, it’s worth spending time researching for antique dealers who know their area of expertise and can help steer you towards quality finds.
When searching for antique furniture, keep in mind that damaged items can be returned to their original finish. If you find something you love, your antique dealer should be able to put you in touch with specialist restorers who can use a combination of original techniques and modern tools to revive faded treasures to their former glory.
Design Notes: Comfortable Sofas
If your garden room or orangery features a living area, then a sofa is likely to play a leading role. You can play with scatter cushions and throws in different textures to add a personal touch.
With so much glazing, you will need to take a slightly different approach with your furniture. Large, bulky pieces will not work as well in this kind of space. In one of our previous blog posts, we spoke to interior designer Beverley Boswell who shares her tips for choosing seating for glazed extensions:
‘The orangery is the hotel’s main focal point. It is an interesting space, almost like a wonderful glass box. Right from the beginning, the spec was to make sure that nothing would obstruct the expansive views of the garden beyond when you walked into the room. All the furniture in the orangery is quite low, and we collaborated with the team from London-based furniture makers Soane Britain to design custom versions of their Baby Bear Sofas.’ – Beverley Boswell, on the interiors at Linthwaite House Hotel.
Choose furniture that will not dominate the space, but instead works with the proportions in the room. Opt for handmade seats that are elegant and versatile in design, made using traditional methods and techniques. Look for features such as handcrafted frames made from a sustainable hardwood if possible, which will ensure a strong and rigid structure.
A good indication of a quality sofa to see if wooden dowels or corner brackets hold the frame together, rather than glue or nails. Lift one side of the sofa off the floor to test for a solid frame; if the other side does not lean at an angle, it is a sign the timber is twisting and weak. Try the cushions and make sure they are comfortable, and make sure the sofa has good depth with sturdy back support. Avoid sofas lined with webbing or mesh, as it does not take long for them to start sagging, and opt for traditional eight-way hand-tied springs instead.
Design Notes: Coffee Tables
Larger tables with natural stone tops look dazzling in a garden room or orangery, enhancing the connection between the indoor and outdoor spaces. Glass table tops can look striking in a bright and spacious extension, too.
‘I like an upholstered ottoman. It is great for putting your feet up and adds additional sound-absorbing material’ says our designer, Mark Jones. As always, make sure you select fabrics that will not fade in the sunshine.
Design Notes: Dining Chairs
‘There is something about an all glazed enclosure projected into a garden or courtyard environment that makes the dining experience all the more relaxed and enjoyable. So for me, one of the most important items of furniture within the space is the humble dining chair,’ says designer Mark Jones.
‘During early design development meetings, I encourage our clients to give equal, if not greater focus on prioritizing a generous dining zone. In our increasingly busy lives, it is when seated around a table and sharing a meal that we enjoy the best of times with our family and friends. At the very least, a dining chair should have an upholstered seat. Better still, it should be enhanced by an upholstered back, and for maximum long-term comfort, upholstered arms too. A bonus is that a comfortable chair such as this can easily be pulled away from the table to enhance a small casual seat grouping, and tucked right in under the table when not in use.’
Design Notes: Decorative Lamps
The decorative lighting you choose for your garden room or orangery will speak volumes about your personal style. Different to architectural lighting such as uplights and recessed floor lights, lamps are on show to make a style statement. A floor-standing lamp can be classic or contemporary, creating a focal point in a reading corner or living space.
Traditional lamps made from hand-cut glass panels or satin lampshades are timeless and elegant; look for unique pieces by Tiffany or Achille Castiglioni and Pier Giacomo. Contemporary options can bring bold colour to your interior; choosing a portable option means that you can move it around the room depending on your inclination. Collier Webb has a newly launched showroom in London’s Pimlico Road and uses precision engineering to create timeless and beautiful floor lamps. Their Helter Lamp is nothing short of a sculpture.
For table lamps, consider staying away from clashing colour and pattern trends. Opt for lamp and shade combinations that complement each other, rather than fight for attention or perfectly match. Look for a shade that has a diameter roughly the same as the height of the base.
Subtle, hand-painted lamp bases teamed with plain shades can make a lovely lighting piece for a side table or bookcase. Glass is another wonderful material to use for lamps; this one-off Aston Lantern Table Light from Fritz Fryer is inspired by industrial aesthetics and handmade in the UK.
As you bring together your garden room’s interior, reflect on how you might split your home time activities, and consider how your new space might change or improve the way you use your different living spaces. Ultimately, your unique tastes should shape your home, and the items you choose for the interior should incorporate the perfect balance between style and functionality.