I still remember the first time I saw our conservatory. A small hexagon on the floorplan of the house, there were no pictures on the estate agent’s website.
My first thought was “what the heck is that?”
My second was “it must be horrid – there aren’t any pictures.”
It was indeed horrid. A wooden outhouse with white painted bricks and a dusty floor, accessed via the TV room and full of bikes. The door to the outside was rotten, and the discoloured glass on the roof appeared to have come from a cold frame.
Unsurprisingly, by October 2017, I’d noticed the roof was leaking and there was damp coming in beneath the rotten door. I’m sure that someone else would have pulled it down, but over the summer, I’d acquired an affection for it.
My desk was next door to the conservatory and, in the middle of summer, I’d taken to throwing open the doors onto the garden. I imagined the conservatory as a transition between outdoors and inside – spilling over with plants and with a couple of garden chairs. We’d also been assured that it was an original Victorian sunroom, circa 1890 (it must be, to look that silly)…
The decorator we hired had done work for my mother-in-law. He estimated that he’d need to replace a few trusses of the conservatory roof and then paint the whole thing, taking about a week and a half. He brought in a carpenter to look at the rotten woodwork. The cost would be about £3,000.
The job swiftly went pear-shaped. The frame of the conservatory was nearing collapse. Every beam was rotten and, in places, they were sagging under the weight of the glass.
In addition, the conservatory glass was so fragile that it couldn’t be removed without breaking (we later learned it was the original Victorian glass). I can’t forget the sound as it crashed down onto the floor.
The builder, Robert, was in for nearly two months repairing and reglazing the entire roof.
Having spent nearly £2,500 on awkwardly-shaped glazing alone, we decided to make the conservatory into a proper room with plasterboard walls and space heating. The Victorian quarry tiles were too degraded to repair so they, too, needed replacing.
We used beautiful Victorian-style tiles from London Mosaic. These too were expensive – both to purchase and to place. The conservatory, being a Victorian original, was completely asymmetrical and the tiles also needed to be built up two steps. Our tiler valiantly laid the pattern in mid-November with few instructions and no central heating. He deserves a medal – or possibly a drink.
The beautiful bronze red colour (Little Greene Bronze Red) was chosen to match the coloured conservatory glass and Victorian coffee & crimson fireplace tiles in the TV room (now an office/recreation space).
We finished the job with brass wall sockets and Nordlux bulkhead lights from John Lewis – for a truly opulent feel.
The conservatory is now my favourite bit of the house…