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The designing of a conservatory can be a simple process, but it can also be a process that is easy to get wrong!
Most people search the internet for ideas, request brochures from various companies and sometimes look at friends and neighbours conservatories for inspiration. These are all good ways to get some ideas of what you like, but deciding on a design solely in this way can often lead to a conservatory that doesn't complement your home in the best possible way, and sometimes results in a room that may not suit the purpose you intended it for.
Don't get me wrong, I would encourage you to research as much as possible to get a feel for what you like, and equally important, what you don't like.
But unless you have a real flair for architectural design, you should remain open to the ideas that your architect or designer may suggest.
A professional designer will firstly look to gain information from you to help them build an idea of what you are hoping to achieve. By this I mean:
These questions of how, why and where are specifically aimed at identifying how the conservatory will add to your lifestyle in the way you are hoping it will, and do not specifically relate to the design of the actual conservatory.
A conservatory that looks amazing is important, but in my opinion, it's equally important that it compliments the existing building and your intended use.
For example, one very popular use for a conservatory is as a dining room. If the location where you want to build the conservatory is not easily accessible from the kitchen and you have to go down the hall, through the sitting room and out the French doors before you can place your food on the table, how long do you think it will last as a real dining room?
Maybe a few months at best, and you could have spent a lot of money on a room that you don't enjoy using.
Another frequent dilemma people face is the planning of the new kitchen that is going into their new conservatory.
Most people think of planning their conservatory first, then planning how to fit the kitchen in afterwards. This may seem logical, but often leads to "If only we had an extra 11 inches I could have had the extra unit on the end that I really need".
A professional designer will have some good base knowledge of kitchen layouts, and will be able to advise you how the space for the kitchen should work, and how the conservatory can be designed to accommodate this.
I call this, Designing from the inside - out.
You probably know already how you are hoping to use your new conservatory. You also probably have a good idea of where you want it, how you might furnish it, and how you will get in and out of it. So now we come to the part that everyone enjoys - how will it look from the outside?
You know that my design process begins from the inside of your new room, which means I will already have begun to form ideas in my head about heights of walls, overall size, door positions and the shape of the floor area. Now is the time to go outside.
Designing from the outside
Most people who are considering a conservatory stand in the garden and think "a conservatory would be nice here", then they pick a design from a brochure and ring a few companies for quotations.
This rarely results in anything other than "that's a nice conservatory, it's the same as Fred's down the road". For some people reading this, that may be all you want -- and that's fine -- everyone has their own expectations.
Designing a stunning conservatory, begins by looking from the outside and I mean everything outside.
Walk into your back garden right now (if it's not raining too much!). Stand right at the end of your garden, look back at your home and really study every detail: the roof shape, the chimney, the eaves lines, the shape and size of the windows, fascia and barge board details, the colour of the bricks and tiles and any other detail you find.
Now look with the same attention to detail at your garden: where do you like to sit in the sun, where is the shade from a tree, where is your favourite place in the garden.
Now, especially if you live in an older property, repeat this process all the way around the outside of your home, looking at all the details and shapes.
I like to take photos of everything so I have them for reference at any time.
OK, for those of you with very large houses you should probably sit down and put the kettle on!
Hopefully, you have already realised why this exercise (literally) is crucial before you consider what designs YOU like.
What conservatory you like in a picture on somebody else's home, may not suit your home. And if you also didn't take into account how the design might work from the inside, you have a good chance of ending up with a conservatory that may not suit your house, doesn't suit your lifestyle, and has put a large hole in your pocket for very little return.
The first step to getting the design of your conservatory right is to consider the existing architecture on your home, and then create an initial 'concept' design that you think may complement it.
The concept should be carefully considered, and the design tweaked until the conservatory 'room' satisfies your needs: for your lifestyle inside, for what you like, and for what complements your house outside.
This is easy to say but not so easy to do, or rather, visualising how the design would look on your home is not so simple...
Visualising a design
If you are using an architect or professional designer to design your project, you will usually have access to accurate C.A.D (computer aided design) drawings and 3D visualisation programmes to help you visualise how the end design will look.
The 3D programmes are particularly useful, giving you 360 degree access and the ability to 'fly through' your proposed project in millimetre detail. These programmes are so accurate, you will literally see your built conservatory-before you have even ordered it!
On the left you can see some examples of our CAD drawings. The last 4 are all CGI.