Tuesday, May 30, 2017

What is an Orangery and What's the Big Deal of Having One?

Kensington Orangery

Ok, I admit.  My first exposure to an orangery was Kensington Palace where inside the orangery the public can enjoy high tea when the building is not being used for special events (such as weddings or private parties for the royals or the wealthy).  I had no idea that a specific kind of greenhouse existed!  Built in 1761 with the idea of housing oranges (see why below) it wasn’t as successful at this endeavor as it was planned to be - this due to the fact that the roof was solid and did not allow sufficient light into the building.

Around the 9-10th century the orange was introduced into Europe by the Moors.  But the early version of the fruit was more bitter than today's sweet orange which was introduced into Sicily around the 15th century and its popularity soon caught on.  Once merchants began to spread the sweet orange into the Mediterranean, it became a luxury item and sought after by those who could afford it - or afford to grow them in their own greenhouses.  If you had fresh oranges on your table, you were considered very very special.  The fact that citrus trees and fruit suffer to frost is the reason why hot houses and orangeries (and the limonaia) were created to protect the precious fruit during the cold months.
The whole idea of a structure built specifically for housing citrus plants is much older than Kensington.  Basically the first citrus houses were built in Italy in the mid 1500’s and once glass blowing developed a system to make large panes of glass and use them for roofing, the orangery or in Italy the “lemonaia” really took off.  Obviously large panes of glass would be as expensive as gold so anyone having such a luxurious greenhouse or conservatory usually came from royalty or rich well to do families with very large villas.  The Renaissance gardens in Italy did them best.  Both functional and beautiful.  And the Medici families made sure each of their villas had a limonaia.  And the decoration of the inside of these limonaia were nothing less than masterpieces. 
Inside courtyard of Palazzo Medici-Riccardi that served as a place to house citrus trees and plants. Florence, Italy
Just like Kensington which has another function today, so too do the orangeries in Italy.  Some are still housing fruit but many are either mostly empty or have been converted into restaurants, hotels and even theaters.
Villa Petraia (Medici) in Sesto Fiorentino, Italy. You can see the hot house to the left of the pool (not for swimming but for fishing!)
The Orangery at Versailles, of course!
So, while building my Japanese dollshouse (my first project), somewhere during the build I came up with an idea to build my own Orangery.  It too would be a tea room and used for entertainment but I want to make it so that inside is still functional for the plants and fruit trees I plan to house there.  It will definately have a relaxed yet functional atmosphere.

I made purchases over the last 3 years or so based on what could go into my Orangery Tea Room and have collected quite a few objects.  Right now I am very busy with a hectic work schedule but I hope maybe I can find an hour or two in the week and on the weekend to try and get back to creating something in miniature.  I miss having a project to work on.

Ok, so, I welcome you to join me on the next project and hope it turns out as satisfying as the first dollshouse project did.


  1. Hi there, this is actually a comment about your japanese dollshouse blog because I don't have a Google Id to comment on that blog. Hopefully you will get this message. I just wanted to thank you for your exhaustive and inspiring blog which I am consulting regularly as I construct my own version. After seeing your feature in the Dolls House & Miniature Scene magazine here in the UK, I immediately sourced the kits on Italian ebay (quite cheaply even with the courier fee) and they have been sitting in the attic while we completed our own real life renovations for three years. But now I am building it (up to step 25 so far) and am finding your blog invaluable for planning my construction and avoiding some of the pitfalls you identified. It's a fantastic kit and I'm amazed at the level of detail and how much prep work the manufacturers have already done. I've built several American and British kits before but nothing like this. Obviously there are some issues with it being divided into so many steps. I'm tending to use your blog to identify all the chapters for each chunk of the structure then I can build the whole kitchen extension at the same time for example. This gets round some of the issues with applying decorative trim in one chapter which has got to fit in to structural elements added in later chapters. It can get a bit confusing having so many chapters open at the same time, i have little numbered piles all around my work room! Thank you again, hope you are doing ok, best wishes, Sharon

  2. Wow! How great is that! I made the blog exactly for this reason. I figured if anyone would be interested enough to buy the whole kit then probably the step by step would help. Plus it gives lots of inspiration for other Japanese style minis. I had a hard time finding things in scale (you can see it's a bit smaller than 1/12 and larger than 1/24) but it gave me the opportunity to build objects and learn techniques I'd never thought I'd try. The Ryokan was my first build. I agree, this kit was very well thought out and executed - typical Japanese I suppose. I love making mini things and find now, nearly after a year, I just have no energy or time in the evening or weekend to get back to my Orangery. Patience. I'll find time one day. I'd love to see the progress of your build. Are you putting any pics up anywhere? Super happy for you on this house!