Squeezing a Conservatory…

…into a teeny-tiny space. I live in a traditional Victorian terraced house (on the same steep hill as my allotment) and although I have always dreamed of a conservatory, frankly unless a) I’m happy to lose ten feet of my thirty-foot garden, and b) I win the lottery, it’s not going to happen.

beforeWhat I DO have, however, is a small lean-to that acts as a conduit between the back room and a narrow corridor down the side of the house I use as a glory-hole. The people before me had put up a not very exciting PVC-U lean-to with glass at the top but blank plastic in the bottom, then filled it with ski-equipment, vacuum cleaners etc. It’s 8″ x4″, and North-East facing. It gets the sun at about 8.00am.  Not promising.

Then one evening I went to Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings Restaurant. Apart from serving excellent, seasonal food, it looked fantastic.  I was seated in the conservatory. It looks like this:

Image: Bourne and Hollingsworth

It made me think of a conservatory in a old country house, with exotic plants brought back by Great Uncle Arbuthnot who was a famous Edwardian explorer. It also made me think “I can do that.”

conservatory-2I painted my 8″x 4″ ‘conservatory’ white. Then I added a load of old 1940s-50s mirrors on one wall to lighten it up. The hideous, uneven concrete floor, painted the same colour they paint matadors’ hospitals in bullrings, got some nice tiles.

Next I rescued a cast iron fountain head;an unwise purchase from ebay (I have fences – there’s no way I could attach that to anything in my garden; it had been rusting under a tree for years) and although I couldn’t chisel out a channel in the wall to accommodate the piping (my walls are paper thin) I figured it would make a great planter.


I inherited a fancy fake birdcage from a pal, which I filled with a couple of fake parrots and a fake orchid (I’m a bit rubbish with real orchids, with the sole exception of a venerable old cymbidium, see top left). I was getting there, but it was still teeny. It had to have a path through it so I could get to the corridor, but my ambition was breakfast…

conservatory-3A tatty bamboo table, rescued from a skip, painted white and given a tiled top, plus a couple of charity shop chairs, also painted and given new covers made a suitable table and chairs but those white plastic walls made it feel like I was sitting in a cupboard.

I’d always thought it would be prohibitively expensive to replace the nasty PVCU panels with glass but when one of the top panels ‘blew’ and fogged up, I looked into replacing that and realised that it wasn’t that horrific.

after-1A few weeks ago, I took the plunge. The fogged window has gone to make the back of the best mini greenhouse in the world (it had originally had a tripolycarbonate back, but for some serendipitous reason it fitted exactly.) The white panels will be cut into circles as lids for the barrels on the plot (I’ve had terribly green water this year…) and suddenly it feels like a proper conservatory. I’ve added a little smile with an old pith helmet and a few fake marble busts (they’re actually terrible plaster casts.)

conservatory-1A fancy mirror bought in a garden centre sale makes the door to the corridor look like the entrance to my other, giant garden room and breakfast in my new conservatory is a sunny joy (provided I get up with the lark.)

I’ve even had a candlelit dinner in there, a fabulous event-banquet made from the last of all the summer crops, toasted with a glass of my chum Mike’s blackberry wine. Oh, and he’s using my old tripolycarbonate to fix his allotment greenhouse -nothing goes to waste round here…




2 Comments Add yours

  1. Christine Nicholls says:

    I’ve just remembered having seen these photos that I really want to draw in your lean-to, I love it.

    Christine Nicholls http://www.winterwrotealetter.com



    1. It’s happy to pose any time you have your pencils handy.


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