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The Hewitt Family Conservatory

We know that building a conservatory is a substantial investment and one that should not be taken casually. The cost of a conservatory compares to the cost of a luxury car (albeit a luxury car that will still be shiny and new thirty years from now), so we know the time and research that is required for you to make the right decision about whom to trust to build your dream conservatory.

So, what should you do when trying to find a reputable conservatory builder?

  • Make a list of possible conservatory builders – ask friends and relatives for recommendations on good experiences they have had.
  • Do online research – not only visit their websites, look at their Houzz profile, Pinterest page, Facebook page and Twitter feeds.
  • Do your homework – once you have your list of potential builders, how can you find out about their reputation? The only way to be sure is to talk with previous clients and conservatory owners with whom they have worked. We invite you to visit to learn what previous clients have to say about their experiences with Conservatory Craftsmen.
  • Visit models and sale presentations – so you can see the quality for yourself. Meet the builders face to face and ask lots of questions, even if you already know the answers, to judge the builder’s honesty and knowledge. Look for builders who want to share information and educate consumers.

We are so enthusiastic about our product and are proud to show off the craftsmanship of our work in person. Therefore, we invite you to come visit us and our showroom here in Minneapolis. We will reimburse you for your flight and night in a hotel when you sign the design deposit for your new conservatory.

So, come join me, and my family, at my home. We can have a hot cup of tea in our lovely conservatory and we can answer all the questions you have about designing and building your dream conservatory.
Let me know when we should expect you.

Winter Living in Your Conservatory

Whatever type of glass enclosure you want to build, you may feel like it won’t be as effective a living space in the winter because of the temperature outside. This is actually a misconception; with the right kind of design and execution, winter living in your conservatory is very possible, even if you reside in a very cold part of the world. There are a few important elements to know about winter living in your conservatory so that you can design it in a way that makes it comfortable to be in during the winter months.

Picking the Right Glass

One of the most important elements of winter living in your conservatory is making sure that you pick the right type of glass for the structure. Photovoltaic glass (PV) absorbs and reflects the infrared light from the sun so unwanted heat is reflected in the hot summer and retained in the winter. It is important that you have glass that does not bring in an excessive amount of heat in the summer time, yet still brings in a sufficient amount of heat to the conservatory in the winter when you need a warmer conservatory.

Incorporating Elements of the Outdoors

When the mercury drops and it gets too cold to go outside, a conservatory can be a great place to be since people often feel like they are very connected to nature because of the many windows out of which they can see the world. You can make your conservatory even more connected to the outdoors during the winter by adding plants, trees, and other natural elements that you can enjoy when it is too cold to be outside.
Picking the Right Builder

One of the most critical issues relating to building a conservatory that is suitable for living in the winter is finding a builder that you can depend on. Remember to take your time and speak at length to prospective builders about what you are looking for; this way, you can determine very quickly whether or not they will be able to get the job done. A quality builder should have experience with the kind of conservatory project you want to build, as well as glowing reviews from previous clients.

Winter living in a conservatory is very possible; however, it does require proper design. Plan your conservatory carefully, pick the right materials, and choose a reliable team of builders so that your conservatory is suitable during all months of the year.

Greenhouses of the Future

Greenhouses are important for facilitating plant life in a variety of settings: whether they are residential or commercial in nature, the most advanced greenhouses of today are the ones that have sophisticated features that improve their energy efficiency, optimize their ability to grow plants, and create less work for their owners. Here are some of the most exciting technological advances in greenhouses of both today and tomorrow.

Advanced Greenhouses with Climate Control
Many of today’s most sophisticated greenhouses are built with systems that allow people to monitor the temperature of their greenhouse even while they are away from it, using an application on their smartphone or laptop. These applications often have controls that allow the user to increase or decrease the temperature in the greenhouse by activating a climate control system or opening vents in the greenhouse. In some cases, automated greenhouses can be set up, where there are temperature sensors that can detect when the greenhouse reaches a certain temperature and then automatically make the necessary adjustments.

Rain Sensors and Watering Systems
Some rain sensors are also set up to make sure that a greenhouse does not fall victim to flooding as a result of heavy precipitation in the area. These sensors can detect when the rain begins to fall and will automatically close vents, doors, and windows to a greenhouse to ensure that the plants and equipment inside are not ruined with water damage.
Automated watering systems are also valuable because they know exactly how much water your plant life needs to grow and stay healthy. Irrigation systems have been popular in greenhouses for many years: some predictions indicate that as standards for water use and runoff get tighter, more and more greenhouses will use automated watering systems.
Energy Efficiency in Greenhouses
Some of the major technological advances in greenhouses are the ones that make them more energy efficient. One great example of this type of technology is a geothermal heating pump, which can be used as a way to either heat up or cool down your greenhouse using the ground as a source for warmth or a way to absorb it, depending on what the weather is like outside.
Another major way that technological advances in greenhouses are becoming more energy efficient is through the use of solar energy. Solar energy is a quickly-growing source of power in the United States: did you know that according to the government, solar capacity in the U.S. has grown by 400% since 2010? Many people are adding solar panels to their greenhouses, to help cut down on the amount of traditional fuel that is used by the technology that supports the greenhouse.

It is an exciting time to be someone who is interested in greenhouses, whether you work with them in a professional capacity or you are simply a hobbyist who wants to have a sophisticated greenhouse around or attached to your home. Technological advances in greenhouses can help you ensure that your own greenhouse is doing what it needs to do with a minimal

Sheridan Road Magazine Feature

#flashbackfriday to our feature in the August 2012 Sheridan Road Magazine.

A Breathtaking Perspective
by Jenna Schubert

The beauty and wonder of a conservatory make it one of the most sought-after and admired rooms in the home and commercial design industry. For the team at Conservatory Craftsmen, based in suburban Minneapolis, there literally is no mountain high enough to keep them from building exquisite, first-rate conservatories around the nation. “We have worked atop tall buildings in New York and Chicago, battling high winds and the elements. We have worked in the mountains of Montana and North Carolina with vistas best captured from a glass room,” says Founder Jim Hewitt. “And we just recently completed lovely projects in Highland Park, Wilmette, and Arlington Heights.”

For Jim, the appreciation and love of conservatories have been a lifelong one. “I grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, one of the lucky urban areas in the U.S.A. that still has a public conservatory, at Como Park,” Jim says. When Jim was a boy, his father would take him to enjoy the warmth and greenery of the conservatory–in the midst of freezing Minnesota winters. Jim retained his love for plants and biology as he went on to earn a science degree at the University of Minnesota, taught science, and eventually began working in the landscaping industry.

Then, in 1988, Jim’s interest in conservatories was sparked again. “A customer of mine asked if I would be interested in installing a conservatory she had just bought from England and, at that point, I was hooked,” Jim says. Although he was initially working for various companies that built conservatories, Jim eventually decided to start his own business, at the suggestion of his son, Mike. Shortly thereafter, Conservatory Craftsmen was founded, with Jim and Mike at the helm. “We became ‘can do’ designers and builders,” Jim says. “We avoided the big names in the industry, made a pact to ignore the vinyl products that were available and traveled to England in search of the best possible products that we could integrate into our own product.”

From the start, Jim and his team at Conservatory Craftsmen make the design and build process pain-free for their clients. Since they work in all 50 states and Canada, they usually communicate initially over the phone, to gather information on the client’s ideas and time frame, and to request photos and measurements of the property. After all stages of planning are complete, the conservatory is installed in a timely and seamless manner. The end result is a high-quality, beautifully designed conservatory that is guaranteed to last. “We help our customers to understand that these spaces are an investment, quite similar in price to a luxury car,” Jim explains. “Our conservatories are designed to last a lifetime, and are not short-term additions to the home or commercial building.”

The hard work of the Conservatory Craftsmen team is often acknowledged by their thankful clients. “In most cases, our customers share the fact that we have far exceeded their expectations,” Jim says. “Relationships are struck with the folks we meet along the road. Every conservatory is a project, but every customer is a relationship.” In fact, Jim and Mike often keep in touch with their customers for years after the projects are finished. “When we are near an old project, we arrange to meet and chat–sometimes for photos of the conservatory, sometimes just for coffee,” Jim says. “We always make sure to check that the conservatory doors and windows are still at peak performance.”

The dedication of the Conservatory Craftsmen team to their customers is only one characteristic that makes them stand out in the design and construction industry. They also strive to improve and grow their product, so they can continue to provide the best service possible. Jim summarizes their philosophy best: “Our goal is to share the ideals of quality craftsmanship and business integrity to all who dream to enhance their homes and dreams with a conservatory.”

To see the article click here of time and resources expended.

Double Conservatory Greenhouse, Pennsylvania

Conservatory Craftsmen was called upon to design and replace two aging greenhouses in a beautiful home in Hanover, PA.

The greenhouses were built in 1939 using curved single glass which is impossible to repair or replace and wooden slats over the top to keep down solar glare, but they too had reached a point of no repair.
The greenhouses were a great deal of annual maintenance for the homeowners.
So, we came up with a drawing and a concept that the homeowners loved! Our conservatory design included doors to the front of both conservatories so plants could be brought in and out without going through the house. Plus, the windows were made from insulated, LowE safety glass – which simply put is a film coating we put on the glass to help break down the long wave ultraviolet sun rays into short wave infrared to improve the thermal efficiency of the room.

We greatly took into consideration to beauty and character of the original home when coming up with our design. It is always important to us that every detail of a new conservatory greenhouse matches the original architecture and construction of the house.

To begin, we removed the old greenhouses. Then, we cut the stone mason down 10”, placed a blue stone sill and cut an opening for our new double doors.

Our design features specialty muntins with simulated divided lite or SDL on all the windows to match the windows of the house. Not only do these muntins enhance the look of the conservatory but they are virtually maintenance free.

To ventilate the conservatory greenhouses we included full tilt out awning windows to offer maximum window ventilation and automation features so the homeowner can control temperature, water schedules, windows and lighting all with the click of a button.

Electronic roof vents with climate control and rain sensors are becoming popular with our clients because they allow the roof vents and windows to operate automatically to maintain the temperature set on the thermostat. The rain sensor will override the climate control and close the roof vents if it detects rain.




Throughout this design, it was key for us and the homeowner to make it look like the new glass enclosures had always been there. I think you will agree, we definitely pulled it off!

Smart Home Automation

Today’s modern family loves to add space to the house in a manner that adds light to the house and does not reduce it like a standard room addition will. The conservatory in today’s world also allows families to grow healthy plants and crops for eating and seasoning.
However, it can be difficult to maintain the growing greenhouse conservatory in a busy life that takes mom and dad to work every day, kids to school, after school activities and soccer games on the weekend. Unfortunate, it only takes one bad day, and the plants in the greenhouse conservatory can be ruined by drought.
We have automated greenhouse conservatories for our customers so while they are at the soccer game, they can; open the windows, turn up the heat, water the plants, switch the lights on and close the blinds all from their smart phone or touch pad.

How does Smart Home Automation work?

Window Blinds. We offer comfy controls in all our window blinds that will raise and lower the blinds based on time of day, sun intensity or just plain want to show the neighbors! Smart home automation also allows us to watch this process on live video as it happens.

Windows. We automate the windows in your conservatory greenhouse by small 24 volt motors that open and close the windows on pre-set commands. Open when it’s sunny outside but hot in the room. Close again if it gets too chilly or if an air conditioner comes on. Even text or email the homeowner if the temperature gets too hot or too cold in the room.

Plants. A small solenoid valve turns on the water and small spaghetti-like tubes feed each plant individually. Worried that some plants get too much, others too little? Not a problem, small water emitters at the end of the tubing dictate .25 gallons per hour, all the way up to 2 gallons per hour.

Lighting. We have said before that winter gardening is not impossible, but some plants will require additional light. Many very low energy, highly efficient growing lights have come on the market thanks to the research and development done by manufacturers filling a market created by the marijuana industry. These lights will also be on timers and you can set them for maximum light, and an 8-hour dark period that all plants need each day. None of us do well without our 8 hours of sleep!

Hydroponics. Some of you may become a bit more adventurous and want to learn how to grow plants in hydroponics. Actually, you would be surprised to know that most of the marijuana grown for use in this country are grown without natural light. Hydroponic growth chambers fueled by artificial light are the norm. You may also be surprised to know that 21 million acres in the USA are now under a greenhouse growing your tomatoes, peppers, and herbs.

With all this to think about, don’t forget the core reasons you considered that conservatory in the first place, your ‘cave’ to sink into at the end of a hard day, a cup of tea or a glass of wine, music that calms and soothes. All good reasons to add a room to your home unlike no other. Learn More.

Growing Winter Crops

These days, people are more conscious than ever about what they’re eating. More and more people are opting to develop their own sources of fresh food that they can feed their families. Growing winter crops is a great option for people all around the country. Whether you live in Minnesota and you want to make the most out of the colder months of the year or you live in Florida and are interested in extending your growing season so that you have year-round crops, a greenhouse is a great way to make growing winter crops a reality.
Designing an indoor garden for growing winter crops is not all that different than growing an outdoor garden. You still have to consider the sunny areas, the shady areas, what to do about bugs, the temperatures that work best for your given crops, and whether or not you need to add light. Thinking about the following factors will get you on your way to growing winter crops in a greenhouse with success.

Plants that do well in cooler weather are a great choice for winter gardening. If the temperature in a greenhouse is below 50 degrees at night, you still have a warmer environment than you would outdoors in many parts of the country, offering a wide variety of plant choices. Flowering crops are the toughest to grow in winter, because they need additional light. If you would like to grow flowering plants, plan to provide supplemental light.
Leafy crops, such as kale, lettuce, and Swiss chard, are relatively easy to grow in winter. If you’re looking for additional food to grow, think about beets, celery, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, carrots, turnips, garlic, radishes, onions, and Brussels sprouts. Many herbs also make great winter plants including parsley and cilantro.

The Right Soil
Always use sterile soil for your winter greenhouse garden. Never bring soil in from an outdoor garden because many insects are soil born. The last thing that you want is to ruin your winter crops by bringing in white flies or mealy bugs. It is also important to remember to make sure not to compact the soil and give your crops roots space for water and air circulation to ensure healthy growth.

Every conservatory or greenhouse has its own lighting needs. How much shade do neighboring buildings and trees provide? Is your greenhouse oriented for more light in the morning or afternoon? What happens to the low sunlight during the winter? Be realistic about the lighting that you get so that you can provide adequate supplemental light sources. Even if you have great natural light, you will need some sort of additional light source to raise edible crops in your conservatory in the winter.
Blue spectrum light is ideal for leafy growth, such as lettuce. Red spectrum light is better for flowering plants, such as tomatoes. Keep in mind that plants need a minimum of six hours of darkness for respiration. As such, don’t leave plant lights on all night. Install a timer so that your plants get just the right amount of light.

If you’re ever in doubt about growing winter crops or any other aspect of gardening, talk to family members and friends who also garden or consult with your local nursery. Getting the advice that you need can save you hours of frustration.

Conservatory Design, the Freestanding Conservatory

So, you’re thinking about adding a conservatory to your property.

Sometimes a traditional, attached conservatory or orangery is not suitable for your existing home, due to either limited space or planning restrictions. This is when we recommend you consider a freestanding conservatory or garden house.

Four factors to consider when creating your dream freestanding conservatory:

1. Conservatory Design.
It is important to think about how your freestanding conservatory will complement the style of your home. We will consider all the features and architecture of your home and its property and will recommend a garden house suitable and proportionate to your home’s size and shape. Building a large greenhouse with ornate features behind a quaint country cottage can overwhelm the home. You want the conservatory to look as though it were always a part of the original home or grounds.

2. Considering the intended use.
While some people build conservatories with the intention of gardening, these stand-alone glass enclosures offer a variety of uses: a light and airy home office, a functioning greenhouse or a calm sanctuary away from your busy, energetic main house. Some people love the idea of enclosing an in-ground pool to extend the swimming season.

3. Making sure the room is solid.
Traditional conservatories have one wall attached to the main property providing the room full rigidity and solid stability against the natural elements. To make sure your freestanding conservatory has the same required rigidity, we will build a sub-frame out of steel, called a portal frame, which is typically welded to the conservatory on site, so there is no possibility of the wind, snow, or any other natural factors moving it.

4. Head house.
When you work in a garden conservatory, inevitably you end up with a pile of supplies to put away at the end of the day, such as pots, trays, tools, soil, and chemicals. If you have a freestanding conservatory, where do you put these items so that they stay out of sight? You don’t want the space to get cluttered. A head house is the perfect solution. This frame built structure at one end of the conservatory provides the storage that you need for all of your gardening supplies. The head house can be quite attractive, adding to the overall esthetics of your garden. Putting in a head house may also cut down on the expense of the conservatory’s portal frame.

If you’re just starting to consider the idea of a home conservatory, make sure to explore your freestanding conservatory options. There are lots of possibilities for designing a useful, practical freestanding structure that will enhance your property.

The Best Choices for Conservatory Flooring

Traditionally, conservatories were built as a place to sit and relax in the sun, or grow exotic plants. Today’s conservatories, however, are used much more as a home addition and space for your family to use year round. With this in mind, Conservatory Craftsmen recommend flooring materials that not only complement the existing homes interior but that will also be able to handle the extreme temperature changes that occur in this sunroom.

We like to use a practical hard surface tile and within this group there are a there are many choices:

Ceramic tiles: These tiles are very durable, easy to maintain, and are a non-porous stone making them an excellent title to us in a conservatory kitchen. This option also offers a lot of versatile in design due to the variety of color, and size options. The material works well with in-floor heat and is cold to the touch so will work well in a hot south facing conservatories.

Porcelain tiles: The hardest man-made tile made from compacted clay, these tiles are water resistant and are maintenance free. This option is non-slip when wet and strong enough to face any elements.

Travertine: Most conservatory owners live in older or historic homes and that is what draws them to the vintage architecture. Travertine has an old-world feel, with scalloped edges and pitted surfaces; making travertine is a very cohesive decision. It is inherently porous so be sure to get your surface sealed!

Slate: Slate is a natural stone that is loved by gardeners for its natural organic feel. It comes in different colors and textures . They also have a cleft surface which makes clean up a bit cumbersome and will need to be sealed to protect them

Marble: Depending on the type selected it could pose a slip issue as marble is typically very slippery when wet. It is available in a variety of colors and has a vintage charm that other flooring just cannot replicate. It does mark and is damaged very easily from everyday acids found in lemons or orange juice.
Other flooring options to consider are:

LVT: New on the market is Luxury Vinyl Tile. Looks like a ceramic but is actually a vinyl. LVT can be used with in-floor heat and can even be grouted! A variety of colors and styles, from slate to wood make this trend a practical, option.

Engineered Hardwood: Unlike regular hardwood, this wood can withstand heat and moisture with minimal movement. The wood is very strong and is good for high traffic areas such as a conservatory kitchen or playroom.

Cork: This choice provides excellent thermal benefits for your conservatory, it is fire and insect resistant, great for sound control and soft which makes it a top choice for a playroom. Cork flooring comes in a wide selection of colors and shapes and is considered to be a recycled material making it a great option for eco-friendly designs.

Your choice of the conservatory floor will play a key role in the interior design of your conservatory; let us help you find a suitable conservatory flooring that will suit your style and budget.

Conservatory Windows and Glass Efficiency

Over the years, I have made a point of visiting conservatories in every city and country to which I have had the privilege to travel. My fascination with green spaces under glass began as a child in St. Paul, MN where I would make frequent trips to Como Park (now Marjorie McNeely) Conservatory in St. Paul. Built about 100 years ago and a terrific specimen of Victorian conservatory design, it is far from ‘old’ in the world of conservatories.

Given the fact that people have long been fond of natural light during inclement weather, the smell of plants and soil, do you think this trend will come to a halt because we have developed more efficient ways to grow plants? Hardly.

Today’s conservatory is already the conservatory of the future. Designed and modeled after traditional conservatories built by craftsmen over the last 100 years, they are married with the implementation of new and exciting innovations to make them energy efficient and productive. Let’s explore ways in which this has happened.

Window Glass

Once the prize of any building, today’s glass is a technical achievement far beyond the expectation of our forefathers. Have you ever been to London and gazed at old buildings and noticed where windows may have been, to be bricked over with a none-too-well matching brick? Do you think this is the result of a remodeling project that changed the need for a window? Not likely. British homes are already dark enough.

At one time, when wood was needed in Great Britain to fashion boats and maintain world trade, glass makers were using wood to fire kilns and make glass. Hence, the government put a tax on glass (also known as the ‘Glass Tax’), and your property was taxed by the number of windows you had! Times changed and so did glass manufacturing. Remember ‘hauling coal to Newcastle’? When coal was discovered in abundance in England, glass manufacturing methods changed and the tax was eventually repealed.
A celebration of glass took place. Designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, the Crystal Palace of 1848 had over 18 acres of glass. I have personally visited homes in Great Britain with conservatories over 150 years old. Glazing methods improved greatly over the years. Although most cities in the USA had public conservatories at one time, the structures had a bit too much wood that contacted poorly glazed glass and the structures failed. Cities faced with the high costs of restoring their conservatories simply took them down and scrapped the metal.

Modern Conservatory Windows

Today, conservatories are built with highly efficient glass. The insulated glass panel became popular in the 1960’s and has developed ever since. Our glass has highly efficient coatings and films that change the infrared and ultraviolet waves of light and produces incredibly efficient glass. Most glass today is more energy efficient that the walls of the home you grew up in.