Traditional Mahogany Conservatory, New Jersey

One of our recent projects was a custom designed traditional mahogany conservatory in Livingston, New Jersey; a leafy suburb located about twenty miles west of New York City.
The glass enclosure offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape and overlooks the outdoor swimming pool.

Choosing the Conservatory Design. We were contacted by the New Jersey developer while the house was still in the design phase. Working closely with the architect, Larry Appel, and the homeowner, we designed a modified Victorian- style bay conservatory with a roof lantern. The home has a very traditional design, with the mahogany conservatory as a showpiece of the house. The glass enclosed room is 500 sq. ft. and is immediately above the owner’s indoor swimming pool. The tall sidewalls float the lantern roof like a halo. The conservatory climbs to a whole new height, literally, 45′ from the ground. The conservatory is designed to complement the architecture of the home’s dramatic height and is situated to overlook the homeowner’s in-ground pool, which is accessed by elevator. The conservatory is the crown jewel of the home – tall and graceful, strong and sturdy, designed to look frail and delicate but withstand the fierce New Jersey winters.
How do you support the weight of a glass roof? Barely noticed in the design is a steel beam that runs up the center of the room and around the lantern. They steel ‘portal’ acts as a support that carries the load of the room. We wrapped the column in mahogany and made it a design feature.

Why were these materials chosen? The homeowner and architect met with Conservatory Craftsmen and were thrilled to have the option of building this signature conservatory from Sapele Mahogany grown in sustained plantations. The look and character of the wood give stunning detail to this house, which in itself has magnificent architectural detail. All of the interior finishing is also done in mahogany. Special wood finishes, designed in Sweden, allow the bright sun to maintain the fine detail to the interior space.
Chandeliers sought out and installed by the owners and interior designers, weigh over 500 pounds each and are handmade crystal. These chandeliers hang easily from the steel portal frames that support the conservatory structure. The gothic arches in the side wall glass are particularly impressive, these specialty muntins are hand cut from mahogany, and applied over inner spacer bars in the glass, we call this True Divided Lite and it gives the appearance of truly divided panes of glass. The roof lantern windows are led and have glass bevels to catch the sunrise and sunset and cast lovely reflections about the room.

It’s no secret, Conservatory Craftsmen will take your conservatory design to another level. We take pride in our designs and craftsmanship and will accept any design challenge to create a place of harmony and contentment for our clients.

Shedding Some Light on Adding a Skylight to Your Home

Is there a room in your home that is a bit gloomy? That no amount of creative lighting or a cheerful paint colors will brighten up? You need a skylight!

A skylight is basically a window in your roof which offers both natural light and ventilation to make otherwise dark and dingy rooms bright and inviting. Skylights are perfect for bathrooms and kitchens as these rooms often only have limited wall space to install regular windows, and also provide excellent privacy for the homeowner.

There are three major advantages to adding a skylight to your home as oppose to a regular window:

  • Add Natural Light. Unlike windows in walls, skylights directly face the sky. Windows on walls usually have indirect access to sunlight, and so the sunlight entering is usually reflected from buildings, trees, fences and the ground
  • Energy Efficiency. Skylights will save you money on electricity as the abundance of natural light streaming through will decrease the need to turn lights on during the day.
  • Architectural Detail. Skylights can be cut into different shapes and sizes, and are designed to fit seamlessly into the roofscape

Ok, so we’ve decided a skylight is the way to go. Now what? When researching how a skylight could fit into your home, it is important to consider the location and the position. If you choose to face the skylight towards south or west, (i.e. in the direct sunlight), you are sure to have a sun filled room all day long. Plan on purchasing blinds or shades to help adjust the amount of light entering and keep the room from overheating in the summer. North facing skylights will give you soft, subtle sunlight throughout the day.

While skylights as we know them are considered to be a fairly modern architectural detail, the concept can be traced back to the Ancient Roman, where the most wonderful example can be found in the Pantheon dome. The oculus at the top of the dome provides the inside with light during the day and acts as a cooling and ventilation system for the hot Roman summer.

The next generation of skylights were constructed by steel, which eventually degraded over time and used single pane, wired glass for safety. Today’s modern skylights are made from powder coated, thermally broken aluminum which will weather exposure to the elements, and use energy efficient, insulated glass which is tempered or laminated for safety. Often, this glass has special low-emissive (Low-E) coating which allows sunlight to pass through and reflects excess heat, providing a cooler, energy efficient home.

So, think about adding a skylight to your home. As well as adding a beautiful design feature to your home, skylights add natural light and reduce your carbon footprint.

Solar Conservatories

Solar technology isn’t new. Its history began in the 7th century when people concentrated the sun’s energy to make fires. Today we can have everything solar powered, from cars to space stations!

Building science engineers and architects have been learning how to capture this solar energy efficiently into the outer surface of the building using solar collectors. These are starting to show up everywhere we look. Companies and individuals are, quite rightly, proud of their green attitudes and show off their solar collectors on the outside of their buildings.

However, some designers, architects, and engineers have realized that there are people who want to be environmentally conscious with a little more style. Enter Building Integrated Photovoltaic (or BIPV for short), which is based on the philosophy of creating methods to capture solar energy that is more integrated with the building’s design.

How do BIPV’s work for your conservatory?

green-custom-1Some BIPV options you may want to integrate into your conservatory design are photovoltaic glass (PV). This glass both absorbs and reflects the infrared light so that unwanted heat is reflected in the hot summer and retained in the winter. This also provides a better environment for growing as it reduces the harmful effects of ultraviolet light on your plants. There are PV films that can be placed over the conservatory’s glass windows to collect the sun’s energy or solar collector panels that blend seamlessly into the roof line of the house. There’s almost an unlimited number of ways to build a greenhouse or conservatory with an integrated green design.

Benefits of adding solar power to your home

    • Saving money on utility bills
    • Increasing your home’s value
    • Decreasing your carbon footprint
    • Conserve our natural resources
    • Protect yourself against rising energy costs
    • Tax incentives
        Adding solar power to your home may qualify you for the solar energy investment tax credit (ITC). Some parts of the country offer as much as 75% off of the cost of the solar home system.

We are enthusiastic at the prospect of building green and making solar panels as common to a home as a front door. This exciting new technology allows the uses and applications of solar energy to be incorporated into the design of your greenhouse or conservatory.

Conservatory Blinds and Shades

When it comes to regulating the temperature of your conservatory space, the topic needs to be addressed separately from the rest of your home. Not only will properly positioned energy efficient window treatments save you money, but they will also help with privacy.

Conservatory Craftsmen is proud to offer blinds for slope glazing (slanted windows) to the United States. We are only one in a handful of domestic companies capable of these installations.

There are many Conservatory Blinds and Shades options to consider:

Pleated shades are the most versatile way to treat the windows of the conservatory roof and walls. There are numerous fabric choices giving the customer customization options with color and texture. The pleated shades also have a ‘top-down/bottom-up’ option for sidewalls and when fully pulled up or down, the stack is considerably tight making this option the least obvious.
It is also quite simple and cost effective to incorporate motorization to pleated shades making operation easy as the click of a button!
WOVEN WOODS (Pinoleum):
Europe’s very popular option for window and roof blinds, Pinoleum is made of natural materials, which are sewn together in a weave, to create a fabric. This offers partial sun blocking as the light filters through between the tiny slats of the linoleum.
Those who prefer organic window treatments and a more casual design might choose a woven fabric and material. The closed stack of the linoleum fabric is bulky and covers much of the eave. This may or may not be the goal of the designer and homeowner in each application.
One advantage of the linoleum blind is that is can be mounted under the rafter, so it can cover multiple rafters (and glass openings) with one blind. Fewer blinds, less cost of automation.

The roller blind is the simplest option. Improved mechanical design means a cleaner, easier to operate roller that is always dependable. Mounted on the eave, the cord goes to the ridge and you wrap the blind tight on a hasp. Roller blinds are also available with motors.
Many colors are available. Give our designers an idea of the color you are looking for and they will help you with the selection. All have UV reflective materials on the back side. We recommend using roller blinds for shorter runs of glass (under 6’). This will avoid the blind from ‘bellying’ as it gets older. To some, the general appearance of the low hanging blind is appealing. This form of blind stacks very tightly and is easier to conceal on the eave. Different fabrics which are now available give a more modern or organic look to the blind.
Conservatory window treatments are essential to consider while planning your project. Not only with your selection be more customized to your room but you will have everything done at the time of installation!

Custom Conservatory Design

OK- We have established that the conservatory is the perfect place to join your home with your garden. How are we able to do this to make sure the design is the right fit for your home?

1. First and foremost we must take into consideration your home and lifestyle. Just because you don’t have a 100-year-old Victorian-style home doesn’t mean a conservatory will look out of place.
2. Next, we look at the roof design and see how your conservatory design will tie into the existing structure.
3. Finally, we make sure to recommend the appropriate conservatory materials by taking into consideration the geography of the home, the design esthetics of the homeowner, and how you plan to use your conservatory.
Conservatories are being added in house plans for new construction every day. We strive to make sure your custom conservatory design blends your desires for the room’s intended use while creating a fitting addition to your home.

Custom Gable Conservatory, Woodbury

When you add a conservatory to your home, you add light and comfort 365 days of the year. A sunny conservatory built beside a pool is a place to relax, read a book, take a dip, have friends over for a cocktail party or relax with your family. There are so many ways to use your conservatory, and each one represents a tiny slice of heaven.
It’s always good weather in the conservatory, whether the snow is falling or thunder and lightning are giving a show. Enjoy the fresh herbs that you grow yourself when preparing a healthy meal for your family. Try some vegetables in the winter and brag to your friends that the tomatoes they are eating came from your conservatory!
I planted over 3,000 garden plants this spring, all from seeds we started in the conservatory.

The 12/12 pitch on this roof matches the roof pitch of the house perfectly and the entire room fits seamlessly into the contemporary construction of this suburban home.
In fact, all of our conservatory designs can be customized to compliment your home and its architectural style. That is what we do.
We work from photos of your home that give us an idea of the size and scale of your home, as well as consideration for details on the house (e.g. plumbing). These details will help us to achieve a design for you that works with your home and will give you years of trouble free service.


10 Ways To Use Your Conservatory

Why do some people build a conservatory and others do not?

It’s about connection. Connecting with nature, with the outdoors. Bring the natural outdoor environment into your house and experience it, rain or shine every day of the year. How many days of your year do you find yourself holed up in the house? How many days of the year is it too cold, too buggy, too rainy, too windy for you to sit outside and enjoy the day?

My answer to that question, if you own a conservatory is ZERO! There is never a day you don’t want to be outside, when outside is inside!

This morning as the red fox walked by my conservatory, sniffing the yard for chipmunks, I realized how blessed I am. When lightening storms come our way, we head to the conservatory to watch! When there is a blizzard outside, we head to the conservatory to pretend we live in a snow globe! We use our conservatory every single day of the year.

Here are 10 ways to use your conservatory

1. Growing

Either readying them for spring or keeping plants alive over the winter. At its core, a conservatory is built for growing! I need to be in touch with green living things. In the depths of winter when it seems though all life has stopped, I sit in the conservatory and marvel at the lemons growing on the Meyer tree, or the mass of yellow flowers on the Thunbergi. I don’t think I appreciate these little joys in the summer as much as I do in the winter, when we co-exist in our conservatory.
Back in March there were 50 flats growing and getting their duty assignments. Now they’re gorgeous flowers in the garden for a summer wedding.

2. Entertaining

At the end of the week, family and friends just naturally stop by to sit in the conservatory and have a snack with a drink. The conservatory unwinds you. It grounds you to your reality and shakes the stress of a difficult work week.

3. Afternoon tea

We have 6 grandchildren. They enjoy a little ritual in their lives. We make English tea (for children) and we all enjoy having a proper cup of tea when they visit. Not to make light of a time honored tradition, but more to take the time to stop and do something that has some level of ritual attached to it.

Customers stop by to see what a conservatory is all about. Tea is also what it is all about, so we always have a kettle on. Come stop by- we’ll have the milk and sugar ready!

4. Reading

A conservatory is like a reading room. A quiet respite. Nestle on the chair, maybe some good music, stars over head, a soft reading lamp. I can’t say more about this. Turn the act of reading a book into an event, for the rest of your life! The novelty will never wear off.

5. Playing music

Does music move you? It does most people. We all have our preferences when it comes to music (in my own house we do!), but there is no finer room in which to turn the music to your favorite and listen loud, listen soft, but be one with the composition. The acoustics of the glass will treat you to the best music hall you have ever been in.

In my conservatory, it is a team effort with me and my Hammond B3, which I resurrected from a sure death, and totally re-built. 1956 was a great year for Hammond, and many a starlit night one will stop by and hear the distinctive sound of the Hammond B3 working on some jazz rift that the organ knows, the player (me) is learning.

6. What is your instrument?

Recently, Mrs Hewitt has re-visited painting. She is a talented artist who has taken time in her life to raise 4 very great kids and now is turning to her old passion as well.

What is your passion? What is it that you used to do, and put away? Pull it out, give it a room. Find yourself again…….

7. Eating

I have always advised people “build the conservatory close to your kitchen”. I just know, from talking to the hundreds of happy conservatory owners that they have breakfast, lunch and dinner in the conservatory.

One customer (who built two conservatories on two homes!) told me that he only uses his kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and conservatory. The rest of the house was useless! He and his wife sat and started every morning together in the conservatory with coffee and the newspaper. Maybe no one ever spoke, but the bonding ritual is real, and they meet like clockwork, every morning in the conservatory. Sometimes a real conversation takes place, other days no words are spoken. It doesn’t matter. The stage is set, the ritual observed, the day is embraced.

8. Naptime

Remember that good book we talked about? Well you can guess what followed! A great nap! Sometimes when the house just doesn’t seem warm enough in January, the sun is out and one takes advice from the cat and curls up under a warm window and takes a nap. If life were to paint a picture of the most pure and joyful things you have done in your life, that nap is high on the list.

Many a star lit night has become a starlit sleep in the conservatory. Sleeping under the stars, no bugs, no rain, just you and nature. Does sleep get any better? Try it, you’ll like it.

9. Game night

Wholesome competition brings families together. We have game night as a family, but also with friends. Trivia, Pantomime, Games! Really, the old fashioned things people used to do TOGETHER before the age of home video games. There is nothing better than the bonding moment of sharing tons of laughs with family and friends playing games. When is the last time you played games? Well, you can play games in any room of the house, but when you begin the ritual in the conservatory, the kids, the friends, the family look forward to game night in the conservatory.

10. Romance

We can’t pass on the best of all. Fire up some candles. Watch them reflect over and over again in each window in a dizzying display of candlelight! A nice bottle of wine, some great music. Re-kindle your love for your soul mate in a special, most intimate room ever built.

The conclusion is that anyone can put a room on their house, but only a special person understands why adding a conservatory on their house creates a new way of living. It’s a room unlike any other, a crystal palace all your own.

Greenhouse Effect/Affect

Yes, we all talk about the greenhouse effect and it seems the news continues to be more and more dismal.

Today, let’s talk about greenhouse ‘affect’, the effect of living in a glass environment on your soul, your psyche, and your health.

We all know the long dark winter days we endure are hard on our spirit. It does not seem natural to be cooped up in the house for all those months without any sunshine.

Under glass, the advantages are many.

One is SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder

In a recent article printed in Scientific America, the effects of too much darkness are documented:
“The association between darkness and depression is well established. Now a March 25 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals for the first time the profound changes that light deprivation causes in the brain.

Light Deprivation Study

Neuroscientists at the University of Pennsylvania kept rats in the dark for six weeks. The animals not only exhibited depressive behavior but also suffered damage in brain regions known to be underactive in humans during depression. The researchers observed neurons that produce norepi­nephrine, dopamine, and serotonin—common neurotransmitters involved in emotion, pleasure and cognition—in the process of dying. This neuronal death, which was accompanied in some areas by compromised synaptic connections, may be the mechanism underlying the darkness-related blues of seasonal affective disorder.

Principal investigator Gary Aston-Jones, now at the Medical University of South Carolina, speculates that the induced darkness disrupts the body’s clock. “When the circadian system is not receiving normal light that, in turn, might lead to changes in brain systems that regulate mood” he says.

Treating the rats with an antidepressant significantly ameliorated brain damage and depressive behaviors. “Our study provides a new animal system for antidepressant development. Many existing animal models depend on stress. Our model is a stress-free means of producing a depression. It might be particularly relevant to seasonal affective disorder, but we think that it is relevant to depression overall,” Aston-Jones says.”

We obviously believe the conservatory is the cure for this. We have one client in Boston who said she always used to require winters in Florida to prevent depression, now she stays home in Boston, and spends her time in the conservatory. Of course, this may be bad news for the tourist business in Florida, but its great news for the family that gets mom home all winter.

Your Greenhouse ‘Affect’ also comes from the enjoyment of being outside in the winter, without the boots and parka. We enjoy snow storms and blizzards in the conservatory and pretend we are inside a snow globe!

Consider fresh herbs, leafy vegetables, and flowers in your winter. Never stop gardening all year round. Would you not say your life has improved if you can enjoy the fruits of your labor, all winter long?

On sunny days in the winter, my conservatory will heat up to 85 degrees. I let bread dough rise in the sun. Grandkids take naps on the loveseat in the sun. Most of our winter days are sunny (when it’s not snowing), and the sun is a welcome benefit to a long dark winter.
The greenhouse effect can be good mental health, a place to read, a place to garden, or a place to soak in the hot tub. Without a doubt the effect on us all is positive.

The ROI of Building a Greenhouse

6 years ago I installed a unique gable conservatory for a customer named Joan, and recently I received a call from her. Her husband was taking a position at a college in Virginia and they had to sell their house and move. The hardest part was not leaving her friends or the comfort of her community. It was leaving her conservatory.

I asked if they had sold their house yet. She told me the reason she called was to tell me the house sold the first week on the market, and the buyers walked into the house and said, “Oh my, a Conservatory! We’ll take it!” I am not saying every home will sell that fast with a conservatory, but the ROI of building a greenhouse couldn’t be more evident than in this situation.

Frankly, most people are like Joan, and unless they have to move, they will never be separated from their conservatory. Once you live in a home with one, it’s nearly impossible to live without one. It is a way of connecting to the outdoors like nothing else.

When another customer of ours sold his home with a conservatory, he called us the next day after moving into his new house and had us start construction immediately. As stunning as it was, the house wasn’t complete without his crystal palace.

When we work with you to design your conservatory we are careful to make sure the structure will complement the original architecture. Adding value to your home can be done with a simple addition or extension. But 25+ years of experience designing and building conservatories tells us that adding a greenhouse or a conservatory is an investment that reaps, even more, financial benefits than your usual reconstruction.

An Addition Is Just An Addition. A Conservatory Is Something Else.

Think about it. Many homes you have visited have had additions or extensions built. Some work with the original structure to ensure that the addition is visually seamless. Others attempt to boost the value of their home with an arbitrary extension that does nothing to add life and interest. A Conservatory added to the home? Now that is a feature, a statement. It says, “I am in touch with nature and I am invested in a healthier, happier lifestyle.”

Many people do not realize that the conservatory can be about the same price as a conventionally built addition, with much more to offer. For about the price of a luxury car, you can add a conservatory to your home and live like you’ve never lived before. Unlike a luxury car, a well-built conservatory will last longer and hold onto its value.

Six Ways To Automate Your Conservatory

Every conservatory is different. Some are built in the shade of stately trees. Others are built right out in the southern sun and take a full hit of infrared waves daily. Keeping a conservatory cool requires pre-planning. Keeping it cool with the modern conveniences of automated conservatory features is a luxury that cannot be underrated.

In past articles, I have always compared a conservatory to your car. OK, I know you don’t grow hibiscus in your back seat, but the extremes of hot and cold can be similar to that of any glass enclosure.

In the past, I have also commented that a company who builds a structure with no consideration to mechanical design would be like a home builder forgetting to install a furnace and air conditioner.

So, we agree on the varying extremes in temperature and that attention to that detail is absolutely required. How to protect thousands of dollars of conservatory furniture, or the tropical plants from those elements?

Automation allows a homeowner to control ventilation, watering schedules and lighting all with a click of a button. We can even connect these features to your lap-top, computer, or i-Pad. Many refurbishment projects have added these automation features as an easy upgrade.


Conservatory Blinds and Shades

sheppard2012-30Many of you have conservatory blinds. Many of you do not and are needlessly suffering through the scorching rays of the sun. Sourcing blinds specifically made for slope glazing is tricky in the United States. Your local window treatment company will not have the correct products to hang from a ceiling and if they do, the price is probably quite inflated.

Pleated Shades

How would you like it if the blinds moved up and down based on temperature, time of day or sun intensity? How about if you could put the blinds up from your office and watch the whole thing on your video monitor? We offer all of this to you.


Some days you may leave the house and it’s 20 degrees outside. The day warms up, the sun is intense and soon it’s 90 in the room. Is air conditioning a reasonable idea if its 20 degrees outside? Of course not. We can automate fans so windows open, roof vents open, fans come on and temperatures cool down. Of course, the reverse is true and all of this will shut down before the conservatory gets too cool.

Roof Vent

Naturally, we can also control the heating and cooling system to make sure temps are adequate for your room any time or any day. From your laptop or i-Pad you can see the current temperature of the room and set it to any desired temperature.

If temps in the room go too high or too low, hi-lo temp sensors can be installed to warn you of the condition.

Watering Systems

Automatic watering can be accomplished by setting timers to come on numerous times each day. Small spaghetti- like tubing will feed each plant and provide the plant with a prescribed amount of water. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Go on vacation and never have to worry about who will water your greenhouse garden.

Lighting Design

  • Individual lighting for plants
  • Mood and safety lighting
  • Landscape lighting