A Home Addition Worth the Investment

I began to build conservatories back in 1988. Back then, I was representing Amdega Conservatories, out of Darlington UK. I would present their incredible catalog to prospective homeowners, and without any pause, the first words out of their mouths “when I win the lottery!”
It was a polite way of saying “I could never afford this”, and that was just from looking at the pictures. No one even asked the price of a conservatory! But had they looked closer, they would have realized that it’s very similar to any other home addition.

Naturally, projects of that investment level often required the assistance of an architect in the overall planning. They would begin to work with the Amdega template and soon discovered that Amdega was actually a kit which only came in specific sizes and dimensions. The architect quickly then realized that they could not ‘design’ a conservatory, only manipulate one.
Back in those days, I made a vow that:
1. Conservatories would be affordable
2. Conservatories would be custom designed to fit any situation presented by the architect
My search began in England, as that would be the logical place to explore options in the conservatory industry. I brought back many ideas, many of which would never fly in our harsh Minnesota climate. Most of the UK, had been invaded by vinyl (UPVC as they call it). There was a huge development in that industry in Europe and windows and doors were flying off their hinges as consumers got in line to replace their old wooden, single pane sashes, with UPVC framed, double pane glass. Out with the charm and in with the warm!

While the conservatory industry was thriving in the UK, I was exploring for better ideas. I brought the vinyl idea back to the US and met with many architects and building officials – I still am grateful to a building inspector in the City of St Paul who took much of his time to help me research the products – but in the end, it was a thumbs down, and here were the reasons why.

Vinyl, though being a non-maintenance item, does not mean it has great longevity. UPVC companies have spent fortunes trying to make vinyl UV resistant, and have come great distances with the research. At the end of the day, however, it still deteriorates. Eventually, it will turn hard, brittle and break. How do I know this? We have done many repairs and maintenance on vinyl structures around the country to find when we remove roof sections, the extrusions crumble. OK, so just contact the manufacturing company right? Well, guess what, they are either out of business, they no longer make that part anymore, or have upgraded and improved.

Oh, did I mention the Henry Ford philosophy that applies to vinyl rooms? You can have any color you want, as long as its white!

It is definitely something to consider when shopping for any product in your life. What happens when this product ages and you cannot obtain parts anymore? Well, if it’s a stereo or TV, you get a new one. But, I am discussing an addition you just put on your home! An ‘improvement’ that has a shelf life, like a car and needs to be replaced!

That is why our conservatories are wood or aluminum. Let’s say, for discussion sake, that a tree falls on your conservatory. Bad luck, I know, but it could happen. There is nothing on our rooms that we cannot replace 20 years after we build them, meaning you do not have a depreciating investment on your home.

Now let’s talk about price. One would think brand name conservatories, you know, the manufactured products sold by the big names (not to be mentioned, but you know who they are), would be cheaper. Well, you are correct, the are cheaper – for the company, but not the consumer.
Remember, we are a small, family, sell direct company with no middle men. We design, we counsel, we educate; we do not sell. We assist you with making a wise and lasting choice when buying something as serious as an addition that will long affect the value of your home.

Unlike the new car you just bought, your conservatory should add value to your home for all the years you live there. It should be the feature that sells the home. Joan M. had me build a conservatory for her a few years back but because of a work transfer she had to sell the house. She called me to say that the first people who walked into the house, walked right into the conservatory and said ‘we’ll take it!’ Sold! One conservatory with attached home.

If you bought a new Chevrolet, we have a conservatory for you. If you bought a new Audi or Lexus, we have a conservatory for you. If you bought a new Porsche, we have a conservatory for you.

Take a look at our new e-brochure and find the custom conservatory that fits for you.

Working With Conservatory Craftsmen

People say to us all the time, “You’re in Minnesota, (home of the Minnesota Vikings) how does this work long distance?” Well, I admit, we have to be very efficient to make it work, but it has been working for many years, so I guess that tells you, we are very efficient! When you call, we will chat about where you live, and what the purpose for the conservatory might be. Some people are looking for a place to relax and watch the stars and the moon. Others want to raise fresh fruits and vegetables all year around. A place for a swim under the stars maybe another reason, or, a combination of any of these spaces. It is important for me to determine the application intended. In other words, what are your expectations? If I’m a good listener, the final product will be just what you expected and more! I am also very sensitive to the age and design of your home. The room must ‘work’ with the architecture. (See my blog on Fit or Folly for further explanation).img_4802
Some calls I receive, an architect has been employed and there are drawings in place. Most inquiries have no drawings, so we start from scratch. In all these examples, I am assuming this is not a commercial building, but it may be a newly constructed home, so we need to know that as well. The question remains, how do you do this from Minnesota?

First of all, after we have discussed the above mentioned subjects, I look at some photos of your home, that you will be asked to email, and I will study the measurements you have taken for me. They are not exact measurements to build from, but close enough for me to create a ‘concept’ drawing. I do hand sketches, and our own staff, licensed architect, takes the notes that I give to him and he creates a wonderful elevation, various view drawing of the conservatory I think I hear that you would like. All of this work has been at no cost to you! We are happy to consult and work with our clients to show them that they can work with a family from Minnesota, and we are more than capable of producing a wonderful product. If you want to modify the drawing, no problem, but once we come to a basic concept that fits your needs, we then work to figure every screw and nail in the project to come up with a reasonable price for your end construction.

water-wheel-low-1This is called the budget. It is not a bid, but it gives you a very close idea of the final cost, and it has options, so you can control pricing yourself. If you approve of the budget and the design, I make arrangements to come to your home and we sit in the kitchen table and sort out the details. I take lots of photos and accurate measures, while we discuss options for the room and any other details that might affect the end design (like roof drainage from your house).

If we are still on track, we enter into a ‘design agreement’ which is an agreement that charges us to produce a detailed set of architectural drawings for the project, along with specifications and final pricing. OK, now you ask, who does what? If this is all new construction, a local contractor may have to get involved. What we build is a specialty product! Glass structures can/should only be built by people who are trained, experienced and know just what they are doing. LEAK is a four letter word and not one we use in our day to day vocabulary!

Who builds it? We do. This is not sub contracted to locals. No way. Only our staff touches your room and takes full responsibility for its outcome. We have calls from people who have bought conservatories from another company and had another builder install it. Then the trouble starts and guess what? Two companies on either side of you pointing fingers at each other and the guy in the middle (that is you, guy or gal) gets stuck with the problem. Now, don’t get me wrong. When a hurricane hits or there is a big storm, our phone rings and rings but NEVER from our customers. Awhile back, we wrote about Amdega Conservatories, who unfortunately went out of business. Our phones we’re ringing off the hook back then too- but this time from their customers who lost thousands of dollars in deposits and needed help. So, rest assured, we stay with our customers for years after the installation. We all become friends and good acquaintances who share our great stories and joy of owning a crystal palace.

$500 Gift Card to Logee’s Greenhouses


Logee’s Storefront (Founded 1892)

In the quiet northeast corner of CT, century-old greenhouses are rooted into the landscape of the town, Danielson. Walking inside is like entering a jungle under glass. The greenhouses are home to 1200 varieties of tropical and sub-tropical plants. It is a feast for the senses as narrow paths lead you through 2.5 acres filled to the brim with gorgeous, rare and unusual plants. This fabulous collection of greenhouses is called Logee’s, named for William D. Logee who founded the company in 1892. One hundred and twenty-three years later, this business is still in the family, run now by William’s grandson, Byron, and his business partner, Laurelynn.

Here at Conservatory Craftsmen we have been lucky enough to have worked with the talented staff at Logee’s for a while and have filled numerous clients’ greenhouses and conservatories with their unusual and highly prized ornamental plants.

For this reason we are delighted to offer our new customers a $500 Gift Card to Logee’s Greenhouses.

How do you get this offer?

All you have to do to receive the offer is:
1) Schedule a conversation with Evan or Jim
2) Sign a contract with Conservatory Craftsmen within one year of our conversation

Schedule a Conversation with Jim or Evan now.

Building a conservatory is a tremendous commitment of time, energy, and resources. No one knows this better than us. Spend 30 minutes on the phone with us to understand the possibilities, test the chemistry, and scope out your project.

Conservatory Craftsmen is a family-owned company, and we take great pride in the crystal palaces that our clients love to live in.

Speak to us directly at 888-345-7915.

We look forward to answering all of your conservatory questions.

“If It Doesn’t Fit, You Must Quit”

It is my usual approach to bring up the objections, as customers will not usually come out and say what is bothering them. However, the other day, an old gent says to me “you can never get a conservatory to look like it was always a part of the house.” I think what he was saying is that a conservatory is so unusual of an architectural feature in this market (America) that one could never make it look normal. There is some truth to that. A conservatory will always be a focal point of a house, because of its stunning beauty. But to look like it belongs? Let’s discuss that:

My answer was “The two ‘F’s. It fits or its folly”.
orchardridge-3Here is what I mean. Long ago, I had the opportunity to put a conservatory on a home designed and built by Cass Gilbert (architect of the MN capital and Grand Central Station). As you can imagine, there were several architectural committees that had long discussions over this. In the end, the general agreement was: If you make the conservatory look like Cass Gilbert designed it, it will never work. One needs to step forward and design a conservatory that does not come close to the architectural design of the home. It must be a folly.
The lesson I took from all this was. If the design is close to looking like the original design, you have failed. It either has to match exactly, or not at all.

Yesterday, whilst sitting with a couple in Iowa, planning the paint color of their terrific new conservatory, we debated the colors that appear in the brick home. A lot of deep red and brown. There was no way that conservatory was ever going to look like an original design of this home, even with the brick knee wall integrating the conservatory with the home design. So the color chosen was a deep, matt green. A folly. Yes, not even close to any color on the house, but a wonderful statement none the less.

So remember the two ‘F’s. It fits or its folly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here at the Conservatory Craftsmen headquarters we love to spend time going through and answering all of your questions from Houzz, ConservatoryCraftsmen.com and our Facebook and Twitter pages. We know choosing the right builder for your dream space can be a difficult decision and we want to help in any way we can to help make it a good experience.

So, we have decided to do a mini series of blogs over the next couple of weeks, with some of our most frequently asked questions. We hope this will help in answering some of your questions.

Q. Are the sunrooms storm proof and how do you get air ventilation in them? I live in Oklahoma City and it gets very hot and we have lots of wind and hail. img_3461

A. Over a dozen of our projects just went through Hurricane Sandy without a scratch or leak. On one project the new windows on the house blew in, the 40-foot tall conservatory took the brunt of 100 mph winds and stood tall and firm.
Safety-treated glass on the roof will not break from hail.
See more on glass options for your conservatory here.
Mechanical designing, as part of our service, will show you how to move air through the conservatory and overcome those hot days in OKC. Adding automation to your room will enable you to 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.
A soffit is part of a heat convection system that gathers the warm air as it rises to the highest point and, then, evacuates it.

Q. The garden beds are so cool! How did you build them? How much did they cost, and how long did it take for you to build them? Did Conservatory Craftsmen do them or did you hire somebody? Where did you get the product? Thank you!
A. These raised beds are constructed with 4×4 posts at corners and mid spans. The posts and midspans are on the inside of the beds and the outer 2×6 boards are carriage bolted to them. They were all custom built by the landscape contractor on the project. Depending on where you live, you could build yours from redwood, cedar or pressure-treated wood (make sure you put a barrier between pressure treated wood and the soil). The cost will vary depending upon the choice of wood and availability. Don’t forget to put wire mesh on the bottom to protect from gophers (if you have them in your area)!

Q. How much would it cost to build a conservatory on our 100-year-old stone house in CT?
A. “What does a conservatory cost?” is easily our most frequently asked question, and quite fairly so. However, the question is not easy to answer. Each conservatory is totally custom; no two are the same. One should expect to pay about the same range as a luxury car for a conservatory. Some cars are more basic, others more elaborate. When designing a conservatory, we try to start with the basics and then provide you with the options (again, like the luxury car!).
100-year-old stone homes in CT are very exciting for us! We will help guide each and every inquiry we receive down the path to a new conservatory for your home. We are budget conscious. Though others may feel that a conservatory needs to be a very expensive addition, we do not. We feel that at some level, everyone should be able to afford the luxury of adding more light and pleasure to their home.

Logee’s – The Botanical Wonderland for Conservatory Owners

Hidden in an unassuming old building in rural CT is a treasure of botanical wonder. If you are directed to Logee’s you may stop, but if just passing by, you may not even notice, but behind the century-old façade of a rural farm home lies some of the most unusual and highly prized ornamental plants in the country.

Byron Martin, Logee’s Owner

Owned by Byron and Laurelynn Martin, the greenhouse was first started in 1882 by Bryon’s grandfather.

Byron worked in the greenhouse with his father and grandfather and eventually went off to school, not planning to return, but eventually heeded the call when his time came.

Horticulturalist, Jeff Ellsworth from New York City claims that most of the rare plants purchased by the NY Botanical come from Logee’s. They work the world market to find both rare plants and improved varieties of old friends.

The last time I visited, Byron welcomed me as an old friend. As we walked through the greenhouses, Byron said, ‘wait here’ and he disappeared into an old house to come out minutes later with a small dark red bean. Miracle Bean he called it and invited me to try it. I have to admit it did not taste like much, but I was polite and ate the bean.

A few minutes later, Byron showed up with a huge Meyer Lemon from one of his trees and he cut deep into it with his pocket knife as the juice squeezed out onto the ground. He handed me a section to bite into. I was already salivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs when I bit into the lemon and to my surprise, it tasted like I just chewed into a sugar bowl! Miracle Bean had deadened my ‘bitter’ sensors and all I could taste was sweet. According to Byron, it acts the same with dill pickles and any other sour food.

These are just some of the many plants growing at Logee’s and there are thousands more. Go online to Logees.com and look through the site or request a catalog. They ship thousands of plants to conservatory customers all over the country. The exploration of the greenhouses is like no other. Not a ‘big box’ greenhouse but small, intimate growing spaces with dirt floors and crooked walls and paths that lead to yet more greenhouses!

Laurelynn showed me a Kumquat that was 140 years old and growing in a greenhouse, right in the middle of an aisle. And an orange growing every variety of orange they cultivate at Logee’s.

Today was “summer fest” and over 1000 locals were about to descend on the greenhouses to find that plant like no other. I left with an Arabica coffee plant for my brother’s birthday and a citrus tree for a new conservatory customer. Citrus plants are their biggest sellers.

We are happy that Byron and Laurelynn Martin of Logee’s have accepted our invitation to spread the news of great plants and well-crafted conservatories to America.
Watch for us in coming months whilst we feature new plant varieties available at Logee’s and as you see conservatories showing up in their catalogs and web pages.

Four Tips to a Cooler Conservatory this summer

I have been building Conservatories for over 25 years I often hear (right after “how do I heat it?”) is how do I keep a glass room cool in the summer? Fear not, Conservatory Craftsmen doesn’t just build your structure and leave. We work with you during every step tackling all aspects of the design phase to create a suitable glass enclosure for your unique lifestyle.

Here are some design elements we consider when designing your conservatory and how to keep it cool and comfortable for people and plants!

1. Nature
Planting large trees on your property that will shade your room and keep the sun’s hot rays from pouring through the windows. You can also decorate the inside of your room with interior large tropical plants; these love the summer sun and again will work well on shading the interior.

2. Independent Cooling/Heating
A small air conditioner unit placed in the knee wall works great and maintains the temperature in most conservatories. Some companies make units that heat and cool, which is a great option if you also need something to help with the temperature during the winter.

3. The Right Glass
All glass allows sunlight to enter and heat to be trapped. However, there is much that we can do to address that. We add filters, films and tints to the glass to reduce the effects of the sun. The market has many glass options and we offer any glass of any kind made.
Keep in mind, there is a difference between light and heat. Knowing your particular situation, the exposure of the conservatory and the expectations of you, the owner, allows us to create the best glass for all issues.
We are not a ‘one glass fits all’ company

4. Blinds and Shades
Conservatory Craftsmen offers many varieties of window shades that will assist in blocking out the sun when you need them to. Not only will properly positioned window treatments help control heat gain or loss; they will also help with privacy. We even offer window shades that will reflect the sun!

Invisible Screen Doors

Summer is here and out of the garage come the window screens. After looking through clear glass windows all winter, I bet you wish you didn’t have to look through those dirty old screens all summer long.

There is an option, for you. A roll away screen that disappears when you are not using it!
Invisible screen doors are the perfect solution for showing off your beautiful doors and enjoying your spectacular views. The Clear View Retractable Screen Doors are the only retractable screen door that doesn’t slam and are custom measured and built specifically for your doors. There are 11 colors to choose from plus custom colors to match any décor.meskell-down

How many times has the dog or the kids run through the patio door screen?

Does the track on your rolling screen fill with dirt and debris and the screen does not roll without a strenuous tug?

Keep the luxurious look of you French Doors with screens that retract themselves with a simple touch.
If the dog runs into the screen is it ruined? No way! It simply requires closing, and opening and it’s as good as new.
Want a screened porch or garage? Our automated screens will roll down into place, with the touch of a button!
One touch, screens down. One touch, screens roll up again! All automatic.

Now you see it, now you don’t

Retractable screens are easy maintenance, disappear when not being used and never need to be replaced. They are the perfect solution for beautiful doors and spectacular views.

Greenhouse Technology

There is no better way to extend your living space than by adding a greenhouse or conservatory to your home. While at the same price point as any other home addition, the value of having such an unusually beautiful, functional room makes the return on investment a no-brainer.

But the financial benefits are the least of it. Homeowners appreciate the way their conservatory has enhanced the quality of their lives – there really is nothing like enjoying the snowfall from a cozy sofa. Folks who live in the coldest parts of the country are growing organic fruits and vegetables all year round. Not too shabby…

The other reason why homeowners love a conservatory is that they are crafted exactly to specification; no two are alike. One may be built entirely of glass while others feature stone knee walls and custom woodwork. And with the trend in greenhouses and conservatories rising, technology is catching up, making them attractive alternatives in the home renovation market.
These tech-savvy plant enthusiasts are opting for automated greenhouses that have climate control systems for managing the light and heat inside the greenhouse despite the weather conditions outside. Automated greenhouses use sensors to automatically adjust features such as lighting, temperature, and humidity depending on the needs of the plants. The homeowner can even set it up so that the system can be controlled from a laptop or an iPad.
Some of these modern features include:

Water Irrigation Systems
Drip irrigation, polyethylene tubing, sprinkler systems and reservoir systems offer efficient watering of your plants.

Energy-Efficient Glass
Insulated glass has a special low-emissive (Low-E) coating to allow sunlight to pass through but reflect excess heat. Installing skylights, windows and doors with this premium material is a little more costly upfront, but it’s natural ability to keep the space cool in the heat cuts electrical costs considerably.

Roof Vents and Automated Skylights
Roof lanterns and skylights that incorporate mechanical windows allow hot air to escape from the top of the structure. Electric roof vents with climate control and rain sensors can be installed to operate automatically and maintain a comfortable room temperature set on the thermostat. Rain sensors will override the climate control and close the roof vents if it detects rain.
Automated Blinds and Shades
Window treatments not only add to the decor of a conservatory, they are also very efficient at retaining warmth during the cold winter and reflecting the sun’s heat in the summer. Retractable screens allow the cool breeze into your home while keeping insects and environmental elements out.
Hydroponic Systems
Hydroponic plants are grown indoors and without soil. Instead, they require a water-based, nutrient-rich solution that is delivered directly to the roots of the plant. Growing hydroponically is one of the earliest methods of gardening, and also one of the easiest.

The advancement in technology has enabled greenhouses to be practical and esthetically pleasing at the same time. A state-of-the-art greenhouse not only offers more convenient features for the owner but does so without negatively impacting the environment.

Grow it in a Greenhouse!

Over 21 million acres in the United States are now covered in greenhouses, growing fruits and vegetables. I’m old, and constantly reminded of that fact by the team at Conservatory Craftsmen, but I remember a time when going to the store, you bought fruits and vegetables that were ‘in season’ and if you wanted a particular fruit or vegetable out of season, you canned or froze it. In today’s America, the consumer goes to the store and wants what they want, when they want it and in order to provide for this market, advances were made in plant research and facilities, massive, commercial greenhouses have sprung up all over the country growing, well, you name it!

Today, at Conservatory Craftsmen, most of my inquiries are from people who have visions of building a glass room and benefiting from fresh herbs and vegetables. Some plants are easy to grow and some take a bit more experience, but it is fun and rewarding.

Where do you start?
Well, call us, of course. We are not just designers and builders of specialty glass spaces, we are also horticulturalists who love to design ‘environments’ not just spaces. Once you have your conservatory/greenhouse, plan your indoor garden. Since we live in our conservatory as well, we want the plants to co-habitat with us in our environment. We both give a little to make this happen. The plants get some room and we get the chair! However, in the winter time when my Fogger/humidifier is going, this is the healthiest room in the house!

Be creative.
Incorporate plants into planters, and pots. Hang vines, grow trees, have fun with this!

Plants need sleep too!
Remember, your plants need 8 hours of darkness each day, so give them a break. Leaving the light on all night does not help.
Here are some things to think about: If the plant is leafy (lettuce) you can usually grow it with little additional assistance. However, if the plant fruits (tomato), it needs additional light. I use a Sun System light on a timer. You can shop lights and get great light source with little heat and power.

This is an easy one. The irrigation section at your favorite home improvement store with sell you timers, valves, drip tubing. However, go on line and get a bit more sophisticated. You can buy small emitters that regulate the amount of water going into the plant. .5gph up to 2gph are typical.

We can design any kind of glass today with any goal in mind. Glass is not glass anymore. You have to know your glass for maximum effectiveness. Talk to us about what you are trying to achieve, and we will design the glass to best hit your goal.

Believe it or not, your plants are more likely to have too much light than not enough. To regulate the amount and the quality of the light, we offer ceiling blinds that go up and down based on the time of day, or the intensity of the sunlight.

Think small.
Only two of you in the house? I take an 18” x 4” planter and each week, I plant a new one with my tossed salad. No one can eat all the lettuce the come ripe at once, so I stagger it out in salad planters and remember, plant one each week, up to 6 weeks going, depending on what you plant.


We partner with Logees.com on many plant orders. They offer the best variety of edible plants you will find today. You can grow lemons, limes, oranges, avocados, you name it. Some of these trees are going to take a while to fruit, but start today! If you are in a rush, there are many companies that will provide more mature trees for your conservatory, they just cost more.

So what is the future of this business?
Well, we all want to eat, right? And it is likely that our food is not going to get more healthy that that which you grow on your own. NASA is experimenting and developing many new soilless methods for growing edible plants for the Space Station and space travel in the future. We offer glass that will generate its own electricity and will power your greenhouse accessories. Tesla is now developing a battery that they will rent to you on a monthly fee and it will store the electricity you produce from your solar glass, to be used at night when you really need it.
Plants you will have fun with:intallations-greenhouse

  • Meyer lemon (always a favorite)
  • passion fruit
  • limes
  • avocados (not the ones your start from your store bought! They do not produce)
  • olives
  • coffee
  • figs
  • bananas (if we build a really big room for you!)
  • mandarin orange

We also grow: tea, vanilla, curry, allspice, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, onions, shallots (if you eat it, we can grow it!)