My Real “Dream” Conservatory (Part One)
About 10 years ago, my son Mike and I were dealing with a conservatory fabrication company in England that was creating some custom parts for an old English style conservatory we were designing and building.
As has been the fate of many conservatory companies lately, they shut their doors – right in the in the middle of one of our projects!
So we jumped on a plane and traveled over to the UK to see what we could do about salvaging our materials. Fortunately, we were able to meet with the liquidator at the factory and he showed us to our material, and allowed us to take ownership of it.
While we were there, Mike, my eagle eyed son, noticed a variety of parts scattered around the large fabrication shop. He remembered seeing a photo this company had taken, a few years before, of a conservatory they built for the Chelsea Garden Show (the most prestigious garden show in the world). He also remembered, the conservatory was robin’s egg blue (hard to forget).
He asked the liquidator if the blue “parts” were for sale, which of course they were, so we negotiated a price and shipped it all back to our garage in the good old USA… and there, the story stops. Until the summer of 2010. That’s when a break in our sales action and a chance to secure a home equity loan changed the future of this pile of Robins’ Egg blue painted mahogany, as well as mine.
We decided to break ground and put it on our house. Since my home is a split entry (1/2 up, ½ down) we decided to dig a foundation and put our company office below the conservatory.
We dug the hole, prepared to pour footings, and of course, it rained – 5 inches, which almost filled the hole! But we had a pump and kept it going and got all the water out.
We poured the footings, laid the block, backfilled the foundation and capped it. Now the fun starts! But first, who takes beautiful Sepele mahogany and paints it Robin’s Egg blue? Of course it’s a rhetorical question and no answers mitigates the pain of knowing it all had to be stripped of this micro-porous paint and in order to show the real beauty of the mahogany wood.
So strip we did. Day after day, night after night, weekend after weekend until we had it all stripped down to the gorgeous bare mahogany conservatory beneath it all.
Our great painter, Robb worked with us until we achieved just the right tone of Sikkens to bring out the beauty of the wood. The next step was hanging the material in the new, capped basement to spray.
Then it rained! The floor or ceiling of the new, capped basement being only plywood, leaked water onto the freshly stripped mahogany wood – which is not good for freshly stripped mahogany. So we set about to restore the wood again! Working with heat guns and sanders we brought the wood back and prepared it for finishing. And then of course, it rained again. This sequence repeated itself for 2 weeks.
Finally, re-finished and ready to erect, my great crew worked with me and we built the conservatory. Step by step.
By Christmas we had the tile done on the floor, the room all ‘weathered in’ and we enjoyed Christmas day in the conservatory with all the kiddies and the treats.
The yard, however, was a boulder pile mess, and was going to stay that way until spring.
Here comes the ‘may as well’ part. Anyone who has ever taken on a major renovation on their home understands ‘may as well’. It’s the part, when under total fatigue of building and paying, up comes one more thing that you really should do, now that you have gone this far.
Mine was the backyard. I am a pretty experienced landscaper and I have always seen the opportunity our yard presents.The small hill in the yard was screaming for a waterfall flowing down upon the new paver patio. So, here we go! Another year of building. This year outside, not in, but still the chaos ensues.
And, as we were busy on the east coast building many fine conservatories throughout the summer, time was limited. With the help of a great friend, Chris, we shared the vision of the yard and went to work. Sounds easy, but many backaches later, we are finally done and enjoying every minute of the new ‘resort’ in the back yard.
The neighbors and kids are too. We designed and built all the spaces for children, so they would have many interesting things to do, and places to play.
Now it’s time to go back inside. As of this writing, we are beginning to tackle the issues of finishing the inside of the conservatory.
First on the list is building an energy wall. As I explained to one of my customers recently, I don’t mind experimenting on my own conservatory, but I am certainly not going to do it on theirs.
Currently, we are striving to be more energy efficient in all seasons, which means being able heat and cool conservatory and the house by natural means. That’s the next chapter in the story of “my dream conservatory” … which will follow…