Old house with new conservatory. Small conservatory

Old house with new conservatory. © Christine Johnson and reused under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

A small conservatory is one of the most hardworking rooms in the house. That’s my conclusion from personal observation of a large number of conservatories. Engineering works have just made a train journey long and very slow, giving me ample opportunity to see how people actually use this space. You won’t be surprised to learn that this is rather different from how people in magazines and television programmes appear to use their conservatories.

A conservatory is:

  • a place to get away from the rest of the house and family
  • overspill – somewhere to store the bikes and dry the washing on a rainy March afternoon
  • a place for plants – effectively part of the garden
  • somewhere with a different vibe – a children’s playroom, a music practice room or a utility room
  • somewhere to run a business
  • a dining room and a place to entertain
  • somewhere to do homework.

And quite a few other things too.

Keeping the space clear of clutter

Such a small space really has to earn its keep, especially if it’s used for different purposes.

Keeping a small conservatory clear of clutter is central to maximising space. What I mean by ‘clutter’ is items that are not in use at the time. You’ll have heard this before and there’s a lot of sense in it.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

This is much easier said than done, of course, but keeping clutter off the floor and off window sills makes a big difference. Being able to move freely through the room and see out of the window easily gives you a much, much better feeling than having to pick your way carefully and screw up your eyes to see the garden. On the other hand, some activities (such as annual accounts, Lego building, drying washing) may have to remain where they are for a while until they are completed.

So how do you keep clutter down? I suggest a careful choice of furniture and storage - plus a few plants.

Furniture

Furniture has to work hard in a small conservatory. Unless the conservatory is most definitely a space dedicated to just one activity, furniture has to earn its keep. In an ideal world, it has to be able to do more than job. What’s more, large pieces of furniture are very probably out.

A dining table? It has to be suitable for school projects and homework as well, and be able to shrug off glue and paint.

Would stackable chairs help?

Somewhere to put your drink? It should also be able to store things like stationery supplies, magazines and possibly some children’s toys.

small conservatory

Storage

What jobs are most frequently done in the conservatory? Does it make sense to keep the bits and pieces needed in this space?

Having storage space immediately to hand makes it that bit more difficult to accumulate clutter. It doesn’t prevent it entirely, I know, but it does make it just that little bit more difficult. The most useful piece of furniture I’ve ever bought is a display cabinet. I don’t use it to display beautiful items but to keep things used on a daily basis near at hand. To me, it’s worth its weight in gold.

None of this solves the problem of where, exactly, to put the clothes horse or the ironing board but that is something that each household has to solve in its own way!

Plants in a small conservatory

Create a garden indoors. small conservatory

Create a garden indoors with houseplants.

Growing plants you like spreads a bit of love around and makes a space beautiful. When there are too many plants on the window sill and the conservatory begins to look more like a greenhouse, then perhaps – just perhaps - you’ve crossed the line into clutter. Then again, maybe you’re just maximising use of the windowsill! It all depends what use you want to make of your conservatory. My strong advice, though, is to read up how tall and wide plants are likely to grow and make your decisions accordingly. The vine tomatoes I grew from free seed last year did block out light and the view for rather a long time …

A small conservatory can make all the difference to how easy it is to live in a house. Think what you want to use it for and try to eradicate clutter with appropriate furniture and storage.