Conservatories and sunrooms have many more similarities than differences. They're both “sun spaces.” Unless it's a custom-designed product, both types of manufactured units are built using modular systems of similar materials. The critical difference: style. Where sunroom styles vary, conservatories remain within the confines of traditional English design — Victorian, Georgian, or Edwardian.
UPSCALE NICHE PRODUCT Conservatories outsell sunrooms many times over in the U.K. But in the U.S., they're a niche in the larger sunroom market.
The Patio Room Design Center, a Four Seasons Sunrooms dealer in Tulsa, Okla., sells some 150 sunrooms a year, just 5 of which may be conservatories, says Bob Sims, design consultant. The same holds true in Nashville, Tenn., where Don Bruce, owner of American Home Design, may sell “one or two” TEMO conservatories annually.
“Price is probably the biggest obstacle,” Bruce says. Contractors and manufacturers say conservatories often cost 30% to 40% more than a comparable-size sunroom. “The average sunroom is in the $24,000 to $28,000 retail price range,” says Jennifer Lanigan, director of marketing for Admiral Sunrooms, in Ontario, Calif. “Conservatories start at around $35,000.”
BEST CONSERVATORY MARKETS In the U.S., conservatories sell best in New England and along the Atlantic coast. “The more you migrate toward the Midwest, the more you have to explain what [a conservatory] is,” says Brian Zimmerman, executive vice president of Gorell Windows & Doors.
Contractors also agree that the conservatory buyer tends to be an upscale version of the older, well-heeled sunroom buyer. But that may already be changing.
“There are affordable [conservatory] designs that work for anybody,” Zimmerman says. Adds Lanigan, whose company recently introduced several new conservatories to its product line, “I think you're going to see an increase [the popularity of] conservatories because it's something sunroom companies are starting to push.”