Milady’s Sun Parlour

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‘… those who are truly enthusiastic over plant growing become dissatisfied with the limited possibilities of a windowsill and long for a place in which plants will really grow and thrive and, as a consequence, a large proportion of the more expensive suburban residencies are being provided with a so-called conservatory.’

Yet, having said that, back in 1929 in the States, FE Palmer was bemoaning the ‘stubbornness’ of architects in failing to acknowledge the growing importance of indoor plants as well as their average and indifferent approach to designing purpose-built rooms for plant care.

‘No feature catering to the welfare of the plants needs to be unsightly or detract from the enjoyment of such a place as a tea room or lounge.’

He was unable to show his readers what he considered a satisfactory example of a sun parlour or conservatory, so he suggested a competition run by a magazine or society for a set of designs.  However, pre-empting that, he gives us his own guidance – diagram included – of how to construct the ‘ideal’ or ‘perfect’ conservatory.

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1) Plenty of daylight – on three side and roof (one third of the roof area would increase the effectiveness of the conservatory by 50%); roller blinds not curtains, which could never be possible in ‘good taste’.

2) Facilities for watering, airing, heating (coil of steam pipes around three sides), and heating control.

3) Double-glazing – protecting the plants from cold glass and an early awareness of energy efficiency saying it ‘saves its first cost in economy of fuel in an incredibly short time’.

4) Easy access to outdoors so potting and re-potting can be done without too much mess.

5) Possible to close it off completely from the rest of the house for fumigation.

6) Sloping floor of concrete or tiles with a drain in the middle.  Apparently most architects took their ‘final stand’ over the floor – insisting on hardwood.  Palmer had obviously seen me watering my plants:

‘…it is practically impossible to care for plants without splashing water around on occasions, and to be under constant restraint for fear of injuring the floor is certainly an unwarranted detraction…’

Birds and aquariums would be the final touch, as well as avoiding cluttering with half-dead or unsightly plants.  And as long as there’s room for a few people, it ‘will be the most attractive room in the house’.

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