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Check out our useful hints and tips articles to help you get the best out of your garden.

Ideas for using and furnishing your conservatory

Conservatory at Standen (National Trust). Photograph by Graham Soult

Originally designed to allow people to grow plants even during the colder weather, the conservatory is now a popular addition for those who are looking for extra space without the expense of a full-blown extension.

The uses of this extra space, however, have changed a lot since the conservatory was first introduced: while many still use theirs to cultivate plants, they are now kitted out for a wide range of purposes.

How you use your conservatory plays a big part in how it should be furnished. If you are using it as an extra sitting room, cosy seating is a must. If it's an office or study, then you will need a desk and comfortable chair, while many conservatories are used as dining rooms with a sturdy table and chairs taking pride of place.

Other uses include as a children's playroom, a games room or even a gym... the possibilities are endless. Whatever you decide to use the room for, make sure you have a solid idea before you start to furnish - a number of people fall into the trap of failing to decide what the room's primary use will be, leading to the conservatory becoming a neglected space.

However you are planning on using your conservatory, the furniture that you buy should be chosen with its intended use in mind, in addition to matching the style of the conservatory itself. If, for example, you have a French-style conservatory, then white furniture and lighting in the form of chandeliers will help to complement that style. If you are using your conservatory as an extension to your garden, then consider choosing furniture that works just as well inside as out.

Bear in mind, though, that any furniture and soft furnishings will need to be chosen with their environment in mind: the last thing you will want to do is spend a fortune on furniture to find that the quality diminishes quickly. Low-maintenance and durable furniture is ideal, along with soft furnishings in fade-resistant materials, as sun exposure will be higher than in most other rooms, and the humidity may well also be increased. If your furniture can't resist this humidity and sun exposure, you may find yourself replacing it more quickly than you would like.

Companies such as Hill Cross Furniture offer a wide range of furniture that is designed to withstand the heat and humidity that a conservatory offers. Rattan is always a popular choice, with synthetic rattan a more modern alternative that is UV-resistant, easy to clean and durable.

Hard woods like teak are stylish and sturdy, but require more care in the form of regular oiling. Alternatively, consider options such as metal, glass and stone - but bear in mind that these will be trickier to move due to their weight.

There is conservatory furniture available for every taste, budget and use - all specially designed to ensure that it withstands high temperatures and humidity. It's just down to you to decide on the style...

Photo credit: Graham Soult

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