Tag Archives: plants

Design Definitions: Conservatory or Solarium?

A friend was recently describing an old, Victorian home with a somewhat derelict (but impossibly romantic) glassed-in room built on one side.  He stumbled over the language while explaining it, unsure whether to call it a  solarium or a conservatory.  What’s the difference, he asked?

And we, gumshoe detectives that we are, decided to take the case.

We learned that the distinctions are few and, in this day and age, the words are used pretty much interchangeably.  The differences we could find lay more in their historical context than in their current-day function.

While conservatories were first conceived in Europe as places to, literally, conserve and nurture plants, the design of solaria seems to be more human-centric.  In the dictionary, a solarium is defined as “part of a house arranged to receive the sun’s rays” and “a room (as in a hospital) used especially for sunbathing or therapeutic exposure to light.” 

Both solaria and conservatories are attached by one wall to the building (otherwise, we guess, they’d just be called greenhouses).  Both words suggest a room made mostly of glass, though the word conservatory seems to refer more exclusively to British-style iron work and not as much to wood-framed rooms.

Whatever you call them – and with the power vested in us as bloggers – we sanction the use of either word to describe the following images.  The design of these pretty glass rooms run the spectrum from opulent to English countryside to bohemian, and we like them all.

The sheer scale of this one is breathtaking and, though we quail at the thought of washing all those windows, we certainly wouldn’t object to warm afternoons spent beneath the palms.

The tile in this conservatory is glorious – put some chairs around that table and we’d be the dinner guests who never leave.

Can you hear that blue caned chair calling your name?

A living ceiling and tiled floors?  Be still our hearts.

We wouldn’t object to some time spent hanging out in this incarnation:



Nor among these perfect plants:

Solaria seem like they’d be especially nice on misty days, and we can both imagine happy hours spent in this hammock.

The wide-plank floors and textile-draped couch give this one a decidedly bohemian feel that we like a lot.

These rooms, scanned from one of Terence Conran’s books, effectively blur the lines between indoors and out.



And, finally, we’d be hard-pressed to imagine a more relaxing setting for a bathtub than this:

Katie is pretty smitten with that living ceiling and tiled floor in the fourth photo and Mera loves the one with the wide plank floors and the couch draped in blue.  What’s your favorite?

DIY Fabric Planter with Diamond Pattern

chair and planter 4

Well first of all, just look at that cute triangle print on the bowtie chair! The results of the poll were overwhelmingly in favor of the triangles, and so last week I finally got around to recovering the seat. I definitely think it was the right fabric choice, and I appreciate all of you who cast your vote.

The chair wasn’t the only thing to get finished. I also sewed up that planter basket – a project which has been percolating in my brain since Mera posted her bleach-printed version a couple months ago.

red house west DIY geometric plant basket

I’m always looking for new ways to dress up the abundance of plants in my house. This little honey is a Ponytail Palm, and has been living in a disreputable plastic pot for way too long. This fabric planter was an inexpensive and simple project, and I can think of many other patterns besides the diamonds that would be super cute!

I referred to Mera’s post as well as this tutorial for instructions on making the basket, so I’m not going to cover that part here. The main difference between my version and theirs is that in this one you don’t sew a separate liner – the lining and outer fabric are fused together with fusible interfacing (I’ll explain more about that below) before the basket is sewn.

Materials (please note that the amount of fabric you need will vary depending on the size of basket you choose to make):

  • 3/4 yard of natural-colored canvas
  • 3/4 yard of black cotton
  • Iron-on fusible interfacing (I used Heat’n Bond from JoAnn Fabrics)
  • Iron
  • Sewing machine and thread

To begin, I measured the circumference and height of my plant’s pot. Using those measurements, I then cut a rectangular piece (about 36″ x 11″) from both the black and canvas materials.  I also cut a piece of interfacing in exactly the same dimensions and ironed it to my black fabric, following directions on the packaging and leaving the paper backing in place. I chose to do a simple diamond shape for my pattern, and used a pencil and ruler to measure and draw them directly on to the paper backing of the interfacing.

Drawing the Diamonds

Next, I used a utility knife with a brand new (i.e. very sharp) blade to cut out the diamond shapes (I had my cutting mat underneath to protect the floor).  I ran the knife along the edge of the ruler so the lines were crisp and straight.

Cutting the Diamonds

Total Poser.  When actually making the cuts I used my left hand to stabilize the ruler, not hold the camera.

Diamonds Cut

When all the diamonds were cut out, I removed the paper backing and ironed the black fabric over the canvas, so the canvas showed through the areas I had cut out. I then sewed the short ends of my rectangles together and attached the round bottom of the basket as described in the Film in the Fridge tutorial I mentioned above.

To make the handles, I cut two equal pieces (13″ x 3.5″) from the remaining black fabric. For each handle, I folded one piece of fabric in half lengthwise and sewed the cut ends together with a roughly 1/4″ inseam. I then ironed the flaps of the seam out flat (pictured below) and turned it right side out and pressed it flat again, tucking about 1/4″ in at both ends (also pictured below).

press seam open

pinned handle

This is hard to see on the completed basket, so I recreated it here – note how the raw edges are tucked inside the handle before sewing it on.

And that’s it! I decided not to sew the edges around the shapes – I like the raw look and, with the interfacing, I don’t think they’ll fray much.  I also opted to fold the top of my basket inward, rather than outward, because I like the way the black fabric covers the edges of the pot.  When I make another one, I might just make it shorter so there’s not quite so much fabric above the top of the pot.

chair and planter

This basket is really sturdy, and would also be great for storing things like extra linens, toys, books or whatever. I’m planning to make another one using different colored fabrics and a more complex pattern – perhaps rows of smaller diamonds,zigzags or a mix of geometric shapes.

Thanks for reading along and please ask any questions you may have in the comments. Mera and I will be back on Friday with dreams of distant places!