Conservatory, solarium or sunroom

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The words conservatory, solarium and sunroom are often used interchangeably, though there are slight differences in meaning. We will look at the difference between conservatory, solarium and sunroom, where the terms come from and some examples of their use in sentences.

A conservatory is a room or small outbuilding built with glass walls and a glass roof in order to let in great amounts of sunlight. A conservatory is primarily built for horticultural purposes, to grow tropical plants in a climate that is not tropical or to grow plants and vegetables out of season. In North America, the word conservatory is also used to describe a college that teaches music or other arts. The plural form is conservatories.

A solarium is also a room with glass windows and sometimes a glass roof built in order to let in great amounts of sunlight. A solarium is built as a recreation area, a place for people to enjoy the sun on cold days. Solariums were common features in tuberculosis sanatoriums. The plural of solarium may be rendered as either solariums or solaria.

Sunroom is a North American word that describes a room that has large windows in order to allow the sun to shine in. Sunrooms are also recreation areas, often converted porches. The plural is sunrooms. Remember, the difference between a conservatory and a solarium is the purpose for which it is used. A sunroom differs from a conservatory and a solarium in that it is simply a room with large windows, not a structure made of glass.


Kim, now a teacher at the renowned New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, will be the guest violinist at the upcoming ASO concert called “King of Romance” at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 at the Mishler Theatre. (The Altoona Mirror)

A flashy yellow-and-blue tile conservatory room was designed and built in Italy, then cut into sections and shipped here for installation. (The Detroit Free Press)

The dining room has wainscoting and a wood-burning fireplace as well as a French door to a terrazzo-floor solarium with two skylights, a door to the garden and double French doors to the living room, which has a wood-burning fireplace and a wall of built-in bookshelves. (The Milford Daily News)

Grace Polan uses the ­20-by-14-foot sunroom of her Bethesda home as a living room, TV room and place to entertain. (The Washington Post)