<b>Trees, ornamental & bedding plant:</b> Good living in the fifth room

Features - Supplement

High-end glassed living spaces add charm to homes and landscapes - and could put money in your pocket.

April 23, 2010

Fifth rooms effectively combine the benefits of outdoor and indoor living spaces. Photo: Solar innovationsThe outdoor-living room has become a key component of many landscape plans. For some clients, the ideal room allows them to experience outdoor surroundings within the comfort of a climate-controlled space. So, contractors have seen the rise of the “fifth room,” which usually takes the form of a nicely appointed, glassed-in space.

Greg Header, president and CEO of Solar Innovations in Pine Grove, Pa., has worked closely with landscapers and designers to create fifth rooms to exacting specifications.

“We complete a fair amount of referral and repeat business with landscape design companies,” he says. “We’ve typically completed outdoor greenhouses and pool houses with those firms. We’ve also completed a number of innovative main-structure projects with folding glass walls acting as an indoor/outdoor facilitator. And we’ve helped to enclose patios and create outdoor kitchens.”

Form and Function
One of the first considerations for everyone involved in the project is the ultimate use of the fifth room. Construction will vary according to the homeowner’s needs. A structure used primarily to showcase plants will differ significantly from a dedicated living space.

Jennifer Sackrider, director of public relations for Private Garden Greenhouse Systems in Hampden, Mass., says this distinction is easily seen in her company’s Victorian glasshouses and conservatories. The glasshouse is constructed from single panes of glass, and is the ideal structure for an avid gardener wanting to grow plants year-round. The space allows for optimum light penetration and air circulation.

Private Garden’s conservatories, however, are constructed with double-paned insulated glass. The structure can be heated or cooled as the season requires.

“Customers have used these structures for orchid rooms, additional sitting space, party rooms and office space,” Sackrider says. “A conservatory can be used as the fifth room with its unique ability to make the room the focal point of one’s property.”

Another important factor to consider is the size of the fifth room. A glassed-in space isn’t easily expanded, so it’s crucial that homeowners choose a structure that will suit their long-term needs.

“Gardeners tend to fill every square inch,” says Zach Sierke, sales manager for Gothic Arch in Mobile, Ala., “The space just begs to be filled. I recommend customers build something as big as possible that stays within the budget.”

Customizing is Common 
Cookie-cutter solutions won’t do for top-quality fifth rooms. Most manufacturers end up creating custom designs for clients.

Sackrider says tweaks and customizations almost always have to be made when working with professional designers. It’s a scenario that Header is also familiar with.

“One of our most unique landscape-related jobs was working with a customer to build a glazed structure around their tree,” he says. “This job was a catalyst for a boot system we developed to allow that tree to grow into the room. The boot was able to be adjusted over time to allow the tree’s truck to grow. It was a neat project.”

The author is managing editor of Garden Center. Send her an e-mail at smartinez@gie.net