Music for conservatories

Goethe called architecture ‘frozen music’.  Okay, he was likely discussing the grand Baroque architecture of his period – and the quote has since become something of a cliché – but how might this be applied to modern construction? If your house could sing, what would be its song?

A conservatory is the elegant bridge between house and garden – perhaps you enjoy yours as a meditative space – somewhere to unwind at the end of the day; a quiet retreat where you can enjoy the garden’s evening ambience? What then might be the sound of this place?

My answer is this: ‘Air in Resort’ by Hiroshi Yoshimura (1940 – 2003). Try it for yourself here. Apparently, Yoshimura’s ambient soundscapes are also liked by cats …




Composite doors – our ranges for 2018

Visage Edinburgh_VISAGE

Since their introduction to the UK market in 1989, the choice of composite doors has expanded enormously. Many British manufacturers now produce composite doors, and there is a vast range to suit every property style.

What is a composite door? It is a door that is manufactured using a variety of materials (hence ‘composite’). Typically, GRP skins form the outer surfaces while, within a wood or steel frame containing striker plates for security, the core is packed with an insulating material – either foam or engineered timber. The door sits in a bespoke reinforced uPVC frame. Outer frames need not be white – in many cases, they can be coloured to match the door or to provide an attractive contrast.

The advantages of composite doors include:

* Energy efficiency

* The look of a timber door but without the need for regular maintenance

* High security

* Quality feel

* Long life

Compared with timber or u-PVC doors, are there any disadvantages? Not really – although, to avoid problems, accurate measuring and expert fitting are essential. Having the door fitted professionally by a reputable company such as Admiral brings a guarantee not just on the door and its outer frame but also on the door’s installation and operation.

At Admiral we continually check the market for the highest quality composite doors at the best prices. The ranges we supply and fit in 2018 are described below.

Solidor composite doors are 48mm thick and feature solid hardwood cores instead of foam cores. Because the timber core is protected by the GRP skin, the door is resistant to warping and bowing. These hefty high-end doors let you feel the quality every time they are opened. Solidor doors have achieved BSI ISO 9001, and are BSI kite-marked. Every Solidor door features an Ultion lock as standard – If a break-in occurs as a result of a lock snapping, Ultion will give you £1000. Solidor manufacture doors in a wide range of styles, from traditional to modern.

Residor is Solidor’s more affordable composite door range. These also come with Ultion locks as standard. Residor composite doors feature foam slab inners that are surrounded by a strong 3.6 mm GRP skin  – this is more than twice the thickness of the GRP skins on most other manufacturers’ composite doors.

Visage doors are made by Shepley – a leading British fabricator. Visage use Rehau outer frames and can also supply side screens with glass to match the door. Operating at a smaller production scale than some other manufacturers, Shepley are able to offer excellent after sales support. The door pictured below is the Visage Balmoral that secures our Chilton site office.


All Phoenix door designs feature thermally-efficient foam cores. The Phoenix Meridian range is a rebated door design, which provides an additional weather-strip to enhance thermal and weathering performance Meridian doors are 70 mm thick and feature triple glazing as standard. Phoenix state that their 70 mm Meridian doors are 19% more thermally efficient than 48mm solid timber core composite doors.

Phoenix also offers the Sovereign Collection (also known as The County Collection). These are excellent affordable 44 mm composite doors.

Quick comparison chart

Solidor Residor Phoenix Meridian Phoenix Sovereign Visage
Thickness 48 mm 44 mm 70 mm 44 mm 44 mm
Core material wood foam foam foam foam
Locking Ultion Ultion Yale Yale Yale
Secured by Design Optional Optional Standard Optional Optional
Colour choices 20 6 11 12 18

Most composite door styles can be specified to meet the Secured by Design (SBD) standard. SBD is a Police accreditation scheme that provides homeowners with an independent assurance that their new windows and doors have been manufactured and tested to pre-defined security standards. Depending on the size of the glazed area, the glass will often be laminated in order to meet SBD compliance.

Call Admiral today for your free no-obligation composite door quote – 01865 788333.

Building a conservatory

We were contacted by a customer who lives near Steeple Claydon in Buckinghamshire, who wanted to extend their living space. Following a visit to the property, we produced 3-dimensional drawings, of which this is a sample.

Woods with sign_sml

Our customer liked our plans and commissioned us to build this Georgian-style conservatory.  Because there would be no door between the house and the new conservatory, we would need to construct under a building notice, with the council’s building inspectors approving each step. Read on to see how we went about realising the vision.

First, we needed to know what was under our feet. A little digging revealed that the house had been built on made up ground – this was the site of an old brickworks.

ground survey

We brought in a structural engineer, who designed a reinforced cage to take the concrete foundations.


The build is now well underway. The foundations are down and the damp proof course is about to be laid.


Installing wall ties and insulation ahead of construction of the inner blockwork  …


CHRIS: ‘Keith! Keith! You going to be long, mate?’

Phil Chris and Keith

KEITH: ‘Okay, okay, tea breaks don’t have themselves, you know.’

PHIL (pointing): ‘Left a bit, right a bit, up a bit, down a bit …’


The roof bars are up and the patio doors are placed in position.




The glazing units have now been installed and we’re watching the plaster dry. When you’re tired of watching plaster dry, you’re tired of life.


While the new boiler is being fitted, let’s take a look around the back. The new brickwork matches the old – we’re always keen to get this right.


Nearing completion now – the boiler’s in, the radiator’s in, walls have been painted and the flooring has been laid.



The new build is signed off by the building inspectors, and we clear away our tools and equipment, leaving our customer to enjoy their new extension.

Complete 1

If you are interested in having a new conservatory or extension added to your home, do give us a call on 01865 788333 to book a no-obligation visit. You can also visit us at our Chilton show site, where examples of various conservatory styles can be seen and you can pick up a brochure.


Marquand Window


If only Henry G. Marquand would have come to Admiral, he could’ve had the real thing. As it was, he had to make do with a sketch.

This stained glass trompe l’oeil (deceives the eye) piece is now exhibited in the Museum of the City of New York.

Henry G. Marquand House Conservatory Window 1883 – 1884

Designer: Richard Morris Hunt (1827 – 1895)

Maker: Eugene Stanislas Oudinot (1827 – 1889)


Days out in Oxfordshire, part 1 – Oxford Bus Museum

As a well-established Oxfordshire home improvement company, we’re often contacted by people who are in the process of moving to our area from afar. The world famous city of Oxford needs no introduction from us – instead then, we would like to share some ideas for days out around the beautiful county of Oxfordshire. This post is intended to be the first in an occasional series.

If you’re stuck for something to do on the bank holiday, how about a trip in one of Oxford Bus Museum’s running fleet? On the two May bank holidays this year, the museum is running an hourly vintage bus service from Oxford Parkway station to Long Hanborough station, via Kidlington Woodstock and Witney. These are great opportunities to experience local travel the way some of us remember.

Now in its 34th year at Long Hanborough railway station, Oxford Bus Museum houses a collection of 40 vehicles, including buses and coaches that once served Oxfordshire routes and destinations. Oxford Bus Company’s handsome pre-nationalisation tri-colour livery is well represented here, and there is also a display of the products of Lord Nuffield’s Morris Motors, whose business began in 1912 from a small garage at 21 Longwall Street.

Hitching a Ride
Photograph © Brown, A.W. (2012)

The bus pictured isn’t one of the museum’s fleet by the way – it’s a 1966 Leyland PD3 that used to run services in Rossendale, before passing into preservation and then to Nostalgia Travel of Kingston Bagpuize, who maintain it to PCV standards and use it for private hires. Here, it awaits a wedding party outside Oxford’s Pembroke College. Your correspondent has driven many miles in this splendid vehicle – including a memorable day trip from Oxford to central London and back, following which my left leg went dead for a week.

Close the door, light the light

Your front door is a major part of visitors’ first impressions of your home. The door that you choose should match the style of your property. For example, a Victorian semi might look at its best with a door that contains two glazed panels at the top and two infill panels at the bottom, whereas a 1930s terraced house might benefit from a door with a smaller glazed area. Owners of listed buildings and those in conservation areas will be somewhat restricted in terms of material choices, sizes and styles – your local planning office can advise.

A front door must be tough enough to cope with keeping out the elements – including the criminal element! All Admiral’s composite and uPVC doors feature a host of security features to ensure that unwelcome visitors are barred from entry.

Composite or uPVC?

upvc_door with sidepanels

Admiral uPVC doors are made to the highest quality, and are bright, modern and virtually maintenance free. Available in a choice of colours and woodgrain finishes, uPVC doors don’t rot, flake, rust or fade. All you need to do to keep them looking smart is give them an occasional wipe with a damp cloth – it’s that easy. They add to the warmth and comfort of your home by keeping out noise and draughts. The hinges, locks and keeps are fitted directly to the door’s steel reinforcement for excellent security.

composite door with sidepanels

Our composite front doors are also excellent when it comes to security and insulation – typically 44mm thick and fitting into super-strong 70 mm structural frames, these doors stand up to the weather extremely well. Although composite doors cost a little more than uPVC doors, they offer the visual appearance of timber doors – but with better security and without the maintenance hassles.

Our door installations come with the Admiral 10 year guarantee and price promise. If you receive a lower quote from another supplier and installer then, provided the specification is the same, we will beat it. Call us to arrange a free no-obligation quote.

Designing in light – part 2

While our business is focused on windows doors and conservatories, at Admiral we are interested in all aspects of home improvement. This includes the little details that go into making a house a home. In this feature, we look at interior lighting. This post follows on from Conservatories – designing-in light.

Colour temperature and colour rendering

In lighting design, reds are considered ‘warm’ and blues are ‘cool’. Colour temperature is defined on a Kelvin scale: a high colour temperature of, e.g. 8000K relates to cool blue, while a colour temperature of 1200K might emanate from a log fire. Lamps marketed as being ‘warm white’ will have a colour temperature of between 2700K and 3000K.

Of equal importance to colour temperature is colour rendering: the spectrum of available light. If a light source renders colour accurately, visual contrasts are more apparent, highlighting subtleties of detail. Halogen lighting gives the best colour rendering but higher quality LED and fluorescent fixtures can now be specified with high values on the colour-rendering index (CRI 85+). When all else is equal, a cool white lamp is likely to achieve better colour rendering than will its equivalent warm white lamp.

Choice of interior surfaces

Lighter colours on the ceiling and walls will reflect more light within a space. Dark colours absorb  light and should be used selectively. To control glare and to distribute light evenly, ceilings and walls should be finished with a matte-finish light-coloured paint.

Ambient lighting

uplighterThis is the general lighting in a room, which might come from an overhead fixture, from table lights and from up-lighters. Ambient lighting allows us to identify objects and to orientate ourselves. Ambient light is diffuse, i.e. there is no noticeable beam. Most people prefer warm white lighting for this purpose.

Task lighting

Otherwise known as reading lamps! Task lighting requirements differ from ambient lighting requirements, in that a more directed light is required. The lighting temperature might also be cooler (less yellow), in order to achieve a more accurate rendering of colour and greater contrasts. This would be important if you were engaged in visual arts and crafts, for example. It is also the case that, as we age, our eyes take longer to adjust to altered light conditions. Levels of task lighting should be balanced with levels of ambient light, so that we don’t arise from our chair only to bash into the door.

When buying lamp fittings for task lighting, look for narrow beam angles: below 600. For accurate colour rendering, choose lamps with a colour temperature of 4000K or above and / or with a colour rendering ability of CRI 85 or above.

Accent lighting

Accent lighting is aesthetic in nature. Its role is to illuminate beautiful things, whether these are architectural features in your home or your favourite paintings. Well-designed accent lighting also gives a degree of ambient light. Cool whites with colour temperatures of 4000K and above are likely to be most successful in these applications.

Energy efficiency

When compared with incandescent sources, LED lighting saves massively on electricity bills and, being long-lasting, these fixtures also do away with the cost and hassle of regular replacements. A key marker of a lamp’s efficiency is its lumens per Watt. In 2018, common LED lamps often achieve 65 lumens per Watt or better, which compares with maybe 17 lumens per Watt from a halogen lamp.

LED lighting need no longer be associated with the anaemic blue-white light emanating from first-generation fitments. In recent years, upfront purchase costs have been reduced significantly, and light from the much more powerful new-generation LEDs is ‘tuned’ to optimise selective characteristics.