The cook’s table was a classic element of a Victorian Kitchen and in recent years we have seen a revival of its popularity in the modern home.
One characteristic of country house style is simple but solid furniture – stand alone pieces that are incorporated for storage and display or food preparation.
Traditionally, country house kitchens were furnished by local craftsmen who designed and made purposeful pieces of furniture which were handed down from generation to generation. As a result, it is common to find a mix of period styles among the furniture of a country kitchen. Similar in their practicality and durability, but with subtle variations according to the period and the budget, such pieces complement each other well.
In the ‘back of house’ of grand country houses, the cook’s table was a central piece of the working kitchen. It was used for food preparation but also sometimes as a dining table for the servants.
Historically, the cook’s table was made out of pine, oak, elm and a variety of fruit woods, oiled or polished to bring out the natural graining and features of the wood. Others were colour washed, or painted using primitive paints made from locally available materials such as buttermilk and eggs mixed with earth coloured pigments. Interestingly, in the Victorian era, a number of deaths occurred as the result of a popular shade of green paint and wallpaper. Scheele’s Green, which was made using copper arsenite, fatally poisoned a number of people until the connection was later realised. Nowadays, this green pigment is produced without dangerous toxicity.
With sustainability in mind, at Artichoke we always focus on the practicality and purpose of design. It is true that while the island has become a popular feature of contemporary kitchen design, it can be obtrusive and can dominate a space. A cook’s table offers an elegant and less obtrusive alternative – just as practical but bringing a romantic aesthetic with its history and rusticity. It’s a testament to the beauty of simplicity, affording elegance alongside functionally.
Artichoke’s wealth of experience and knowledge of period architectural detail and cabinet making affords us the specialist skills to deliberately design and make a variety of styles in a single suite of domestic rooms to give the impression that the rooms have evolved through various owners over time. Such specific requirements are a perfect demonstration of the truly bespoke nature of our work.
Scullery, walk-in pantry or butler’s pantry – we are all familiar with such rooms contributing to the status of an English country house. While such rooms were traditionally quarters frequented by servants, modern day interior design sees them as everyday spaces used by the master of the house instead. At Artichoke we enjoy bringing these rooms to life – planning their use and their fitted furniture to complement life in a busy 21st century home.
The Walk In Pantry – A Resurgence
We have experienced an increasing demand from clients commissioning authentic, high-end architectural joinery to support domestic spaces such as the pantry, designed in a way that is sympathetic and appropriate to the style and period of the house. When considering, for example, a Georgian country house, Artichoke has the knowledge and expertise to be respectful not only of the period of the house but also of the hierarchy of joinery – the design of such detail depending on the room – the upstairs being more elaborate than the downstairs or servant’s domain.
The Butler’s Pantry
Pantries are a relatively new invention in English country house architecture, chiefly appearing in Georgian houses as separate rooms annexed off the kitchen or near the dining room for food preparation and the storage of silver, valuable dishes, table decorations and cooking equipment. Often the cabinetry was grand in scale to store the significant amounts of crockery and cutlery needed to entertain many guests over five or more courses. Traditionally, pantries were much cooler than kitchens, often located in a north facing part of the house, making them the perfect place to store fruit and vegetables to prolong their shelf life.
This is the butler’s pantry at Middleton Park. The house was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and his son Robert Lutyens in 1938 for the 9th Earl of Jersey. Pub Orig CL 12/07/1946
The Walk-In Pantry Today
Pantries provide a wonderful second space for food storage, food preparation and a shut-off room to hide used crockery and dishes when entertaining at scale. They rarely need to be as big as their predecessors, chiefly because we don’t tend to eat as many courses or entertain as many people as regularly as they did 150 years ago. There is also a growing awareness that many foods benefit from not being stored in the fridge. These days, when kitchens tend to be the heart of the home, even in large, period properties, it is useful to have behind the scenes spaces where the mess and practicalities around domestic chores are hidden from view. From a design point of view, it also means that some of the uglier appliances (such as the freezer or microvave) which look out of place in a period setting, can be hidden from view.
The History of Panelling
Wainscot Panelling, or Wainscoting, is a style of panelling which developed off the back of early panelling methods.
In it’s first instance, wood panelling was developed as a practicality. It provided insulation and covered up any damp that infiltrated cold stone walls. Yet, it was soon recognised as a decorative technique, adding detail and warmth to a room. In the 13th century, Henry III imported wood from Norway and used it to line rooms at Windsor Castle. As time went on, decorative panelling turned into a fine art.
Linen-fold panelling was a decorated and embellished style that became popular in the 15th century. Boiserie panelling, which is ornate and intricately carved, became favored in French interior design in the late 17th century. This type of panelling lined walls, doors, cupboards and shelves and great examples of this style can be found at Hampton Court Palace in Richmond.
During the English Renaissance, wood panelling became simpler in design. In grand houses, applied pilasters appeared to provide an architrave which elegantly concealed the join between panels. Applied pilasters then became a common feature of classical Georgian interior architecture, punctuating walls to emphasise window positions and bring structure to a large space.
Furthermore, during the 18th century, a new panelling style came into fruition: Wainscot panelling. Product of Danish Wainscot Oak, this panelling was charactersied by only covering the lower section of a wall, leaving a dado above. Wainscot Oak produced large, knot-free boards that were attractive and easy to work with, making it more favorable than oak grown in Britain.
Wainscoting is still a popular panelling style today.
Panelling in Your Home
When decorating your country home, it is always important to consider it’s period and history; this should then be a used to influence your internal architecture and decoration style. For example, in Victorian houses, it would be acceptable to have Edwardian panelling. However, it would not make stylistic sense to have Victorian panelling in an Edwardian house as the chronology would be backwards. Panelling with sunk framed squares, or rectangles, was popular in the 16th and 17th century and is particularly appropriate for restoring a country manor house. The period of a building influences it proportions both externally and internally, and such considerations are central to our design process at Artichoke.
Nowadays, it is possible to panel walls in a variety of beautiful woods from across the world. Panelling can be made to suit both traditional and modern interior decoration. If you are interested in painted panelling, a more contemporary style, then a hard wood such as Poplar can be an appropriate choice. For panelling that showcases the wood grain, Sapele or soft wood, such as European Red Wood, can be effective. For traditional paneling styles, mahogany, walnut and oak are classic. Using stains and polishes will age and give character to any wood. In softer rooms, such as bedrooms, fabric panels can be used to add texture and grandeur. In formal rooms, adding marquetry into panels can be striking and ornate.
Wainscoting lends well to darker, smaller rooms, where full walled panelling may be too oppressive. Leaving the top section of a wall to be painted or papered, offers an opportunity for color and pattern alongside a traditional panel.
If you own a listed property, it may be appropriate to speak to your conservation officer or take advice from Historic England. In cases of preserving and renovating authentic panelling, working with a specialist is recommended.
As experts in historical architecture and period joinery, Artichoke can offer trusted, bespoke panelling design. Working closely with our suppliers, we have access to some of Worlds most beautiful timbers and veneers.
To discuss your project with Artichoke, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Building a country house is a dream for many, and those with the opportunity will naturally approach it with great enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm is a wonderful thing, but it can sometimes cloud judgement. When you are eager to get going, it is easy to rush ahead and glaze over more menial but important decisions and plans. In most cases, we learn from these mistakes through experience. However, when building a country house, mistakes can be expensive and in the worst case scenario, irreversible. You want to get it right first time.
The First Step to Building a Country House? Ask Someone with Experience.
Building consultant, Tim Moulding, now offers Country House Building Consultancy, a sensible first step for anyone with more enthusiasm than experience in the creation of their country home.
One of Tim’s continual frustrations is the inheritance of poor process. As a builder, it is rare for him to be given the opportunity to influence the design or method of a country house project from its inception. Too often, a builder is expected to deliver a project as it is handed to them, which is typically after a project has confirmed planning and therefore cannot be altered. Like Tim, we think these scenarios are missed opportunities. A great deal of frustration, delay and rising costs can be avoided if specialists are consulted before the detail is locked down.
Tim has more experience than most in the successful delivery of country house projects. As well as being a consultant, he is also the eighth-generation owner and Managing Director of the leading traditional building company, R. Moulding & Co (affectionately known as Mouldings). For the past 30 years he has led his team in the delivery of over 70 residential building projects ranging from £500k to £15m in value. This experience has given Tim an intimate understanding of the building process specific to residential country houses.
Like Artichoke, Tim has realised that there is a gap in the market for a service that provides advice to anyone purchasing, or who owns a country home, at the onset of a major building project. Tim is now offering his expertise, independently of his building firm, providing sound guidance towards the delivery of a successful building project before it’s too late. At Artichoke, we see the affects of lack of consultancy first hand; often clients have misplaced the joinery design of their country home. It is then a big task to pick up the pieces and the client ends up to paying twice for a design (as this previous artichoke blog explores further).
Question the Key Elements of the Building Process
In the context of country house restoration or new builds, Tim believes the process can be positively influenced by a number of factors. Examining a project from the outset can hugely improve the efficiency and cost of designing and building a country house, ultimately improving the owner’s enjoyment of the process.
His consultancy is wide-ranging and explores everything from evaluating the experience of designers, to accessing the approach a construction team should take. When the answers aren’t binary, making decisions with the input of expertise can massively improve the efficiency and success of a building project. Tim’s considerable experience in this field may be the ideal remedy to any doubts you may have.
For more information on Country House Building Consultants, visit Tim’s website.
The pilot course for Artichoke’s first free School of Furniture is now complete, and it’s been an incredibly rewarding experience for both the students and Artichoke.
The principle aim of our school is simple. Can we turn teenager’s ‘lights on’ to craft?
We set the school up to help inspire anyone who has a curiosity about craft (but has never experienced it first hand), or those who are perhaps not being fully engaged by subjects covered in school.
We are thrilled that not only all our students left having achieved the course goal (to make the wooden puzzle below), but they also left feeling inspired (and with all of their fingers!).
One student in particular is now exploring a career in furniture making following his time at Artichoke. This alone, was an outcome to be proud of and we look forward to helping to inspire him and others further in the years to come.
Special thanks to Artichoke makers Wilma and Inigo, and to our production manager John, for their enthusiasm in setting up the course and for teaching our first students. We’d also like to thank Axminster Tools for their generosity in providing our students with great hand tools to use during the course. Last but not least, thanks have to go to Kai Holmes, design technology teacher at the Kings of Wessex Academy in Cheddar, for providing such a great group of students (and for helping steer us through the minefield that is children’s education).
Other blog posts on how the school was set up can be found below. If you are a furniture maker and would like to set up a school yourself, we’d be delighted to invite you here to meet our course manager and course tutors and share what we’ve learned so far.
We’re now in the third week of Artichoke’s School of Furniture. The free course is an initiative launched by Artichoke with help from the Kings of Wessex Academy. Our aim is to introduce local teenagers to our craft and to teach them some basic fundamentals of working with hand tools.
For us at Artichoke, the journey is proving to be fascinating and it has been a pleasure to watch the students learn. No doubt, we’re also learning from the process ourselves. This first year of the course is acting as a pilot, and as it progresses we will naturally develop and improve the course content and it’s structure in response to what worked, and what didn’t.
We’d like to pass what we’re learning onto other makers, and perhaps inspire them to start their own free course too. If you’re a cabinet maker and you want to find out more about how Artichoke’s course was modelled, do get in contact with email@example.com. We’d be happy to share what we’ve learned with you.
Many Artichoke projects tend to focus on Georgian and Victorian period country houses, with the occasional sojourn to the later Edwardian or to earlier Jacobean and Elizabethan periods. It is fascinating to see how styles of architecture and interior detailing evolve through the English country house. The entire post Norman history is deeply illustrated through architecture.
One architectural style we find particularly enchanting is the Elizabethan country house. Our first major country house project, over 20 years ago, was Parnham House in Dorset, one of Britain’s finest examples of Elizabethan architecture. We were commissioned by the owners to design various rooms including both kitchens, a private dressing room and a minstrell’s gallery, all made in our workshops in Somerset. With great sadness, the house was extensively damaged by fire in 2018 and it is now on the market.
Elizabethan Country House Architecture
The Elizabethan period (1560-1600) was a period of design transition in architecture. England’s understanding of the Italian Renaissance was just coming to the forefront, spurned on by Henry VIII’s numerous contacts with Italy before breaking with Rome. When Elizabeth took up her reign, the country’s economy started to improve following years of recklessness from Henry. A focus back into farming created more money for wider groups of people across England, and a domestic building boom began. Many smaller houses were built and many larger manors were created, often through remodelling of earlier Tudor or Medieval homes.
An early introduction to Italian Renaissance architecture was fused with England’s already well established Gothic architecture, alongside a little Dutch influence. This opulent mixture was brilliantly interpreted by English craftsmen who elevated this new hybrid style to stunning levels of romantic architectural detailing.
Houses were typically symmetrical with long galleries and formal gardens, often laid out in an ‘E’ pattern. The medieval hall was replaced in importance by the long gallery which became the focus for family life alongside other living areas off the gallery. Key decorative characteristics included large mullioned windows with square heads and ornamental strap work (both internal and external), a detail originating in Italy via Islamic ornament. Extensive use of rectangular timber oak panelling was also prevalent, often made even richer with the use of carved strap work ornament. Combined with ornate plaster work ceilings and carved overmantels, the affect was striking and powerful.
Creating a Design Backstory
This kaleidoscope of detail presents a challenge to joinery designers like Artichoke. It is difficult to compete with it. In the Elizabethan era, domesticity as we know it today, simply didn’t exist.
For Parnham House we created a strategy, giving the furniture we designed the backstory of an Edwardian interior facelift. The kitchen design took on detail from the medieval and Tudor periods, albeit with a Edwardian twist. This approach was heavily influenced by Edwin Lutyens who took a similar approach with many of his buildings which are often Edwardian takes of medieval architecture.
The backstory is a great way to contextualise and harmonise design in an imposing period building, particularly pre Georgian designs, where domestic rooms didn’t exist. A backstory gives design a single direction, ensuring the end result is sympathetic, elegant and above all for an Elizabethan house, deferent.
To discuss your project with Artichoke, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Country Life magazine has listed Artichoke among the best craftspeople in Britain as part of its annual Country Life Top 100 Country House specialists review. This is the second year Artichoke has been listed.
We are in illustrious company. Also included in this year’s list are ADAM Architecture, Craig Hamilton Architects and Joanna Wood Interior Design, plus many other professionals we have worked alongside with our clients over the last 25 years.
Country Life magazine is a magazine perfectly aligned with Artichoke’s focus on creating heritage through sympathetic joinery design. The title has deep connections to Sir Edwin Lutyens, an architect we admire greatly having worked on several of his houses. It also is one of the few magazines with a focus solely on English country house architecture, interiors and rural country pursuits.
The full Country Life Top 100 list can be reviewed here.
To see some of the stunning work we have completed please click here.
To discuss your project with Artichoke, email us at email@example.com
Tim Hellier joined Artichoke as Installations Manager 12 years ago, and was responsible for the successful completion of every Artichoke project until his promotion to Managing Director in 2018. Prior to joining Artichoke, Tim worked as a respected furniture designer and cabinet maker.
Before discovering his love of furniture, Tim held a passion for photography and was trained by Peter Parks, one of the UK’s original natural history programme makers. During his film making career, Tim worked with the marine natural history company, Image Quest, where he worked with David Attenborough on the Blue Planet series – filming the marine and coral footage.
Tim is also a trained pilot, gaining his licence following the RAF flying scholarship he was awarded when he was 17.
Tim is also a keen rower and was Captain of rowing at Radley College. In 2017 he entered the gruelling Yukon River Challenge in Canada, a 3 day race over 440 miles between White Horse and Dawson. Tim came second in his category, raising over £7,000 for The British Heart Foundation, Artichoke’s chosen charity.
For more information on the range of project management services we offer, from design, installation and finish, please click here.