Time is our favourite tool – a new opportunity to reconnect with our homes

The image in our Instagram post features Grey Gables – Ambridge’s country house hotel. Congratulations if you guessed it correctly.  

There is no escaping it – our world has turned upside down.  Even the Archers will be having its first coronavirus-related storyline in early May.  While producers generally want to allow listeners to be able ‘to go to Ambridge in the usual way’ the coronavirus outbreak is a story that no one can ignore. 

And nor can we. We hope that you are safe and well during these difficult times and our thoughts go out to all families and communities directly touched and hurt by this virus.   

To keep our team of makers safe, we have adapted very quickly to this situation and, for now. we have closed the workshop.  Our designers – from concept design through to detailed design and production engineering, however, can still work remotely.  So, in this respect we are very much open for business.  We welcome the opportunity to talk through projects and dreams with our clients and their architects and interior designers – past, present and future.  Please don’t hesitate to get in touch – either by email newprojects@artichoke.co.uk or give Andrew Petherick a call on 01934 745281. 

The brave new world is a test in so many ways – but also an opportunity to reconnect with our homes – a space where most of us, when things are normal, lament the lack of time spent there.  And suddenly, for those of us not on the front line and who are following advice to stay at home, time is what we have.  Time to consider what we like about our house and how we live in it.  Time has always been our favourite tool. We’d love to help inspire and guide you if we can.  Have a browse round our projects.

With limited access to new stories and content for our social media feeds, we thought we’d take advantage of being close to home.  We’ve enjoyed other designers sharing tours of their own houses, talking through their thinking and indulging in a bit of interior based escapism.  So, over the coming weeks we plan to post a series of short videos – a la through the keyhole – where Bruce Hodgson will talk through the total renovation of his delightful seventeenth century farmhouse and demonstrate how time is our favourite tool.   From its stunning location on a south facing hill with open views to Glastonbury Torit’s a jewel that is lovingly being transformed, with the greatest respect to traditional craftmanship and appropriate period detail, by Bruce and the team.  It’s very much work in progress but provides a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of aArtichoke refurbishment project.  Watch this space.  Stay safe. 

ArtiTime is our favourite tool Grey Gables from The Archers

For those whom the much-loved realm of Borsetshire forms part of your internal landscapeyou can explore more iconic locations from the comfort of your armchair by visiting this link

 

 

 

25 Royal Crescent Bath for Sale

As rows of terraced houses go, The Royal Crescent in Bath sits at the pinnacle.  Sited as one of Britain’s greatest ever examples of Georgian architecture, it was designed by John Wood the younger and took seven years to build, starting in 1764.  Now one of its houses is for sale.

 

To purchase one of the 30 available houses, the original buyers were each asked to buy a length of the facade.  They then had to employ their own architect to build the house behind, so what can appear to be ordered uniformity and symmetry at the front is actually a bit of a mess behind (or ‘business at the front: party at the back’ as it was once described to me by one of the owners).  This avant-garde approach to architecture occurs repeatedly across Bath.

During the 1900s many of the houses which had once been the residences of single families with maids and other staff were divided into offices and flats.  Of the 30 original houses only 10 remain as single dwellings, so when one comes on the market it is a rare occurrence.  Number 25 The Royal Crescent is now for sale through Savills with a guide price of £6.5 million.

The Grade I listed architecture of the facade of The Royal Cresent has 114 Ionic columns which rest on a rusticated ground floor.  It was the first crescent of houses to be built in the UK and with views over parkland was also a fine example of ‘rus in urbe’ architecture, meaning ‘the country in the city’.

However, with all formality comes the desire for rebellion.  In 1971, the resident of No 22 The Royal Crescent, Miss Amabel Wellesley-Colley, took it upon herself to paint the front door of her house canary yellow (the others are all white).  In her defence, she said she was upholding tradition because canary yellow was her great grandfather, The Duke of Wellington’s favourite colour.  As you can imagine, there was uproar, and the chattering classes of Bath went apoplectic with confected outrage.  Other owners of houses on The Royal Crescent fell back on a 1968 law for listed buildings which stated that property owners could not alter the appearance of the Royal Crescent without permission.  However, they underestimated Miss Amabel, who after spending thousands of pounds and battling it out in a 6 hour long public enquiry was found in favour by the Department for the Environment.

The door remains yellow to this day.

yellow door the royal cresent bath
A very English act of architectural rebellion.

 

25 The Royal Crescent Bath is for Sale through Savills.

 


As ever, do call us if you’d like to discuss a joinery design project further on +44 (0)1934 745270.  For more information on the range of project management services we offer, from design, installation and finish, please click here.

 

Little Thakeham for Sale

Little Thakeham, the house which Edwin Lutyens described as the ‘best of the bunch’ is for sale through Knight Frank, with a guide price of £5.5 million.

A large edwardian house in Sussex
Little Thakeham for Sale, West Sussex

 

It is no secret that at Artichoke we’re a big fan of Lutyens.  We have been fortunate to have been asked to work on several of his houses including Folly Farm.  As a designer and maker of architectural joinery, to be asked to add additional layers to his original works is one of the very greatest of privileges.   A previous blog post on the architectural joinery of Lutyens can be found here.

One of the great joys of Little Thakeham is in how Lutyens combined the Tudor style with Grand Edwardian Arts and Crafts country manor style.  We call it contemporary medieval, and it’s a very hard trick to pull off.  Lutyens managed to pull it off several times in fact (he was showing off) with Castle Drogo and Lindisfarne Castle being notable examples.

drawing room with large oriel window
The Drawing Room at Little Thakeham

 

The architectural design journey of Little Thakeham is not without controversy.  The client, Tom Blackburn, had made his fortune in America importing drink.  Returning with his fortune (and no doubt some drink), he commissioned the architect J Hatchard Smith to design a house which he then fell out of love with halfway through the build.  Sir Edwin Lutyens was called in for his opinion (which he gave with gusto) suggesting the half built house was pulled down and replaced with one built from local Pulborough stone.  Hatchard Smith was laid off (and paid off) and Lutyens got the job.

Quite brilliantly, Lutyens managed to sketch the entire house’s layout onto two sheets of paper on the train journey home following his first client meeting with Tom Blackburn.  He handed them to his architectural technician on his return who then drew them up.

And the Little Thakeham for sale today is the very same one sketched out on his train journey home.

 


As ever, do call us if you’d like to discuss a joinery design project further on +44 (0)1934 745270. For more information on the range of project management services we offer, from design, installation and finish, please click here.

 

 

 

 

Finding the Why Behind Artichoke

When we’re all asked what we do, the answer usually trips off our tongue.  But when asked why we do what we do, we’re often lost for words.

Discovering why a company does what it does is usually hard.  In Artichoke’s case it has taken several years to find our ‘why’.  In retrospect it had always manifested itself subconsciously in our daily behaviours, but we’d never attempted to proactively find it or explain it.  It took six months of corporate therapy, a company-wide meeting, three arguments and several packs of Post It notes to look deep within Artichoke’s soul.

A board with post it notes on
The process of finding our why

 

More marketing literate companies are often founded on their ‘why’.  Starbucks sells coffee. This is ‘what’ it does.  However, the reason it was really founded was to offer a ‘third space’ between work and home. The provision of a welcoming and comfortable high street location for people to meet or email from is why it does what it does, and that’s what’s made it a success.  The coffee and cake is simply a by-product.

Other companies are founded to solve a problem, only to stumble on their ‘why’ later on in life.  In 1901, William S Harley designed a compact motor designed to power a push bike, and if you ask the Marketing Director at Harley Davidson today ‘what’ they do, he’ll tell you they design and sell motorbikes.  If you ask him ‘why’ Harley does it however, he’ll tell you they exist to give middle aged accountants the power to ride through small towns scaring people.  This is what makes their company different.  If you’re a middle aged biker, and you want to revive some of the lost front you once had in your youth, there is really only one motorbike for you.

man on a harley davidson riding through London
During the week he works for Ernst & Young

 

In much the same way, Artichoke designs and makes kitchens and fitted furniture.  This is ‘what’ we do.  While there are lots of companies describing themselves as doing this very same thing, none of them do it for the reasons we do.

To help crystalise our ‘why’, we first decided to create a brand manifesto, a living document distilling our company’s beliefs.

Artichoke’s Brand Manifesto

We are craftspeople.
We will only work with other companies and clients who share our values.
We are unrelenting in the pursuit of quality.
We regard working in our client’s houses as a privilege.
We will always act with honesty and integrity.
We believe what we design enhances people’s lives.
We have a responsibility to ‘get it right’ for our clients.
We are always learning.
We are obsessed with detail.
We refuse to take short cuts.
We will always nurture traditional skills and embrace innovation.
Our ambition is to be a centre of excellence of design and craftsmanship.
We are guardians of our craft.
We will pass this expertise to future generations.
Our work is an expression of who we are.
We believe true quality cannot be achieved without love.
We love what we do.

Distilling our beliefs in this way was incredibly helpful, triggering one of the teams observations that our beliefs were closely aligned with those of John Ruskin, the Victorian philanthropist and supporter of the arts:

“When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for; and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say, as they look upon the labour and wrought substance of them, ‘See! This our fathers did for us.”

At Artichoke, we have the innate desire to ensure our work is not temporary, but instead forms an intrinsic part of a building’s architectural heritage for centuries to come.  This belief runs through our company like words through a stick of rock, and it affects the way everyone in the company behaves, the materials we specify, the joints we deploy, the designs we create and the care we take.

So, why does Artichoke exist?  The reason we are here is to create Britain’s future heritage.

A logo for artichoke designers and makers of britain's future heritage

 

Artichoke in Country Life Top 100

As the Country Life top 100 2020 is announced, we are delighted to once again be included for the third consecutive year.  This represents the ultimate recognition of our expertise in working on fine English houses and an acknowledgement of our mission to create Britain’s future heritage.⁠

We are so delighted to be recognized once again for the quality of our work – achieving a fine balance between meeting the needs and tastes of owners and fulfilling the potential of a house without harming its architectural integrity. Over nearly 30 years, we’ve worked in houses of every architectural period and have built a detailed understanding of each. Artichoke interiors, which are joinery-led, fulfill the unique promise of architectural joinery, which is not just to embellish rooms, but to give them their status and their role in the life of a household.  Architectural joinery achieves something no other trade can in creating liveable, elegant and architecturally authentic houses. This puts us in a unique position, filling the gap between architects and interior designers, creating the interior structure that makes sense of a house – and providing designers with the canvas they need.

Artichoke looks backwards to take our clients’ houses forward, recoupling exceptional artisan skills to design expertise. We are makers and creatives working as one to achieve the remarkable for our clients and their houses.

We have been lucky to work very closely with Country Life magazine in recent years and to be part of this list, standing  shoulder to shoulder with some of the most incredible companies of designers and artisans in the country makes us very proud

The full Country Life Top 100 2020 list can be reviewed here

Country Life magazine title front cover 4 March 2020

To see some of the stunning work we have completed please click here.

We’d love to hear more if you have a project in mind.   Whether its a single room – maybe a kitchen or a dressing room, or a whole house project, please do get in touch – speak with a member of our team on +44(0)1934 745 270 or email us at newprojects@artichoke.co.uk . 

 

Symm Administration – a Blow to Traditional Craftsmanship?

The recent news that renowned construction business Symm & Company has fallen into administration after over 200 years in business is a stark reminder that traditional skills need protecting and nurturing.

Both Symm, Artichoke and many others have been committed to employing and training generations of craftsmen and women, and investing in these skills further through formal apprenticeship schemes. While smaller, independent construction companies have often struggled to afford to run valuable apprenticeships, larger traditional builders like Symm took on this responsibility with great enthusiasm.  The onus is now more on companies like ours to train the period joinery specialists of the future and to keep driving this investment to ensure the traditional joinery industry stays healthy and thrives.

As part of this commitment, we are delighted our free School of Furniture’s second year is about to begin.

The principle aim of our school is simple – to inspire young people who, through their experience of a narrowing and academically focused curriculum, may not have had the opportunity to explore their creative and practical potential.  Our ambition is to highlight to these youngsters that there are a wide range of artisan skills and crafts which are highly valued and appreciated and from which a successful career can be carved.  Kai Holmes who teaches Design Technology at the Kings of Wessex Academy is keen to show the students that, only a short walk from the school gate,  is a thriving community of Britain’s best craftsmen and women who are making a living doing something they love and feel passionate about.

Symm administration calls for better training
Artichoke maker Wilma teaching student, Peter

 

Artichoke Founder Bruce Hodgson said: We are set to launch the second year of the Artichoke School of Furniture this year, with the aim of inspiring young people to consider a career as an artisan.  We also run an apprenticeship scheme, for which we recruit on the basis of attitude rather than skill. This investment means we are able to continue to strive to achieve our company vision, which is that in 100 years, English design and craftsmanship continues to flourish.”

He continued: “The Symm administration is a great sadness, not just because many fine craftsmen and women have lost their jobs, but because a company that was a well-regarded supporter of heritage craftsmanship no longer exists to sponsor some of the next generation of joiners, carpenters, cabinet makers, stonemasons, decorators and plastering specialists.”

Our resolve to support these specialist skills is further strengthened by the knowledge there is client demand for exquisite period joinery and the supporting finishing trades typically found in large town and country houses.  Artichoke hopes to continue inspiring the artisan workforce so that the industry may stay prosperous, and Britain’s future heritage is protected.  We encourage our fellow specialists to do the same.

 

Case Study for Warehouse Industrial Style Vintage Kitchen

The case study below shows off some of the design and cabinet making processes involved in the creation of this warehouse industrial style vintage kitchen, designed by us for a client in London in collaboration with their interior design team, Studio Indigo.

Warehouse Industrial Style Vintage Kitchen Designed for Family Home in Wimbledon

Some professional images taken of the completed work are below.

industrial style kitchen

vintage style family kitchen in a georgian house

Further information regarding this completed kitchen space can be found here.

 


If you would like to discuss a kitchen or joinery design project with Artichoke, please email newprojects@artichoke.co.uk or call 01934 745270

Resurgence of the Cook’s Table

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.

 

view of the Victorian Kitchen, showing cooks table and stove
The beautiful Victorian kitchen at Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton

 

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.

 

A kitchen and cook’s table, designed and made by Artichoke. Read more about the inspiration behind this design here.

 

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.

The Walk In Pantry is Back

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.

3D render of Artichoke designed butler's pantry
Artichoke’s design for a butler’s pantry

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.

An image of a Lutyens designed butler's pantry in Middleton Park

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.

Wainscot Panelling and Panelled Walls

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.

 

Example of Boisere Panelling in French Hotel
Boiserie from the Hôtel de Cabris, Grasse,ca. 1774, with later additions

 

Linenfold Panelling in a hallway
Traditional Linenfold Panelling

 

Example of a more simple, Georgian panelling style
An example of 18th century, Georgian style Paneling

Wainscoting

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.

An example of wainscotting in a hallway
Simple Wainscot Panelling in a hallway
Wainscot Paneling in a Bathroom
Wainscot Paneling in a Bathroom

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.

 

wood paneling in a country house study
An example of full walled, Georgian style paneling in stained and hand-polished French Walnut, designed and made by Artichoke.  See more of this project here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Showing the detail of the internal joinery
Panelling details by Artichoke

 

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.

 

AN example of wainscoting in a bathroom
Painted Wainscoting in a traditionally styled bathroom.

 

To discuss your project with Artichoke, email us at newprojects@artichoke.co.uk

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