English Heritage & Historic England

Recently, there has been some confusion about the difference between English Heritage and Historic England, and in particular which organisation is now responsible for overseeing amendments to listed houses.

Until lately, English Heritage was the name of the body responsible for looking after England’s historic monuments and listed buildings.  Their responsibilities stretched from looking after national public monuments such as Stonehenge, to works on private listed houses. In 2015 it was decided these two quite distinct responsibilities should be separated.

The body now responsible for England’s listed houses and buildings (and also the Heritage at Risk register) is called Historic England.  They are a public body funded by the Government, and their role is principally to manage the National Heritage List for England, which is a database of England’s designated heritage assets (such as listed houses, churches, scheduled monuments and battlefields).   Therefore, anyone who owns a listed property, including many of our clients here at Artichoke, will be dealing with Historic England on matters concerning alterations to their listed property.

English Heritage, the body that used to deal with homeowner, is now a charity completely separate from the listed buildings process.  Their role is now to care for hundreds of historic ‘public’ sites across the country, such as Hadrian’s Wall, Dover Castle, Osborne House and Audley End House (below)

 

audley end house

 

How does each grade of listing affect your project?

Listed private houses are essentially those considered worthy of protection owing to their architectural or historic interest, with listings separated into Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II.  Regardless of the grade a house is listed at, Historic England has extra control over what changes can be made to its interior and exterior.  In general, each listing covers the whole building as well as any attached structures, additions or fixtures and in many cases land or buildings which come within the surrounding land or curtilage of the building (such as barns, outbuildings etc).

As can be the case with VAT and listed houses, there is little consistency between planning districts and planning officers.  Some Conservation Officers can be relaxed, while others are very particular about what would appear to be the smallest detail.

If you are using a local architect, it is often worth discussing your appointed planning office, as working with the right Conservation Officer for your project can really make a difference.

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

 

Working with Weldon’s Beautiful Floors

Artichoke strives to design beautiful rooms which sit comfortably and elegantly into their surroundings.  However we cannot do this alone.  We work alongside many other trades such as decorative plaster specialists, specialist finishers and lighting companies in order to deliver these spaces immaculately.

Weldon is one business with whom we have formed a close working relationship over many years of collaboration. Our companies share many similarities. Both were founded in 1992, and both are driven by a passion for innovation, design, and an uncompromising pursuit of excellence. Our most recent collaboration was in a former Georgian hunting lodge. For this project, Weldon was contracted to design and make the hardwood flooring for much of the ground floor.

 

Two georgian panelled doors on a wooden floor
A beautiful pairing. Artichoke doors on a Weldon floor.

Weldon is committed to delivering the highest standards of quality and service. A fact born out by their two Royal Warrants, a mark of recognition to Her Majesty The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and also HRH The Prince of Wales.

Weldon specialise in marquetry and parquetry floors, as well as the most heart melting antique floors. Their skill and reputation has led them to design and make floors for Buckingham Palace, The Victoria and Albert Museum, Blenheim Palace and Windsor Castle.

 

Bathroom with a slipper bath and dark wooden floor
A Weldon chevron patterned aged oak floor.

By sticking rigidly to their core principles of beauty, endurance and quality, Weldon has maintained incredibly high standards of craftsmanship throughout its 25 years of trading. These efforts are matched by their efforts to give back.  The provenance and tractability of raw materials is fundamental to Weldon’s approach, and they are dedicated to obtaining new timber from sustainable sources. The Company has planted over 3,000 trees in the last 10 years, providing more sustainable timber supplies in the UK.

Artichoke is slightly late to the party in this regard, although we are now proud to have set up the Artichoke School of Furniture, a series of five free introductory courses designed to introduce local school children in Cheddar to the basics of our craft. The first fully booked course starts in April 2019, and we couldn’t be prouder.

It has been immensely enjoyable sharing the first quarter of a century of our journey with Weldon. If you’re in the process of renovating a period building (or building a new one), you could do no wrong by speaking with them.  We couldn’t think of a better foundation on which to fit our furniture.

The Artichoke School of Furniture

At Artichoke we believe what we do enhances people’s lives. Our vision is that in 100 years, English design and craftsmanship will have continued to flourish, and our interiors will be celebrated by future generations.

We count ourselves very fortunate to have found our craft, although much of the team have discovered Artichoke via rather circuitous routes.  Among our ranks is an ex prison officer, an ex ad man and an ex paramedic.  Despite our eclectic backgrounds, we are united in the belief that the skills we are lucky enough to have learned should be passed on.

To help realise our vision, we are delighted to be launching the Artichoke School of Furniture. A series of free introductory courses for Somerset teenagers, who are interested in learning the basic skills of furniture making.  The aim of these courses will be to try and light the first spark of enthusiasm for cabinet making.

The initial five week pilot is being run for youngsters studying at the Kings of Wessex Academy in Cheddar, before being rolled out to the wider community.   The course will be run by Artichoke cabinet makers Wilma and Inigo, and accompanied by Kai Holmes who teaches Design Technology at the Kings of Wessex Academy . The students will be in excellent hands.

 

Artichoke cabinet makers Inigo and Wilma

Wilma completed the one year Williams and Cleal furniture course before joining Artichoke in 2018.  Prior to this she was a Prison Officer in Bristol.  Inigo began his furniture journey in France,  first as a restorer in Paris before completing his apprenticeship at La Bonne Graine.  He eventually began  his own furniture making business while simultaneously running evening classes for French teenagers.

 

A set of tools from Axminster
Kindly provided by Axminster Tools. A great kit for budding students to begin their making journeys with.

Learning the skills which which make our our craft so compelling is hugely fun, but we cannot run a course like this without a great set of tools.  We are particularly grateful to the amazing team at Axminster Tools who have generously provided our students with the use of the most amazing starter kit any budding maker could wish for.

We have great hopes for the Artichoke School of Furniture, which first started as a gem of an idea in 2017 and has largely been driven by our production manager, John Hampton, a deeply passionate and committed craftsman.  We have since been notified of other organisations also looking at grass routes education.  The Carpenter’s Company, of which our company founder Bruce Hodgson is a member, has a long tradition of delivering high quality education training in building crafts and building conservation.  The Furniture Maker’s Company, a livery company dedicated to supporting furniture making trade in numerous ways is also hugely proactive in this area.  We hope our combined efforts help us achieve our vision.

The first course starts in April 2019, and we can’t wait to report on our first Students’ progress!  We will report back.

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

Profile: John, Production Manager

John Hampton, Artichoke Production Manager

Our production Manager John, first gained a BA Hons in fine art painting at Winchester School of Art. After finishing his degree, he first worked as a technician before moving to London to become a display and lettering artist at Simpsons of Piccadilly. He then moved on to work as a prop maker and carpenter for the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

Following his time in London, John moved to Somerset, and joined a team of other expert makers who were commissioned to make a pair of large oak installations for the modernist British sculptor Sir Anthony Caro. The installations were installed into the church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Bourbourg, Northern France, seen below.    

John joined Artichoke in 2011 as a maker and now leads our skilled team in the workshop.

 

The pulpit designed by Sir Anthony Caro
Pulpit in the church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Bourbourg. Made by John and colleagues for Sir Anthony Caro

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

Joinery, VAT & the New Country House

A previous article about Kitchens and VAT in Listed Property has helped a number of clients new to listed buildings gain some understanding of how their home’s listing affects their VAT position.

A number of Artichoke’s clients are, however, building new country houses, and in these, the VAT position is slightly different.  Somewhat frustratingly, the advice from HMRC also tends to be somewhat woolly and vague (in our opinion!).

Firstly, it’s worth double checking that your house is in fact considered a new build.  If the house you are building is yours and you plan to live in it (not run a business from it), it’s separate from other buildings, and you are building it from scratch, it should be considered a new build for VAT purposes.

Now you and your builder will need to work out what is, and what is not VAT-able.  The general rule of thumb is that if you tipped your house upside down, anything that fell out would be subject to VAT.  However, as with all forms of tax, there are grey areas.

 

Georgian country house kitchen
Kitchens in new builds are exempt from VAT. Not all appliances are however.
Kitchens and VAT

Your kitchen furniture for instance is zero rate-able for VAT, as are some appliances which are considered part of the building; an AGA for instance is considered by HMRC as forming an intrinsic part of the building, but an integrated oven (which can be removed easily) is not.

The extraction also forms an integral part of the building and can be zero rated.  Other elements of fitted furniture however, such as wardrobes, are not exempt from VAT although panelling is in some cases if it is considered architectural joinery.  Doors and architraves can also be zero rate-able for VAT purposes in as much as they are considered forming part of the building.

 

Builders and Architects Fees

Your builders labour is exempt from VAT on a new build, but your architects fees are not (unless they are not VAT registered).

The HMRC VAT claim form for new builds is worth reading, and as ever, we would advise asking your accountant to clarify this before employing a builder as the rules change.

 

As ever, do call us if you’d like to discuss this 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.

Partnership with Country Life Magazine

26 years seems like a long time to wait before creating your first advertising campaign.  Ironically, we’re busier than ever.  So why now?

As we’ve matured, we’ve gained greater understanding of what sets us apart.  Subconsciously we’ve always known, but it’s not been expressed until now.  To use marketing jargon, it’s about positioning.

Put simply, we design rooms which look as if they were always meant to be there and we then make them to ensure they always will be.  With each new project we are motivated by the opportunity to improve how clients live in their houses.  We are also motivated by legacy, and with every project we aim to create Britain’s future heritage.

 

Initial concept sketches presented by John Heywood (Art Director)

Among the Art Director’s initial sketches were this set of striking images (above) designed to illustrate that Artichoke is not simply a designer of kitchens, a skill we’d become well known for. We are a company which uses architectural expertise, joinery design, interior design and a deep understanding for household life to create beautiful and practical spaces which add value to our client’s houses for many generations.

 

The initial pencil sketch for ‘Georgian House. Family Home’

 

Matthew Cook water colouring the ‘Jacobean House, Family Home’ creative.

Bringing the Art Director’s creative idea to life required a delicate touch.  Matthew Cook is one of the UK’s greatest reportage artists with a wonderful ability to observe real life.  And it’s real life which Artichoke deals with daily.  The design decisions we make for our clients, and the quality of our craftsmanship, directly affects how they and their families live in their homes for many generations.

 

The first ad completed

Matthew is not only a professional illustrator but also an experienced soldier having undertaken two tours of Afghanistan as a corporal with the Parachute Regiment in the TA.  His work has been commissioned widely in publications such as Country Life, The Spectator and The Times, and we are delighted he agreed to illustrate our advertising.  You can see more of Matthew Cook’s work here:   https://www.theartworksinc.com/portfolio/matthew-cook/.

The beautifully written copy was written by Toby Ingram of Ingram and Macintyre

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

 


 

Carrara & the English Country House

The interior design of many of our most treasured country houses in many ways reflects the characteristics of the English themselves. Restrained, understated, subtle and, occasionally, elegant.

These are all traits the Artichoke design team tries to inject into the kitchens and furniture we design for our client’s country houses.  Many of these attributes are successfully delivered through the physical form of the furniture we design, such as the period mouldings we create for each piece, the width of the door frames we design and the proportion of the furniture.  Achieving elegance through form can quickly be tarnished if the materials then chosen to adorn it are not well considered.

 

Carrara marble for country house
Carrara marble grain. Understated and elegant.

 

Our view here at Artichoke is that if a designer creates beautifully detailed kitchen furniture, very little else needs then to be added to detract from it.  This is particularly so with classical furniture where mouldings and shadow inject a wonderful flow and ripple into the face of the work. Contemporary kitchens are so often adorned with striking and flamboyant marbles because the furniture itself has little creative substance to it.  By introducing a bold patterned marble, the designer is simply deflecting attention away from the fact the furniture is principally flat and lifeless.

It is inevitable that as designers and makers of kitchens and domestic areas of country houses, we have a view on which marble worktops look most appropriate in traditional environments. Despite our work being principally in English country houses, we tend not to suggest English stones for many of our kitchen worktops.  While many of them are extremely hard wearing (such as slates available from Lancashire), few of them can be used for pieces such as cook’s tables or islands. This is mainly due to the nature of their extraction from the rock bed. Most English stones are blasted from the quarry face with explosives, resulting in eccentric sized blocks usually no wider than two metres. By contrast, marble slabs are cut from the quarry face in huge rectangular blocks, allowing for a much greater size of slab (typically up to three metres in length). This makes marble much more practical to use in kitchen design. We explore which stones perform best for kitchen worktops in another blog ‘Ideas for Kitchen Worktops’.

 

Carrara marble islands
Honed Carrara Marble worktops and backsplash form an understated background to this Artichoke kitchen.

 

In the Georgian and Edwardian periods of English architecture, Carrara was the favoured marble of choice. Not only was it readily available, but its quiet and understated graining also reflected the characteristics of the English themselves. It is luxurious without being opulent and it has a more understated veining compared to other more ‘vulgar’ marbles.  It can be seen in many of England’s finest country houses such as Chatsworth.  Marble Arch is built from Carrara.  It has been described as the elegant workhorse of the kitchen, and it ages beautifully.

From a longevity point of view, Carrara marble is also timeless.  This works well with our designs which we create to sit comfortably and elegantly into their architectural surroundings for many years.  If we are to create furniture today that will be admired by future generations (in much the same way that today we admire work created in houses like Chatsworth), then it is worth remembering Carrara for your project.

 

To discuss your project, email the Artichoke team at newprojects@artichoke.co.uk or call on +44 (0)1934 745270.

English Country House Timbers

Up until the early 20th Century, the typical English country house was principally built from timber, stone and brick; simple when compared to the plethora of material types, fixtures and fittings available to today’s architect.

Of the timber choices available to those building country houses in the 18th and 19th centuries, the most common were European Walnut, Mahogany, Russian Deal, English Oak and English Elm.  These timbers had different roles to play in the make up of the English country house, with Walnut and Mahogany being favoured for the more decorative elements and Russian Deal, Elm and Oak for the more constructional.  Each had their part to play.

Fast forward to today, and most clients renovating a country house are increasingly sensitive to the original materials used to build it.  But are the original timber species used still available, and what are the alternatives if they are not?

 

English Country House Timbers featured image - Large tree

 

European Walnut and Mahogany

Then:  Until the early 1700s Walnut was by far the most popular of the decorative hardwoods for use in English country houses.  It had a soft colour and an interesting grain.  But access to fine quality walnut ceased after 1709 when the Great Frost, the harshest European winter for 500 years, killed off much of the walnut stock in France.  This triggered English cabinet-makers to look elsewhere for alternatives, with mahogany proving the outright winner.   In 1721 the British Parliament removed all import duties from timber imported into Britain from the British colonies, instantly stimulating the trade in West Indian timbers including, most importantly, mahogany.   With no competition from walnut, imports of mahogany into England rose from 525 tons a year in 1740 to more than 30,000 tons in 1788.   In a relatively short period of time, mahogany had become the most popular timber for luxury furniture and architectural joinery in the country houses of England.

Now:  Mahogany is no longer imported from the Americas although we do have old stock on supply which is reserved for very specific country house projects and feature architectural joinery doors.  The only true mahogany currently imported into the UK is African Mahogany which is lighter in colour than Brazilian or Cuban mahogany which tend to be very dark orange.  African mahogany also has a slightly wilder grain pattern.  Between the two, our timber of choice would always be European Walnut for its softer colouring, its figure and its provenance.

 

close up view of English country house library furniture
French polished Italian walnut in a library project designed by Artichoke.
Russian Deal

Then:  Russian deal is a high quality softwood grown in the Baltic regions of northern Russia, typically from Archangel and Onega.  It is slow grown, tall, straight and dense, and with its fine grain is ideal for making hand painted interior architectural joinery.  It was considered poor for exterior use however, with Rivington’s Building Construction Guide (published in 1875) declaring it unfit for work exposed to the damp shores of the UK.   A more in depth piece on Russian Deal was written by us a few years ago, triggered by the BBC’s adaptation of War and Peace where much of the joinery in the wonderful period locations were made of this material.

Now:  Russian Deal is tough to get hold of, not because it is scarce but because the timber yards in Russia will only sell it by the boatload and the boards offered are only 1 inch thick.  Specialist companies such as Artichoke are of no commercial interest to these yards.  Scandinavian Redwood is the next best alternative.  It’s almost identical albeit being a slightly smaller tree.  Artichoke uses Scandinavian Redwood in listed country house projects where organisations such as Historic England require it or we feel it will benefit the feel of the final room and character of the furniture.  The grain certainly looks good when over painted, and we have recently used it when designing and making a kitchen based around the National Trust’s kitchen at Lanhydrock House in Cornwall.  Images from this project can be found here.  The reason most furniture makers do not use Scandinavian Redwood is principally because of timber movement which can make it more unpredictable in modern homes with more aggressive heating set ups.  Poplar or tulipwood is (in our mind) a more sensible choice if the project is to have a crisp hand painted finish with no grain grinning through the paint.  It is resin and almost knot free and dense if you buy it from the right sources.

 

Lanhdyrock English country house kitchen
Separate elements of a kitchen designed by us in Siberian larch for a country house in Hampshire. The grain looks beautiful grinning through the paint surface.
English Oak

Then:  English oak is rot resistant, making it ideal for exterior joinery and boat building (many Queen Anne and early Georgian English country houses feature repurposed supporting oak beams which once formed part of our naval fleet).   Oak’s ability to resist rot, combined with its immense strength and availability, made it the perfect building material for timber framed houses, and many of the originals are still standing.  Of course, much of England’s ancient forests are either now protected or gone.

Now:  English oak is very much readily available in the UK, although it tends to be farm or estate grown, meaning the trees have not been cared for as a commercial commodity would typically be.  This makes the quality of the available material quite unpredictable and inconsistent for interior furniture such as libraries or room panelling.  Our climate in Northern Europe also means English oak trees grow slowly with wild grain patterns often being a feature.  English oak is also a darker shade of brown than European oak and, combined with wild grain patterns and knots, can make the furniture appear quite rustic without careful selection.   At Artichoke we prefer oak from southern France where our oak trees are grown commercially and therefore managed as a crop.  Buying oak for a project from the same single stand in the same area of a woodland also gives us the confidence in knowing we will receive a high quality product with a consistent honey colour throughout.  Having an excellent relationship with your supply chain is vital if the work is to stand the test of time for hundreds of years.

English Oak also makes an excellent flooring material; it ages beautifully and is hard wearing. Our friends at Weldon Flooring are worth talking to if you are working in an historic or new build English country house in need of a beautiful oak floor.

 

artichoke cabinet makers
This large kitchen was made from carefully selected European oak. There is a magical consistency in the grain of European Oak which would be much harder to find in English Oak.
English Elm

Then: Like English Oak, English Elm is known for its rot resistant qualities making it suitable for exterior work.  As one of the largest deciduous trees in the UK, it was commonly used as a building material for roof frames and supporting beams.  While extremely strong with an immense ability to withstand crushing forces, it was not as popular as English oak because it tends to move and split.  This is the reason that smaller English country houses, and those with agricultural links, tended to favour English Elm.  In the smaller English country house, cost was a factor and you could get more out of the larger trunk.

Now:  Dutch Elm disease ravaged the UK’s population of English Elm between 1970 and 1990, and there are now few left, making English Elm pretty exclusive.  The stock we now use for English country house work tends to be quite gnarled and rustic in appearance, so like English Oak it needs to be selected carefully.  For a large English country house project we would nowadays consider European Elm, which is the same species but grown in Europe.  Like oak, this material tends to be more consistent in its growth and straighter grained making it a good choice for doors and architectural joinery.

 

English Elm board
English Elm has a wild grain making it often too rustic for the grander English country house.

So in conclusion, for clients renovating or building an English country house, it is entirely possible to use timber that is appropriate to the period or to the original building materials, although its origin of source may now be different to the original.

If you are focussed on using the correct timber and materials for your country house project and are motivated to create furniture which will become an integral part of its architecture for many years to come, we’d love to hear about it!

 

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

To discuss your project, email the Artichoke team at newprojects@artichoke.co.uk or call on +44 (0)1934 745270.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New Arts & Crafts Period

We are on the cusp of a new Arts and Crafts period led by new craftsmen and the circumstances of its coming are remarkably similar to the original.

 

 

Arts and Crafts (version 1.0) started in the UK in around 1880 and it spread across Europe rapidly.  It followed a period of huge change in the UK, a period in which industrialisation totally changed the lives or ordinary working people.  The arts and crafts movement poured scorn on the mechanisation and materials of industry, and it was in many ways a cry for help.  This new movement focussed on design, on craft and on traditional skills.  The glue that held it together was idealism and it established a new set of principles for living and working.

Fast forward 140 years to today, and society is in a similar place. We have followed twenty years of extraordinary technological change, both in manufacturing and computing, and there is an underlying feeling that society is yearning to get back to working with its hands.  People are suffering from TMT (Too Much Tech).   In the same way that the burgeoning Victorian industrial mass manufacturing methods placed limits on design (the design of cast iron bridges were controlled by the way the parts could be manufactured), so too have modern automated manufacturing methods steered high street design of today.  Modern furniture looks the way it does (often bland) because its design is restricted by the functionality of the machinery that makes it at scale.  To overcome this technical constraint, the furniture is marketed slickly and heavily using budgets made available through the large profits generated.  The consumer is none the wiser.  If the tail is manufacturing, design is the dog, and both then and now, the tail has been wagging the dog.  The new craftsmen are fighting against this and it’s producing wonderful furniture rooted in rooted in craftsmanship and narrative.

 

close up view if library furniture
Shows the work of Artichoke craftsmen for a grand Georgian library.

Take bespoke kitchen and architectural joinery design and craftsmanship, a field we specialise in.  For the last 10 years, interiors magazines have been groaning with mass produced ranges of pre-designed kitchen furniture.  These products are pre-designed so rooms can be laid out rapidly, and the furniture is designed in such a way that it can be mass produced, allowing manufacturers and kitchen retailers to generate significant margins through economies of scale.  Their motivations are financial in much the same way as were the motivations of the Victorian industrial manufacturer.  It is an approach which has made many people very rich, but we would argue an approach that will not continue to delight future generations.  It is a temporary approach, and one we have written about before.

A small group of designers and craftsmen, ourselves included, have never subscribed to this approach.  Our company vision is that great design and craftsmanship will be thriving in 100 years, and if we are to create Britain’s future heritage today we have to design and make furniture which will sit appropriately and elegantly into its surrounding architecture for centuries.  This simply cannot be achieved with automated processes which constrain design.  Each room we design requires its own very personal touch. Each moulding and the materials we chose for each project have to be intensively scrutinized to ensure they will still look as good today as they will for the next generation.  This is why Artichoke only makes around 20 kitchens a year; you cannot mass produce one offs.

A recent article in the Spectator backs this up.  The piece focuses on the work of George Saumarez Smith, a partner at classical architects ADAM Architecture.  The premise of the piece is that while classicism never went away, it did become unfashionable for a period before now coming back.  That’s the great thing about classicism.  You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone, and eventually it always comes back.  You can only achieve the quality that authentic classical and traditional design demands by designing and making it properly in the first place; with love, by hand, and with an obsessively focussed attention to detail.  And herein lies the problem.  To create the level of detail needed to pull off a fine classical or traditional interior requires complete dedication to the craft and a rigorous focus on the detail; and this doesn’t sit well with shareholders looking to make a fast buck.  So they turn to automation.  How many public craft based design or cabinet makers do you know?

 

capital of a Corinthian column.
A sketch by George Saumarez-Smith shows the capital of a Corinthian column.  To make this well it needs to be made by hand.

As designers we often take inspiration from the great periods of classical English architecture, from early Georgian to Edwardian. We take a particular interest in period house detail, materials and finishes because they are the ones we love and admire the most.  They are almost always the ones created by hand, with love.  As craftsmen, we make furniture with integrity using traditional skills, not because we are stuck in the past, but because these methods have yet to be improved on by modern technology. Naturally we embrace technologies which make us more efficient, but when it comes to the integrity of our furniture, we do not believe in taking short cuts. Ever.

At Artichoke, we’ve always been arts and crafts; creating Britain’s future heritage cannot be achieved any other way.

Welcome to Arts and Crafts V.02.  We hope you enjoy the ride.

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

To discuss your project, email the Artichoke team at newprojects@artichoke.co.uk or call on +44 (0)1934 745270.

Listed Property & Bespoke Kitchens

Artichoke is regularly asked to design bespoke kitchens in listed buildings.  Quite often these listed buildings have been purchased by new owners who are unclear about the listing process, what it means, and how it effects them.

The rules were altered by HM Customs and Excise in 2012 and this short article will help explain what the listing process means and how it effects the kitchen in your listed buildings project.

 

St Giles House, Shaftsbury
Grade I Listed Buildings

These are of deemed to be of exceptional interest and sometimes considered to be internationally important; only 2.5% of listed buildings are Grade I.  In these buildings it is typical for English Heritage to be adamant that the existing interior detail must remain unaltered and untouched (including architectural joinery, light switches, and plaster work).  Designing bespoke kitchens into Grade 1 buildings can be full of issues, usually involving extraction routes, methods of fixing into the existing fabric of the building (which can often be made up of soft lime mortar and rubble walls), interference of the existing joinery and so on.

Artichoke was recently asked to design a kitchen for the West Apartment at Burley-on-the-Hill which was built in 1690 in the style of Sir Christopher Wren.  In 1909, the West Wing was almost completely destroyed by fire and the joinery inside this part of the house has a very Edwardian feel.   Despite the fact that it is modern in comparison to the rest of the house, it is still Grade 1 listed and the panelling in the kitchen could not be touched in any way.

 

Burley on the Hill, Rutland
Grade II* Listed Buildings

These are deemed by English Heritage as particularly important buildings of more than special interest (Grade II); around 5.5% of listed buildings are Grade II*.   There are many reasons why a building can be awarded Grade II* status.  It maybe that they are houses that while not particularly grand, are particularly important examples of local vernacular and they are in essence “Grade II but of particular significance” .  It is likely that a Grade II* house will have a particularly special interior or interior features which will be treated in the same say as Grade 1 features in that English Heritage will not allow them to be touched or altered.

Depending on the features and their location, English Heritage can be more relaxed (although not much!) about designing kitchens and furniture into these properties. For instance, it maybe that a farmhouse has a particularly special roof structure which is the reason the house has a II* listing.  In this case, English Heritage will be willing to discuss extensions to the house within reason.

 

 

Grade II Listed Buildings 

These are buildings that are considered nationally important and of special interest; 92% of all listed buildings are in this class and it is the most likely grade of listing for a home owner.  This is a  good example of a recent Artichoke bespoke kitchen designed into a Grade II listed building.

While permissions for alterations are down to the discretion of the individual listed planning officer, in Artichoke’s experience it is the exterior of the building that they are focused on more.  While the interior is still of importance, they are often a little more relaxed.

 

Dinder House near Wells is Grade II

Regardless of the listing of your house, it is important to stress that Listing is not seen a preservation order preventing change. Listing has a reason, and that is to identify the life stages of a building and it’s various characters.

Listing does not freeze a building in time, it simply means that listed building consent must be applied for in order to make any changes to that building which might affect its special interest. Listed buildings can be altered, extended and sometimes even demolished within government planning guidance.

 

Listed Property, Bespoke Kitchens and VAT

Pre 2012 it used to be the case that a bespoke kitchen built into a new extension of a listed building was zero rated for VAT (or rather the built in/fixed items such as the Aga, furniture and extraction were zero rated).

Since 2012, the Government decided to “simplify” things, and sadly for many listed property homeowners, VAT relief on approved alterations was removed (although if you had applied for Listed Building Consent before 21 March 2012, zero rating will still apply for approved alterations until 30 September 2015.)

There are still VAT advantages available for work on buildings that have been unoccupied for more than 2 years, for a change of use from commercial to residential use and for a change in the number of individual dwellings within a property – eg splitting a house into flats.

Other than that, we’re sorry to say, it’s the full 20%!

 

We would caveat the above by stating that we are neither nor lawyers or accountants, but designers of fine bespoke kitchens. For a final adjudication on whether your project could be awarded reduced rate status, please speak with a trained professional!  in the past we have found the HMRC team extremely helpful and they do publish a book which we have used to advise our clients ion kitchens in listed buildings.  For more information on VAT in listed buildings, you can follow this link VAT in building and construction.

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