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.

Electrolux Grand Cuisine Review

The Artichoke design team decided it was time for an Electrolux Grand Cuisine review after completing a recent country house project in Gloucestershire where they were used. In our capacity as designers and makers of high quality bespoke kitchens, our focus is always on which appliances are best suited to meet our client’s specific needs. We purposefully don’t have any formal relationships with any particular kitchen appliance brands as we prefer to remain neutral; it allows us to offer our clients the best quality impartial advice.

In a recent blog we took a topline view on the best appliances brands used in luxury bespoke kitchens. You can read our thoughts here.  We now feel it’s time to take a deeper in-depth view on what makes the Electrolux Grand Cuisine range so well suited to some kitchens.

 

 Electrolux Grand Cuisine range

 

General Overview of the Grand Cuisine Range

The range is made up of a blast chiller, a sous vide, a combination oven and induction cooktop, and induction zone, a sear hob and stand mixer.  The styling is contemporary which in some way limits it, and the build quality is really excellent (which one would expect for a high end kitchen appliance brand).

The Electrolux range differentiates itself from other brands on the back of its professional heritage.  This kit has been designed for professionals and it is used in professional kitchens all over the world as well as, increasingly, in kitchens in domestic environments.  This hybrid positioning makes the Grand Cuisine range a compelling offer for those domestic cooks who take cooking seriously.

After attending a professional demonstration of the appliances with a client at a West London we thought we’d take a closer look at each item in the range.

 

Combi Steam Oven

This is a very large combi-steam oven which offers a far superior capacity to other ovens on the market.   The appliance can rapidly cook large quantities of food using convection heat, steam heat or both. It is also very robust, having been designed for professional heavy use kitchens.  Like other ovens in the range it is also supplied with a USB memory stick which can be inserted into the appliance for loading pre loaded recipes.  It features precision temperature control and comes with a heat probe for really accurate cooking.

 

Electrolux Grand Cuisine combination oven

 

The oven requires a cold water inlet and unlike most domestic steam ovens, the product needs to be vented which ensures your kitchen doesn’t fill up with steam when you open the door.  Because of these plumbing requirements it can make positioning the item in a kitchen plan more challenging.

The Combi Steam oven has an exceptional self cleaning function which uses water to clean in the same way as a commercial appliance like the Rational range of fully professional appliances. This is an important feature as most other combi steam ovens do not offer a decent self-cleaning function in our view (microwaves can’t use pyrolytic cleaning because of the linings used).

Professional caterers also like visiting domestic homes which use Electrolux Grand Cuisine appliances because they are suitable for larger commercial cooking trays used in the trade, .  This means that visiting chefs can simply place their own trays into your appliances without having to decant their prepared food into smaller receptacles.

 

Blast Chiller

Blast chilling  is a method of cooling food very quickly down to a low temperature which keeps it relatively safe from bacterial growth. The Electrolux Grand Cuisine blast chiller is a fantastic appliance and as far as we know the only blast chiller suitable for domestic use.  Food aside, it can chill ten bottles of wine or champagne in 30 minutes, and it doesn’t produce ice crystals, which means the texture of the food is perfectly preserved, making it particularly excellent for freeze drying fruit such as raspberries.  You can also put hot food straight from the oven into it which is ill advised in a domestic fridge .

 

Blast chiller

 

Blast chillers are  great for preserving flavour, and their speed makes batch cooking and meal preparation much quicker and easier.   The food will taste better too.

One of the other key advantages of the Electrolux Grand Cuisine Blast Chiller is the speed in which you can made desserts (minutes, not hours!).  You can make ice creams and granitas much more quickly than a conventional fridge, and if you are a fan of making pannacotta or  multi-layered ice creams, these are dishes that once would have taken all day but can now be done in minutes.

Combining the blast chiller with the steam oven and vacuum packer is a great combination of products to consider if you are focussed on really healthy and fresh foods.  After cooking a dish from fresh you can seal in the freshness with a vacuum sealer and then blast chill it to preserve it, using the steam oven to re-heat it afterwards.

 

Precision Vacuum Sealer

Vacuum sealing is a relatively new option for domestic cooks and it offers several key benefits.  By removing air from packaging it provides an extended shelf life for freshly cooked food and it ensures no contamination.   It also allows domestic users to cook using the Sous Vide method, a French cooking technique which translates as “under vacuum”.  In this technique, food is vacuum-sealed in a cooking pouch and heated up at a precise temperature in a water bath, offering consistency (because you cook your food to a precise temperature for a precise amount of time, you can expect very consistent results, great taste (food cooks in its own juices), waste reduction (traditionally cooked steak loses up to 40% of its volume due to drying out. Steak cooked via precision cooking, loses none of its volume) and flexibility (there is no worry about overcooking because sous vide cooking brings food to an exact temperature and holds it).

 

Electrolux Grand Cuisine Vacuum Sealer

 

Vacuum Packing is also a great way to store left overs, sauces and stocks which can be sealed and stored without taking up lots of space in the fridge.  It’s also a great way to infuse flavour into food (place some fish, lemon, aromatics into the bag, vaccum it and then steam cook for a great depth of flavour).

 

Gas Hob

The Electrolux Grand Cuisine gas hob’s extremely striking design is not just there for looks.  It’s layout  has been cleverly thought through, allowing cooks to slide pans around between burners, something impossible on most hobs.   The burners themselves produce a unique flower flame burner which adapts to any size of pan to give a more consistent temperature.  They are also very powerful, making them great for wok cooking and flash frying.  The very adjustable flame control also means that when they are all on full (admittedly an unlikely event!) they don’t drop temperature.

 

The Electrolux Grand Cuisine gas hob

 

 

Surround Induction Zone

The genius of this induction is that its shape evenly disperses heat around a round bottomed pan, helping  prevent ingredients from burning.  This makes it particularly good for stir frying which Electrolux say can be done using less oil.  The round based pan can also be used for boiling, searing, steaming and deep frying, not all tasks that we would be comfortable doing in a flat bottomed pan.

 

Electrolux Grand Cuisine range - Surround induction zone

 

 

Sear Hob

The sear hob is a less innovative item in our view; there’s not much innovation to add to the act of searing, although we’re sure someone in the Electrolux Grand Cuisine marketing team will beg to differ!  Searing locks in flavour by sealing the surface which stops juices escaping, making it excellent for steaks and scallops.  This particular appliance does boast a fast heat-up time, and a polished chrome surface heats up evenly across its width.

 

Electrolux Grand Cuisine range - Sear hob

 

Considerations

This is commercial kitchen equipment re-designed for the domestic market, so it is important to give careful consideration to each items technical requirements which are likely to be very different to standard appliances (the steam oven requires cold water feed, waste pipe and external ventilation and the induction hob requires greater electrical requirement than standard induction hob and will need a cold air in and warm air exhaust.).  Do seek advice from your designer to check if it’s possible to use.

Please do call Andrew or Ben on 01934 745270 or email newprojects@artichoke-ltd.com if you’d like to discuss our experience with the Electrolux Grand Cuisine Range.  Alternatively you can request a copy of our brochure here.

 

Blog update:  As of December 2018 we understand that Electrolux are no longer supplying their products into the residential market.

Why Traditional Kitchen Design Needs Specialists

Traditional kitchen design and period architectural joinery design is a wonderful and highly skilled discipline.  It is also a minefield.  In the wrong hands it can produce lacklustre and uninspiring results. For important country houses and significant domestic projects, traditional and classical design is not something you can simply ‘have a go at’.   Naive is the client that hands responsibility for designing complex period joinery and traditional kitchen design detail over to a designer that doesn’t understand joinery construction or moulding detail or the rules and pitfalls of classical design detail, scale, proportion, joints and shadow.

 

french style dresser
The rounded shoulders on the elegant glazed doors of this Artichoke designed kitchen dresser make it completely unique and give it a Flemish feel.

In most cases, Artichoke is commissioned to design traditional bespoke kitchens and architectural joinery directly by the homeowner.  In rare cases however, we are presented with design work that has previously been undertaken by a third party for us to develop before making.  What is usually designed is not necessarily wrong, but in every case the joinery or kitchen design is restrained by its original designers’ lack of knowledge and understanding of classical and traditional furniture detailing. It is therefore not as good as it could be, and the glories and elegance of traditional design detail are usually not deployed.  The paying client is the loser.  Artichoke’s creative designers inevitably have to re-design it, which means the client pays twice for the design.  A lot of time is also wasted.

 

Moulding on a fireplace surround
Classical detail designed by Artichoke into a country house library in Cheshire.

Over the last 15 years or so we have witnessed a marked reduction in the number of designers capable of designing really successful traditional kitchen interiors and period detailed architectural joinery. There are a number of reasons for this in our view.

 

Contemporary Projects are seen as more exciting

Firstly, London has become the largest interior design market on earth, a boom that has been responsible for a welcome influx in young and enthusiastic interior designers choosing it as a career. Naturally, young people prefer to focus their attentions on pushing the boundaries of contemporary design as opposed to focusing on past styles where the boundaries have already been pushed and are now, in their minds, largely encased in aspic.  Young designers are either not interested in traditional design, or they are confused by it.

Further compounding the issue is that because contemporary joinery is quicker to design and make, it’s therefore more commercial.   The fact that contemporary design, by it’s very nature, goes out of fashion quite quickly is neither here nor there to designers putting profit first.

 

A Georgian kitchen design and island
Not cool in some quarters.  Artichoke designed the interior architecture and traditional kitchen to sit elegantly into this Georgian home.
Traditional Design scares some designers

Secondly, many designers find it is easier to design contemporary work (with flat doors and no handles) than to design traditional work (with framed and raised and fielded panelled doors with differing widths of rails, lock rails and styles, butt hinges, moulding types, aris moulds, panel depths, interactions with other mouldings, cock-beads, knobs, shadows and so on).  With traditional kitchen design and architectural joinery, there is much more detail and it is easier to trip up.  As a consequence, traditional detail scares many designers who tend to avoid tackling it, preferring to retract to a comfort zone of safety by drawing flat doors with finishes on and letting their joinery shop develop their designs further.

This approach sets off a dangerous chain reaction.  Most joinery companies do not offer an experienced creative front end design, let alone any with a skill in classical detailing.  It’s a bit like asking your builder to detail the architecture.   Most joinery shop business models rely on moving pre-designed projects through their workshop with minimal overhead, and usually a good draughtsman with no link to the end user or with any creative training is deployed to create the finished drawings.  With no creative skin in the game or emotional connection to the client or house, this often results in underwhelming designs inspired from poorly detailed originals.

 

Classical detail is not on the syllabus

Thirdly, designers, particularly interior designers, are simply not being trained to design traditional joinery, and most don’t have the experience.   Interior design courses (such as the KLC Diploma and BA (Hons)) have to cover huge subject areas and they simply cannot afford to specialise on the specifics of traditional joinery.  So they don’t offer it.  To design something well you really need to know how to make it first, and furniture making is sadly not covered in their syllabus either.  It’s too big and too specialist a subject.

 

Classical door sets designed by Artichoke’s design team for a private client.

Artichoke’s value is in our years of experience in  bespoke kitchen and joinery design; these skills have been learned through 25 years, day in day out, designing, making and fitting work into country houses, making mistakes and learning from them.   A recent Country Life Magazine article about us put it well, describing us as bridging the design void that exists between architects, interior designers and specialist joiners.

Private clients who really value their houses want design which sits comfortably in its surroundings, and they commission us because they want their joinery designed by an engaged specialist with experience in the subject.   With 25 years of experience designing the kitchens and domestic joinery for some of Britain’s finest country houses, we think we’ve more experience than most in understanding what works creatively and how to deliver it through design.

It’s a tremendously exciting and humbling position to be in.

 

Kitchen Design Inspired by Lanhydrock

There are many Victorian kitchen designs which have inspired Artichoke projects over the last 25 years, but few really hit the mark as soundly as the National Trust’s Lanhydrock house kitchen.   It is, in our view, one of the finest examples of Victorian back of house interior design and architecture in Britain.

 

The main kitchen at Lanhydrock house
Beautifully lit by natural light; the main kitchen at Lanhydrock house.

Originally Jacobean, the house was damaged by fire in 1881 and it was given an extensive restoration in the high Victorian style.  With the UK buoyed by the successes of the industrial revolution, the newly restored magnificent country house kitchen was updated with the very latest equipment and technology for staff to cook food for the owners, their guests and other staff.

The Artichoke kitchen design team has been quietly obsessed with Lanhydrock for many years.  When the opportunity arose to share our passion and interest with a client, we jumped at it, travelling down to Cornwall with him to help explain why we felt we should take inspiration from it for his bespoke kitchen design.  Our initial visit was about capturing some of the detail which makes this kitchen so special.

 

Cast iron ovens at Lanhydrock House kitchens
The huge cast iron oven forms the centrepiece of the Victorian kitchen design.  Note the recess in the background, framed with a cast iron mould
Artichokes Victorian Kitchen Designs

Much of Artichoke’s work involves designing kitchens with aesthetic links to the past.  More often than not this is because we are designing kitchens into period buildings where some link to the past is a sensitive and pragmatic way to ensure the kitchen design has longevity, does not date and sits comfortably within its architectural surroundings.  At the same time, we try not to let the past constrain us.  After all, we are designing kitchens and spaces which need to be used for modern living.

In this particular Victorian kitchen design project for a country house in Hampshire, we have been more exacting than we might usually be.  Surveys were taken of moulds and copies of the Victorian handles have been made using the same lost wax cast brass method used at the time of Lanhydrock’s restoration.

 

Render of Artichoke's bespoke kitchen design
Render of Artichoke’s bespoke kitchen design.

 

plate rack in Victorian kitchen design
Render of Artichoke’s bespoke kitchen design.

The plate rack Artichoke has designed above the brass sink is decorative and will be used to both store plates as well as dry them.  Each plate rack has a bespoke pewter drip-tray base.  The main sink is made from solid brass. During the late 1800’s Victorian kitchen designs often features metal sinks, usually made from copper or nickel alloy, a corrosion-resistant and robust lightweight material capable of standing up to the rigors of a large country house kitchen environment.

 

copper sink in the bakery
The copper sink in Lanhydrock’s bakery. The walls were painted blue as it was considered the colour least attractive to flies.
The Range Oven

A large cast iron range almost always formed the centrepiece to many Victorian kitchens.  Artichoke works regularly with Officine Gullo, a modern Italian company specialising in the design and manufacture of incredibly hard wearing cast iron kitchen ranges.  The ovens are known for their build quality and distinctive period character; they fit well into many of the country house projects Artichoke designs kitchens for.

This particular oven top features a pasta cooker, four large gas burners, a French plate (used typically for sauces) and put down.  A pot filler has been integrated into the back.

 

Officine Gullo coup de feu top
The heavy gauge cast iron Coup de Feu or French plate is an essential piece of kit in professional kitchens.
Casting the frame mould

The original moulding which surrounds the recess on Lanhydrock’s kitchen is made from cast iron, which Artichoke has replicated for this bespoke kitchen

 

Officine Gullo range oven in Victorian kitchen

 

The moulding is being cast by a foundry in Somerset and is a highly involved process.  Starting with the mould frame pattern (made from timber), a reverse sand mould is made into specialist casting sand along with tapered edges to ensure it can be removed (similar to the reason children’s beach buckets have tapers on).  Poured molten pig iron is then poured into the mould and left to solidify and cool for 24 hours before it is then shot blasted and fettled.  The finished mould will be very dark grey in its natural state.

 

Cast iron moulds

 

Cooling in the original Kitchen

Domestic fridges were not invented until 1913, and until that point, a host of relatively creative methods were deployed to keep food cool in large country houses.

 

Cold water feed in a cast iron trench system with marble and slate

 

The method above, as seen in Lanhydrock’s dairy, is one such example and not one we’ve seen anywhere else.  A cold water feed distributed water (from the hills above the house) around a cast iron trench system to keep dairy products cool.  The dairy room uses both marble and slate to keep the dairy products and desserts cool. However, more modern cooling methods were decided upon for this Victorian kitchen design with a Sub Zero refrigerator being integrated into the wall next to the cast iron range oven.

 

Victorian Pull Handles

During Artichoke’s numerous visits to Lanhydrock, we surveyed the handles on the cook’s table which we will be copying using the traditional method of casting them in brass.

 

Brass pull handle for kitchen
Stage 1:  Surveying one of the original kitchen handles from Lanhydrock.

 

Technical drawing in preparation for creating a mould for a new handle
Stage 2: Artichoke technically draws and details the handle in preparation for creating a mould for the brass team.

 

Scale version of the Lanhydrock handles in timber 
Stage 3: Artichoke makes a 1:1 scale version of the Lanhydrock handles in timber for the casting team to then use as a model

 

 

Completed copies of the new handle design
Stage 4: The completed copies, ready for client approval
Technically detailing the Cooks Table

Because Artichoke only designs one off projects, each is unique, so it is imperative to ensure the cabinet-making team is given the clearest possible information to make from.  To do this we design each component part using a specialist 3D technical drawing package.  This modern version of what used to be called ROD drawings allows us to provide our team with detailed drawings of incredible clarity, meaning that regardless of whether this is the first time the furniture has been made, they know exactly what to make it and how.

 

Technical drawings of a kitchen island

 

Cabinet maker making an island
Artichoke cabinet-maker Arthur making the Cook’s kitchen table.
Assembling the Kitchen

An important element of Artichoke’s cabinet-making work is the assembly phase.  It is the first time we get to see the kitchen come together.  The assembly phase allows us to fit the appliances, cut in the butt hinges and shoot in the doors and drawer fronts into their frames (“shooting in” where a cabinet makers uses a well sharpened plane to dimension a component to exactly the correct size.  Because all of our kitchens are bespoke, we are making each project for the first time, and doing this work on our premises means that we can avoid undertaking it at our clients homes, making the final installation more efficient.

Once the fully assembled kitchen has been signed off by our Production Manager, it is disassembled and prepared for finishing.

 

kitchen island table
Cook’s table island with wrought iron tie bars and visible joints.
Large plate rack
The kitchen’s large plate rack, ready for the sink and surfaces.
Close up image of how the frame of the Cook’s Table is jointed into the top of the turned leg
A close up of how the frame of the Cook’s Table is jointed into the top of the turned leg. The hole allows us to pass electricity cables through it.

 

 

The project is ongoing and will be added to as the project progresses.  For further information, contact Artichoke on 01934 745270 or email newprojects@artichoke.co.uk

A Welcome Return to Classicism

Every 15 years or so I become fashionable.  My worn jeans and faded blue shirt ensemble becomes the look for that season, and for a brief moment, I’m on trend. The downside is that I live in Somerset, so when everyone’s realised what the trend is here, everyone in London’s wearing something else.

As a company, Artichoke also avoids trends.  Our kitchen designs are naturally classical. As designers of bespoke kitchens, libraries and principle rooms, we like the elegance that classical order, balance and harmony produces, and as fine cabinet-makers it suits us too.  Classical design is steeped in tradition, and we enjoy making furniture in the traditional way, using hardwood that’s joined together with mortice and tenons, mason’s mitres and halving joints. It’s a tried and tested formula.

 

 

Around 12 years ago we began to notice a significant shift in furniture and room style, particularly among the super-prime homeowner in London.  These buyers typically came from countries such as Russia and India where they mostly hid their wealth.   Arrival on the safer streets of London gave these wealthy incomers a new found freedom to become more ostentatious, and overt displays of wealth through interior design became a popular route for those wanting to make a mark on their newly acquired English home.

The consequences were often terrifying.  Suddenly clients begun to request furniture made from metal effect spray coated panelling and Swarovski crystal covered shoe shaped baths.   Interior design became a heady mixture of luxury hotel interiors crossed with theatre.  Design became depressingly temporary.

 

Swarovski crystal covered shoe shaped bath

 

These bouts of interior design bling one-upmanship became more and more extravagant, many in the quest for elegance. In many cases, it failed horrifically.

More recently however we’ve noticed a welcome renaissance, with more discerning clients beginning to understand that elegant design is actually best achieved through gentility and restraint. An introduction to the English countryside, its pursuits and architecture has also managed to educate some buyers to the more muted ways of successful English classical furniture and interior design.

Wealthy buyers are now beginning to understand that quality English interior design and architecture is about style, grace, understated beauty, and above all, permanence. They are beginning to realise that it does not pay to be on-trend with interiors. Libraries, kitchens and dressing rooms cannot be replaced every time a new fashion emerges.

Our clients homes are too important to be treated simply as temporary or artificial stage sets with shelf lives, and the furniture design work we undertake here at Artichoke needs to have this air of permanence before it can be presented to the client. For joinery and fitted furniture to truly deliver an air of permanence, it needs to look comfortable and natural in its surroundings.

 

Restrained elegance is a subtle way of saying so much more

There are many ways of introducing permanence into design, but one sure fire method is to deploy classically inspired design treatments, mouldings, shapes, balance and proportion. When executed well it delivers breathtaking glamour that far outstrips anything that a bronze and crystal adorned flat door panel will ever deliver in its short lifetime.

What wealthy buyers have begun to understand it appears, is that less is more. Or to quote the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, “I don’t want to be interesting. I want to be good.”

Original & Elegant Georgian Kitchen Design

When a child under the age of ten is asked to draw a house, it is typically a Georgian house, with a door in the middle and sash windows to the side.  Everyone loves Georgian architecture.  There is something about its proportions, its materials and its grandeur that makes it appealing to all of us, and the same applies to elegant Georgian kitchen design.

 

A Georgian kitchen designed and made by us for a Georgian house in Cheshire

Georgian kitchen design as we think of it today is a little misleading.  In the 1700s, most kitchens on the great houses of Britain were often positioned in a wing or subsidiary building.  This was to keep cooking and curing smells away from the main house.  Original Georgian kitchens were in fact quite devoid of furniture and any sense of intentional interior design.  Their focus was more on the appliances such as cooking grates, spits and ovens.  There may have been a cook’s table and a dresser to store pots in, but that was as flamboyant as most got.

 

Georgian kitchen design islands
Artichoke created this Georgian kitchen design for a Dorset country house built originally in the early 1700s.

 

Aga oven under stone chimney
Artichoke designed the mouldings on the stone over mantle to match the scale of the room. .
From back of house to front – How the Georgian Kitchen gained prominence

Owners of grand houses did not like to spend money on their back of house spaces and consequently most original Georgian kitchen designs were kept pared back and understated.  As the industrial revolution began to take hold, a burgeoning middle class began to appear and servants left their roles serving the upper and middle classes to take jobs in factories.  Servant’s wages began to rise to a point where hiring them became unsustainable for country estates, and as a consequence, the lady of the house became more involved in the kitchen.  This marked the turning point in kitchen design.  Home owners did not want to spend their day in the dingy spaces that their predecessors’ staff had had to endure, and as a result, back of house kitchens manned by maids were userped by front of house kitchens manned by their owners.   And with the Georgian kitchen’s new prominent location within the home came a sharper focus on interiors and kitchen furniture design.

 

Georgian kitchen by Artichoke
This Artichoke designed kitchen used the Georgian cook’s kitchen as its centrepiece.

 

Shelves in a Georgian kitchen design
Simple glazed storage for glassware.

 

Georgian Kitchen Design for Grander Houses

When kitchens were back of house, their detail was kept to a minimum for a number of reasons.  Detail costs money, and detail takes time to clean.  The door frames were therefore typically square and the cabinets were usually devoid of mouldings and decoration.

When kitchens were moved to the ground floor of the main house, the  rooms were larger, as were the budgets.  The scale and proportion of these larger spaces also allowed for greater decoration and moulding to match the spaces they were in.  Typical kitchen tasks, previously divided in separate smaller basement rooms such as scullery, pantry, larder and cooking were now amalgamated into a single larger space.  The Georgian kitchen had become and multi functional space.

 

Grand Georgian country house kitchen
This grand Georgian kitchen was designed by the architect Craig Hamilton and made by Artichoke. It illustrates how a larger room can take more detail.

 

Georgian kitchen design
Greek classical mouldings were used in the design of this kitchen.

 

Georgian kitchen detail
The columns on the kitchen island reflect detail elsewhere on the façade of the Georgian building.

 

For further information about Georgian kitchen design and Artichoke’s bespoke kitchen design services, email newprojects@artichoke.co.uk or call +44 1943 745 270