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















Podcast Interview with Our Creative Director

Million Dollar Decorating

Bruce Hodgson is Founder and Creative Director of Artichoke. Artichoke is known for designing beautiful bespoke furniture, and architectural joinery for English country houses.

Established in 1993, Artichoke has worked hard to secure a high reputation among clients, and within the British design world. The company is renowned for its meticulous attention to detail and an un-compromising approach to quality.

In particular the company has gained a reputation for designing elegant family kitchens for country homes, and well considered back of house joinery such as Butler’s pantries, boot rooms and sculleries. Bruce and his team draw upon their extensive knowledge, and vast database of classical and period detail to produce truly exceptional designs. Bruce is passionate about his work and he and his team take huge pride in their ability to really understand how their clients live and use the spaces being designed.

All of Bruce’s designs are made in Artichoke’s own workshops in Somerset, England.

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

Click here to listen to the podcast

Total Control Electric Aga Review

As designers of bespoke kitchens in private country houses, naturally we see our fair share of Aga’s. Over the past 25 years, Artichoke has specified and installed all types of Aga to clients, and much of the team even have one at home.

Although we have no commercial affiliation with Aga, we thought it would be sensible to write an Electric Aga Review. In this review we will look at how Aga’s have changed and weigh up the pros and cons of the newer electric models.


Electric Total Control Aga in country house kitchen
Electric Aga in an Artichoke kitchen in Oxfordshire

Many of Artichoke’s clients are familiar with Aga’s and even had one in their kitchen growing up (usually oil fired). Those who did are familiar with the core differences between Aga cooking, and more conventional cooking in ovens and hobs.

The biggest change to Aga in recent years, has been the introduction of an electric powered heat source.


Electric Aga Review – Aga Heat Source

Conventional oil and gas fired Aga’s have a naked flame that heats a central fire brick. This fire brick then distributes heat throughout the surrounding ovens, hot plates and robust cast iron frame. One of the biggest advantages of an electric Aga, is that there is no naked flame. Both the Total Control and Dual Control Aga use an electric element to heat the fire brick instead – amazingly, all of the heat is generated from a standard 13 amp supply. This is much cleaner and substantially reduces the number of times the Aga needs to be serviced. To make a comparison, oil fired Aga’s needs servicing twice a year, a gas fired one once a year, and an electric Aga once every 2.5 years.

Interestingly, our contacts at Aga Cirencester have suggested that it is worth considering gas over electric if there is a natural gas supply to your house.

Electric Aga installed in bespoke Kitchen in Cheshire


19 September 2018:  A reader of this post (Liz H) got in contact with us to add that she felt her electric Aga loses its heat more quickly than the oil fired Aga’s she has had before.  She also suggested that the electric Aga she owns takes much longer to get back up to normal heat. This may be something to consider if your family does the majority of its cooking with an Aga.  Given that Liz has always had Aga’s, her points are well worth listening to.


Electric Aga Review – Aga Flueing

Electric Aga’s have no need to install complex flue systems to remove dangerous fumes. The only flue required is a smaller one for extracting cooking smells away from the ovens.  These smaller flues can exit the building in more convenient ways, giving the electric Aga a major advantage from both a construction and location point of view. The appliance is easier to install and more flexible to position within the design of a kitchen.  It is also easier to install in urban locations, particularly apartment blocks, where flueing is often a lot more complex.  The relatively new electric Aga City 60 has been designed specifically for these environments.


Oil fired Aga
An oil fired Aga installed in an Artichoke designed kitchen in Dorset.
Electric Aga Review – Aga Controls

Having controls on an Aga will be an alien concept to many people. Without a naked flame that needs relighting (a tricky task with oil and gas fired Aga’s), the electric Aga can be turned on and off at the flick of a switch. Additionally, they are excellent for seasonal cooking or for properties only inhabited occasionally, as each individual oven and hotplate can be operated independently.

The Auto function allows you to automatically pre-set the time the ovens come on. This would be very useful for those who work during the day and only use the ovens in the evening for instance. Although, this feature does not work for the Aga hotplates.


Aga Total Control Pad
Control Pad for Aga Total Control

The extra control provided by electricity means the ovens can operate at slightly cooler temperatures. As a result, Aga have been able to add an additional oven to their 5 oven model. The ‘slow cooking’ oven is excellent for cooking things like stock, steamed puddings, casseroles, or a leg of lamb.


Electric Aga Review Conclusion

The wonderful constant heat source and delicious moist food, are benefits of all Aga’s, regardless of how they are powered. The additional benefits of an Electric Aga over its fossil fuelled counterparts make it a highly attractive option.


  • Greatly reduced number of service calls
  • Reduced cost of servicing
  • Greener option that its fossil fuel burning counterparts
  • More flexible to position
  • Additional slow cooking oven (5 door Aga only)
  • Easier to control; operates like a conventional oven


  • More expensive to purchase (although Aga will argue that over time they are cheaper)
  • Potential increased heat loss when compared to the oil fired Aga, and slower to get back up to heat
  • Gas Aga’s are considered cheaper to run but they do not have the convenient benefits and product control of electric

In short, it was inevitable that Aga would move with the times and introduce an electric powered Aga. While they have had one out for some time, we feel this is the first time they have cracked it.  Apart from minor grumblings about lower quality of the cast iron (which may or may not be true!), we have heard nothing but good things about the electric Aga from clients we have specified and installed them for.


Please call Andrew or Ben on 01934 745270 or email newprojects@artichoke-ltd.com if you’d like to discuss our experience with the Aga Total Control range.  Alternatively you can request a copy of our brochure here.





Jacobean Country House Kitchen & Pantry

Every so often, a kitchen space is presented to our design team that requires particularly specialist attention.  In this case, a beautiful Grade II* listed Jacobean hall situated near the Peak District National Park.



The house sits beautifully in walled gardens with a perfectly symmetrical Georgian facade and wonderful views over rolling valleys and farmland.  The kitchen space is large (approximately 8×7 metres) which for designers presents a challenge. Often large kitchen spaces are more difficult to design into.  Added to this, the room is an unusual shape (not unexpected given the age of the house), but a challenge nonetheless. Further complications arise from various beams and supporting structure which require further investigation and structural engineering advice.

Artichoke was commissioned to undertake detailed kitchen design work on the back of our extensive 25 years experience designing into country houses.  Our brief was to design a kitchen space which worked for a modern family but which was also sensitive to the architecture of the listed Jacobean interior.

Following a number of visits and investigative work by Artichoke’s team, an idea began to formulate.  This  involved taking advantage of the existing beams and supports to divide the kitchen up using a combination of both architectural joinery and furniture. This is not an entirely new idea; it was extensively used by the architects of grand country houses to divide up parts of the domestic back ends of their servant’s kitchen and utility spaces.


Kitchen design and development

Artichoke’s 3D visuals show how architectural joinery has been introduced to the kitchen to divide the space up.  The joinery elements feature solid brass glazed framed windows to ensure light floods the room.  These windows are to be made from solid brass and are moulded.  They open on pivot hinges, secured with brass ball catches embedded into the oak frames.




The glass shelves within the interior hand painted furniture elements feature turned brass gallery rails supported on brass posts.  The large central island is hand painted, with the colour taken directly from the main kitchen at Tyntesfield Abbey. The batterie de cuisine over the island will be in blackened steel, and the chopping block will feature brass straps (not steel as shown).


View of island


Brass detail development

The image below shows one of the unwelded frames machined from solid brass.  The glass we are setting within the frame will be restoration glass which has slight imperfections which refract light, making it well suited to match ‘old fashioned’ windows throughout the rest of the building.


brass window frame


Close up detail showing the turned brass gallery rails mounted onto the glass shelves.




Sink and Taps

A heavyweight solid brass sink has been designed into the scullery to match detailing throughout the rest of the room.




We have chosen to use the fantastic Regulator tap from Waterworks in unlacquered brass to ensure it ages.

Brass Waterworks Regulator tap


Artichoke has specified these lovely simple wall lights (in antique brass) with clear reeded glass shades.




Update: 7th October 2016

A welded sample for the solid brass windows with an aged patina.  Each window is calculated to be around 12kg (with glass), with double windows being around 20kg.  This will affect how the joinery into which they are set is re-inforced.


Aged brass window fame for kitchen


detail of brass window frame for kitchen



14 November 2016:  Ongoing project.  Further updates soon!

More Case Studies of Artichoke’s work can be viewed by visiting our Profile page.

The Birth of Modern Kitchen Design

In order to design kitchens of the future, it helps to understand kitchen design of the past.  By doing so, we believe we can help clients with large country houses understand how their houses were initially intended to be used, and in doing so, how we can improve how they are used in the future.   The Artichoke team pays particularly close attention to how country houses were originally intended to operate, and how changing socio-economic environments have affected this use over time.  There have been huge cultural changes over the last 150 years.

It was not until the mid 19th century that kitchen design became of interest to house owners.  Prior to that, the owners of large country houses were simply not interested in their kitchens or how they were designed.  The rooms were out of site, often in the basement or away from the main body of the house.   They were therefore out of mind, run by the cook, the servants and the housekeeper, and the closest they got to interior design was choosing the paint colour.


The Kitchen at Tyntesfield, North Somerset

In the 1860s, changes in social attitudes began to alter the social hierarchy of the country.  Before this, the Lady of the grander country house would plan her weekly meals with her cook.  With the industrial revolution creating more jobs in factories, and an establishing rail network allowing easier movement, a burgeoning middle class began to appear.  Servants positions became less interesting to the ambitious jobseeker.  This turn of events was very well documented in the BBC’s series Downton Abbey.

The growth of the middle classes (who could afford fewer servants and smaller houses), meant an increasing number of women found themselves in the kitchen.   Originally they made bread and trained their staff, but more increasingly they found themselves working alongside the kitchen staff they employed.  It was inevitable that improvements to cleanliness, comfort and kitchen interior design would soon follow.  This was emphasised by influential cookery writers of the age such as Mrs. Beeton who capitalised on the countries’ new found love for kitchen design and kitchen living.


Image of a green kitchen island
Shows Artichoke’s design for a Jacobean house in which we have taken inspiration from the kitchen at Tyntesfield Abbey.

The improved kitchen interior was further fuelled by the introduction of mains water, gas and plumbed in sinks and boilers during the 1870s.  The Victorian kitchen was now becoming a more pleasant place to spend the day.

Fast forward to present day, and it is estimated that the British spend over an hour and a half a day cooking which for many represents 3 years over the average life.  It’s small wonder then that we place so much value on good kitchen design.

For more information on our bespoke kitchen design service please click here.  Contact us on 01934 745270 or email newprojects@artichoke.co.uk if you have a design project you would like to discuss.


Officine Gullo Ranges Review

As bespoke designers, we will always give our clients the independence to decide which kitchen appliances to invest in. Consequently we do not have any brand affiliations or partnerships.  We do however have an opinion on what products and brands have merit. This month we are going to discuss Italian range and kitchen accessories brand, Officine Gullo.


Detail from the origional design that inspired Officine Gullo

The company started in earnest in 1990 when Carmelo Gullo purchased an old range oven made in the early 1800s by the Massetani workshop in Florence. This gave the company the perfect heritage platform from which to build the company.


Officine Gullo range oven in Victorian kitchen
An Officine Gullo range oven in an Artichoke designed Victorian kitchen
Officine Gullo Ranges

The first thing you notice when you see one of Officine Gullo’s ranges is their distinctive and robust period styling.  These are ranges that have been made for heavy use, and they look great in a country house or period setting which is were Artichoke spends much of its time designing kitchens.  With a pedigree in making professional kitchen equipment, these are cooking ranges that will see off almost all the rigours of the domestic environment with relative ease.


P70 by Officine Gullo
Bought up to date: Officine Gullo’s custom 700mm deep ranges built to satisfy the requirements of master chefs and the most demanding home cooks

The frames are created from 3mm heavy gauge solid stainless steel plate with solid brass detailing.  The high performance gas burners (see below) are solid brass which sit on chrome cast iron (the burners can be engraved personally if you want).  The griddles are made from cast iron and the ovens and trays from scratch resistant stainless steel.  Make no mistake about it.  These machines (that’s what they are referred to internally at Officine Gullo’s Florence HQ) are built well enough for Michelin star restaurants or busy country house kitchens.

The burners form an important part of the Officine Gullo product.  As well as their solidity, they are equipped with automatic flame stabilisers and safetly valves.


sold brass gas burner by officine gullo
Solid brass gas burner

It is the solidity of these appliances which is most impressive, and their looks are supported by the quality of their finishes which come in burnished or polished brass, polished or satin chrome, polished or satin nickel, or gold.  In addition to that, designers can choose from 212 colours or even colour match to to any RAL.


officine gulo
Solid brass detailing

The ranges are available in any width above 1 metre and in depths of either 600mm or 700mm.  There are also over 30 different range top options available for the cook tops in both gas and electric versions.  The variety of options is impressive, including steamers, a lava stone barbecue, a heavy gauge cast iron coup de feu (an essential cooking appliance in professional kitchen), an induction cooktop, a deep fryer, a professional pasta cooker (which takes 40 litres of water) and a professional non stick fry top for cooking meat, fish or vegetables (with mirror finish to help cleaning).  The electric or gas stainless steel ovens have a capacity of up to 200 litres, which is plenty for domestic cooking use.


Officine Gullo Sinks and Accessories

With such distinctive styling it comes as no surprise that Officine Gullo has developed a number of accessories to compliment their products.  The ranges are impressive and Artichoke has used the sinks below for its kitchen designs on numerous occasions including in this bespoke kitchen design for a country house. They are well made, incredibly sturdy and look particularly good in a period kitchen setting.


Copper Officine Gullo sink with brass detailing


Officine Gullo copperware.
Officine Gullo copperware. Copper has higher thermal conductivity than stainless steel, making it excellent for cooking


Bronze officine gullo tap
Officine Gullo tap with brushed bronzed brass finish

In conclusion, Officine Gullo has its place.  It has a certain specific renaissance style which will suite certain kitchens better than others.  It certainly compliment’s Artichoke’s kitchen designs which are more classical in nature and the equipment is as robust as you will find anywhere.  It is hard to fault in the right setting and the company’s commitment to quality reaches our standards.


Discussions regarding other appliances manufacturers Artichoke works with can be found here.   To discuss our experience with Officine Gullo, contact Artichoke on +44 (0)1934 745270 or contact us.


The Pros and Cons of Marble Kitchen Worktops

carrara marble for country house


In recent years, marble has become a popular kitchen work surface, but its efficacy continues to cause debate and confusion.

A recent blog post about our general views on which kitchen worktop stones perform best touched on the pros and cons of each material, but we feel that special attention should now be given to marble due it its increasing popularity but remaining mystique.


What is Marble?

Without going too far down the geology path, it  is essentially a crystaline form of limestone. The whiter it is, the purer the limestone from which it was formed. It’s whiteness, combined with its relative softness, makes it the perfect material to carve with. It’s worth noting that not all marbles are white.

In our experience designing bespoke kitchens, clients choose marble for three key positive reasons; great cooking performance, great looks and great feel. Despite the positives, it’s not all plain sailing, and like every kitchen worktop material, there are pros and cons to using it.


marble sink
A solid marble sink designed by Artichoke in a country house project in Gloucestershire.

Marble is widely accessible and comes at many different price points to suit most budgets. Marble and stone price is sensitive to global markets and can fluctuate heavily depending on demand. Statuary marble, Thassos and Calacatta Oro are particularly beautiful examples that are currently highly prized and thus command high prices.  Carrara marble is much more common and commands lower prices.  Pizza Express use Carrara marble for their tables which as you can imagine undergo significant strain and wear.

Because it is formed from limestone, itself a porous rock, marble too is porous; more so in fact than granite.  This porosity makes it a poor conductor of heat, giving it one of its major and unique strengths; its ability to keep cool.  This makes marble superb for working pastry, and for Artichoke clients who commission us to make kitchens that perform as well as they look, marble is a serious consideration.  Typically, a marble work surface will be 4 degrees cooler than the ambient temperature of the room.

Marble is generally considered the most beautiful of the accessible stones used for kitchen work-surfaces.  There is an elegance and understated beauty in marble that the brashness of granite cannot compete with.  It can be striking without appearing vulgar, which as anyone interested in fashion will know, is a trick that’s hard to pull off.  Over time, it will also create its own unique patina which many (including us) see as a pro.

Due to it’s poor heat conduction, marble is cool to the touch.  There will be a subconscious reaction to this in the main, but it is an important attribute, particularly during Summer months. It also has a softness to the touch which is hard to explain.


kitchen island worktop
Antiqued Carrara marble was used as the main work surface for this kitchen project in Italy

Some of the most striking marbles can also be extremely expensive. Thassos, which comes from the island of Thassos in Greece, is pure brilliant white with no blemishes and with a stunning translucency that makes it look like cast sugar. Calacatta Oro is another highly prized example with a milky white background and gold veining.

Open pores in marble make it prone to staining.  There is no product available that will stop this, but there are products such as Lithofin, that will render the surface oil and water resistant while slowing down the rate at which liquids like red wine can seep into the surfaces. Acidic liquids will attack the surface of marble and they must be wiped off the surface immediately.

The images below show what can happen to Calacatta Oro if red wine and chilli sauce are left on untreated marble for 15 minutes.


red wine stain on calacatta oro
Red wine stain on Calacatta Oro


Chilli sauce stain on Calacatta Oro
Chilli sauce stain on Calacatta Oro

It is worth noting that marble is also known for working out some stains, which pass through the pores in capillary action.

Marble is softer than granite and it will scratch and wear.  This is also part of its charm.  The surface will wear particularly in areas that are stood at for longer, such as at the sink.  The edge may become duller and you may find that belt buckles or jean rivets will rub against the surface causing further scratches.

If you want your kitchen stone to look pin new in 5 years, maybe you should consider an alternative.  Many clients are willing to oversee this fault because of it’s beauty.


Bookmatched mable
A book matched statuary marble island in an Artichoke kitchen in Somerset.


Protecting Marble

All marble kitchens surfaces which Artichoke install are pre-sealed when fitted, usually with Lithofin. There is no product, to our knowledge, that seals marble completely and as discussed earlier, spillages should be wiped up immediately.

Cleaning Marble

Cleaning for most marble surfaces is best done using warm soapy water and a soft cloth. A particularly grimy surface may need no more than rigorous cleaning to remove residue. Avoid using abrasive sponges. In order to bring the polish back to its original quality, washing should be followed by buffing dry in order to avoid water marks. Cleaning kits for marble are ordinarily not necessary for granite surfaces but are available if required for marble, slate or limestone. Lithofin also provide products which help clean and polish marble and they can be purchased from https://www.extensive.co.uk/. If you choose to clean your marble surface with products like Fairy Liquid, try and choose one that is alkaline as possible. Lemon scented detergent soaps tend to be more acidic and are likely to attack the surface or marble. Ecover offer some good alkaline detergents.


If you have concerns and would like to discuss your stone choice with us, contact newprojects@artichoke.co.uk or call Andrew or Ben on +44 (0)1934 745270.




How to Design a Boot Room

Artichoke’s design team is fairly obsessed with boot rooms. In fact, the domestic back end of a country house holds a rather geeky fascination for us. While boot rooms (or mud rooms) are hardly glamorous, they do present a variety of interesting design challenges.

The primary function of a boot room is to act as a valve between the outside elements and interior house. It should be a practical, functional room that everyone in the family uses, including the dog! In this blog we will explore some of the main considerations when designing a boot room.


boot room furniture with coats
Bespoke boot room, with plenty of storage, designed by Artichoke
Conceptual Design

It all stars with a conceptual design. In order produce the perfect boot room, its important to fully understand the family for whom it is intended. By getting to know our clients personally we are able to consider every aspect of their day to day life. For example, how many children or animals are there? Are shooting, fishing or riding regular family activities? What kind of sports kit needs to be stored? What sort of hats, and how many coats do they own? Do guns need to be stored? If so, what are the security requirements?…The list of requirements can be almost endless!

Early into the design process we produce a watercolour sketch, like the one below. This gives clients a clear picture of initial ideas and intent for the design.


Bootroom design by Artichoke

Common design oversights

How to deal with mud should be thoroughly thought through, especially if the room is likely to have heavy use. A hard-wearing material for the floor is essential. An obvious choice in a country house would be stone or tile (as seen below). Vinyl floor is another cheaper, very practical alternative.

English weather

In many country houses, boot rooms act as the main back entrance to the house. If this is the case it could be wise to consider an additional smaller entrance to act as a second valve to trap the cold and wind as family members or guests, enter and leave the house.

boot room with coats and hats
A painted surface is worth considering as it can be refreshed. You can see more images of this boot room here.

Consideration should also be given to drainage. Artichoke designed the boot room below with a drain in the centre of the floor meaning mud and dirt could be swept directly into it. An externally mounted tap may be another key feature to think about. Having this outside allows muddy boots or animals to be cleaned off before they enter the house.


Arber Boot room 1317 - View 1
Bespoke Artichoke boot room with central floor drainage.  See completed images of this boot room here.
Function of the sink

If a sink is required we like to make sure its made appropriately for what it will be used for. For example, if it will be used for washing muddy boots or pets it must be large and made of a robust material. Alternatively if its only used for lighter activities such as flower arranging, we must consider the height of the tap to ensure that all tall vases can be filled.


stone boot room sink
A solid stone sink in this Artichoke boot room provides a hard wearing and attractive alternative to stainless steel.




Obsessing over the small details is vital if one is to create boot rooms that work for each families very unique needs. Like much interior design, there are no right or wrong answers, but there is certainly poorly considered design which can be avoided by asking the right questions.

If you have a boot room project you’d like professionally designed, we’d love to discuss it. Email newprojects@artichoke.co.uk or call +44 (0)1934 745270.

Luxury Bespoke Kitchens with Large Islands

During the process of designing a luxury kitchen, Artichoke’s design team will almost always allow for a large kitchen island.

In the 25 years that we have been designing bespoke kitchens for clients, we’ve never designed the same island twice. Islands will usually sit in a commanding position centrally within the kitchen space and they are therefore the first item of furniture that client’s like to focus on during the design process. They have a large impact on a room and are usually the first piece of furniture that visitors see when they enter, so they should be designed with care and attention to detail.

The design direction for a kitchen island depends on a number of key factors. First and foremost, is the kitchen island there to impress or do you want it to have a practical function? When designing the large kitchen island in the image below, attention was primarily focussed on drama. The contemporary bookmatched marble island offsets the regency sash windows perfectly.


Marble kitchen island
A large island in a regency house in Somerset designed by Artichoke in conjunction with interior designer Ilse Crawford.

When pressed with the question of form over function, many clients are tempted to want both, but in our experience asking for both a dramatic and functional island simply serves to dilute both in equal measure; if you can, choose one, and pursue it whole-heartedly.

In the kitchen island below, care was taken to be far more subtle in the design process. This is a working kitchen for a London house, and as such the luxury of drama was over ridden by the need for a large practical island that functions well as a working kitchen space. The drama was introduced over the island with the large batterie-de-cuisine and striking industrial extractor hood behind.


This more practical and subtle island take a more discreet approach.
This more practical and subtle island takes a more discreet approach.

Artichoke regularly designs kitchens for professional and semi professional cooks where function usually takes precedent over form. The large cook’s kitchen island below is one such commission. The worktop is divided in two, with basalt forming the main surface at one end of the island for more heavy duty food preparation such as washing vegetables, peeling, chopping etc, with a softer material, oak, at the other end for baking and pastries. Aesthetically this large kitchen island takes on the feel of an Edwardian Cook’s table.


A kitchen island designed by Artichoke inspired by an Edwardian cook's kitchen.
A kitchen island designed by Artichoke inspired by an Edwardian cook’s kitchen.

Chef's knives are stored in this large kitchen island.


Chef’s knives are stored in this large kitchen island.Occasionally, Artichoke will be asked to include more than one island in the design. In this instance it is first important to consider whether multiple islands are actually needed.  In our experience having more than one island can result in one becoming a dumping ground for daily administration, keys, post and other items not considered essential to a kitchen. However, in some cases two may be the right decision for the space, and the project pictured below is a great example of this. Artichoke designed two kitchen islands to aesthetically complement the over hanging roof lantern; the circle forming the centre of the islands matches the shape of the roof lantern above.  In this case, having two islands also improved the flow of the space and was the preferred option over one large kitchen island for the client to walk around.


The shape of these two islands reflects the roof lantern above.
The shape of these two islands reflects the roof lantern above.

The final option is to create a large kitchen island from a single appliance, as in this kitchen designed by Artichoke for an Art Deco inspired house in London.  This option limits typical uses for a kitchen island as there is often little preparation space, but with the correct appliance, such as a La Cornue in this instance, it can look very striking.


A La Cornue forms the large island at the centre of this Art Deco inspired kitchen.
A La Cornue forms the large island at the centre of this Art Deco inspired kitchen.

Our portfolio contains further images of large kitchen islands.  If you have a design project you’d like to discuss, please call +44 (0)1934 745270.

Softwood in Russian Interior Design

Fans of the BBC’s recent adaptation of War and Peace will not have escaped the incredible Russian interior design in many of the locations.

While the general media has been gushing about the sumptuous gilded rooms seen in buildings such as the spectacular Catherine Palace, one property went largely unnoticed.  I would hesitate to use the word modest to describe Count Rostov’s Dacha (the name for a Russian country retreat), but in comparison to many of the interiors used elsewhere it is indeed modest. The interiors are panelled length ways in rough un-finished timbers and the architectural joinery is made from softwood and un-treated.


Country house from BBC's War and Peace.
The Rostov Dacha in the BBC’s adaptation of War and Peace.

What we find particularly alluring about this building is the use of softwood.  It is of course the obvious building material for a house surrounded by some of the World’s largest coniferous forest, but in modern Britain softwood is often derided as hardwood’s cheaper and less attractive younger sibling.    This prejudice towards softwood is unfair and if you spend as much time in country houses as we do, you begin to understand how important good quality softwood is (and was) to period architecture and buildings. You also begin to understand how beautiful softwood can be when used decoratively.


Architectural joinery made from Yellow Deal.
Architectural joinery made from Yellow Deal.

Softwood was used extensively in the building of country houses, with the premier material being Yellow Deal (Pinus Sylvestris), a species commonly found across northern Britain, Sweden, Norway, North America and Russia.   However it is the Russian sourced Deal which good builders and joiners have always favoured.  The Deal from northern Russia grows slowly in the particularly cold climate, making it dense, stiffer than oak and perfect for the long supporting beams once required to span the wide rooms of large country houses.  In many ways Deal performs like a hardwood and no other tree produces timber so long, straight, stiff and light (with the added advantage of it being disliked by deathwatch beetle!).

These benefits placed Russian Yellow Deal in great demand during the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries and it was used extensively as both a structural material (beams, roof trusses and so on) as well as architectural painted joinery such as skirtings, architraves and doors.  It was also used extensively in fitted joinery for the domestic areas of houses, such as kitchens, sculleries and pantries such as the one below at Tyntesfield.


Room view of the Butler's Pantry at Tyntesfield, North Somerset
Room view of the Butler’s Pantry at Tyntesfield, North Somerset


Original Russian Deal skirting removed from an Artichoke country house project , a Grade II* listed Georgian hall.


Interiors from War & Peace
Unpainted Deal takes on a beautifully mellow and creamy texture over time.

Today it is challenging to buy Deal from Russia, not because it is scarce but because large Russian timber yards are not commercially interested in selling us the comparitively small volumes of high quality knot free boards we need.  Instead we now rely on a source of Yellow Deal from northern Sweden which is of a similar quality and density.

Painting Softwood

As the Rostov’s Dacha shows us, natural and unfinished softwood can look beautiful in the right setting, but good quality softwood produces a strong grain pattern which can be used to great advantage when painted as seen in the Artichoke sample below. Here our finishing team have mixed up a milk paint and applied it to Swedish Deal for a bespoke kitchen project in Oxfordshire.




As designers of bespoke kitchens and interior architectural joinery for country houses and period buildings, a knowledge of materials and where to procure the best of them is really important.  We have a responsibility to get it right for our clients, and in our experience the modern day prejudice directed at softwood stems from a combination of the quality material being offered by poor quality timber merchants and the general population’s diminishing knowledge for craft and timber.  The best quality softwoods are still incredibly versatile when you know what to buy and how to use them and they should not be dismissed.

For more information on our work, particularly bespoke kitchens and architectural joinery, please contact 01934 745270 or email newprojects@artichoke-ltd.com