Wainscot Panelling and Panelled Walls

The History of Panelling

Wainscot Panelling, or Wainscoting, is a style of panelling which developed off the back of early panelling methods.

In it’s first instance, wood panelling was developed as a practicality. It provided insulation and covered up any damp that infiltrated cold stone walls. Yet, it was soon recognised as a decorative technique, adding detail and warmth to a room. In the 13th century, Henry III imported wood from Norway and used it to line rooms at Windsor Castle.  As time went on, decorative panelling turned into a fine art.

Linen-fold panelling was a decorated and embellished style that became popular in the 15th century.  Boiserie panelling, which is ornate and intricately carved, became favored in French interior design in the late 17th century. This type of panelling lined walls, doors, cupboards and shelves and great examples of this style can be found at Hampton Court Palace in Richmond.

During the English Renaissance, wood panelling became simpler in design. In grand houses, applied pilasters appeared to provide an architrave which elegantly concealed the join between panels. Applied pilasters then became a common feature of classical Georgian interior architecture, punctuating walls to emphasise window positions and bring structure to a large space.

 

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

 

Linenfold Panelling in a hallway
Traditional Linenfold Panelling

 

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

Wainscoting

Furthermore, during the 18th century, a new panelling style came into fruition: Wainscot panelling. Product of Danish Wainscot Oak, this panelling was charactersied by only covering the lower section of a wall, leaving a dado above. Wainscot Oak produced large, knot-free boards that were attractive and easy to work with, making it more favorable than oak grown in Britain.

Wainscoting is still a popular panelling style today.

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

Panelling in Your Home

When decorating your country home, it is always important to consider it’s period and history; this should then be a used to influence your internal architecture and decoration style. For example, in Victorian houses, it would be acceptable to have Edwardian panelling. However, it would not make stylistic sense to have Victorian panelling in an Edwardian house as the chronology would be backwards. Panelling with sunk framed squares, or rectangles, was popular in the 16th and 17th century and is particularly appropriate for restoring a country manor house. The period of a building influences it proportions both externally and internally, and such considerations are central to our design process at Artichoke.

Nowadays, it is possible to panel walls in a variety of beautiful woods from across the world. Panelling can be made to suit both traditional and modern interior decoration. If you are interested in painted panelling, a more contemporary style, then a hard wood such as Poplar can be an appropriate choice. For panelling that showcases the wood grain, Sapele or soft wood, such as European Red Wood, can be effective.  For traditional paneling styles, mahogany, walnut and oak are classic. Using stains and polishes will age and give character to any wood. In softer rooms, such as bedrooms, fabric panels can be used to add texture and grandeur. In formal rooms, adding marquetry into panels can be striking and ornate.

Wainscoting lends well to darker, smaller rooms, where full walled panelling may be too oppressive. Leaving the top section of a wall to be painted or papered, offers an opportunity for color and pattern alongside a traditional panel.

Showing the detail of the internal joinery
Panelling details by Artichoke

 

If you own a listed property, it may be appropriate to speak to your conservation officer or take advice from Historic England. In cases of preserving and renovating authentic panelling, working with a specialist is recommended.

As experts in historical architecture and period joinery, Artichoke can offer trusted, bespoke panelling design. Working closely with our suppliers, we have access to some of Worlds most beautiful timbers and veneers.

 

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

 

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

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, English Elm and Chestnut.  Sensibly, English country house owners and their builders would make the most of natural resources available locally to their house, with each timber type having a different role 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, Oak and Chestnut 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 in the same form, 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 1700’s 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 these days 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 finished 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 rift cut European oak. There is a magical consistency in the grain of rift cut 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.

Chestnut

Then:  Chestnut was known as poor man’s oak (and still is to a degree), and it was a common tree found in English parklands and woodlands.  The tree can grow tall and strong and as a result it was often used for floorboards being cheaper than oak but similar in grain pattern.  It was often used in joinery work and furniture, but less so on structural joinery where oak was around 20% stronger.  It was often used in fencing as it is naturally durable.  Chestnut went out of circulation and popularity when it became the same price as oak, with makers and builders preferring the stronger and more water resistant oak instead.

Now:  These days Chestnut is still widely available and is used regularly in cladding, decking and beams, and it is now cheaper than oak.  From Artichoke’s point of view it is not only  a wonderful timber to work with but it also takes an authentic period finish beautifully.

Chestnut being aged by Artichoke’s specialist finishers.  It takes a beautiful period finish.

 

So in conclusion, for clients renovating or building an English country house, it is entirely possible to use authentic home grown 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 focused 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 sight, 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 country’s new found love of 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.

 

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

 

IMG_4586
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.

 

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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

Historical & Period Kitchen Reference Images

At Artichoke, a significant number of the bespoke period kitchens  we are commissioned to design are in English country houses, many dating back many hundreds of years.  When designing for these clients, we find referencing from kitchens from the past a particularly useful way to gain inspiration.  Here are a few of the period kitchens that have inspired our work:

 

The scullery at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

 

The kitchen, Avebury Manor, Wiltshire (prior to its redecoration)

 

The Kitchen in the Basement at Ickworth, Suffolk.

 

The Kitchen at Attingham Park, Shropshire. The elm-topped table and dresser are filled with the copper batterie de cuisine.

 

The range and surrounding stonework with carved inscription in the Kitchen at Gawthorpe Hall, Lancashire.

 

The Kitchen at Dunham Massey, Cheshire.

 

The Kitchen with the Philip Webb dresser at Standen, West Sussex.

 

The Scullery at Tredegar House, Newport, South Wales. The wooden draining boards and sinks and plate rack are a modern replacement for the original fittings.

 

The Great Kitchen at Tredegar House, Newport, South Wales. The walls are partly tiled with 1880s Maw and Company tiles, with the upper parts painted blue which was a colour believed to repel flies.

 

Old kitchen equipment including graters, a corkscrew, a toasting fork and a sieve at Sunnycroft, Shropshire.

 

Old kitchen utensils used as display at Polesden Lacey restaurant, Surrey.

 

Part of the copper batterie de cuisine on the dresser shelves in the Kitchen at Attingham Park, Shropshire.

 

The Kitchen with wooden table, and range, at Osterley Park, Middlesex. The room has been a kitchen since the 1760s and is in the opposite corner of the house to the Eating Room, so that no noise or cooking odours should disturb the diners.

 

The sixteenth century kitchen built by Sir Richard Grenville at Buckland Abbey, Yelverton, Devon. The kitchen was re-sited to be near to the Great Hall and the room is dominated by two open hearths used for cooking. The walls are painted in a traditional pink limewash.

 

The Kitchen at Castle Drogo, Devon, with the circular beechwood table designed by the architect of the house, Edwin Lutyens. The only natural light in the room comes from the circular lantern window above the table, echoing its shape.

 

Partial view of the oak table designed by Lutyens and made by Dart & Francis in 1927 in the Butler’s Pantry at Castle Drogo, Devon.

 

Three large oak-framed sinks and the long rows of plate racks above partially lit in the Scullery at Castle Drogo.

 

The Larder with a food safe at Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton, West Midlands.

 

Libraries We Love

A precursor to starting the interior design work for any bespoke library or study is to take reference from the past.  We take a great deal of inspiration from the past and we are fortunate in this country to have a great number of well preserved magnificent spaces to take inspiration from.

Here are some of the libraries we love, most of which have found their way into client presentations over the years

 

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The Philosopher’s Hall, Strahov Monastery, Prague(we are currently designing a project inspired by this library).  Click this link to see a fascinating detailed 360 tour of this room.

 

library furniture looking from balcony

The grand library at Chatsworth.

 

Bookcases in the Library at Hatchlands Park, Surrey.

Bookcases in the Library at Hatchlands Park, Surrey.

 

The Library at Knightshayes Court, Devon. The bookcases are in a Gothic style with linenfold panelling by John Crace.

The Library at Knightshayes Court, Devon

 

View from the Book Room into the Library at Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire. The Book Room was created by John Soane in 1806 by annexing part of the orangery.

View from the Book Room into the Library at Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire

 

The library steps by Thomas Chippendale the Younger, in the Library at Stourhead, Wiltshire.

The library steps by Thomas Chippendale the Younger, in the Library at Stourhead, Wiltshire

 

The Library, designed by Robert Adam in 1766, at Osterley Park, Middlesex. The room is in a stony white with neo-classical details, the original collection of books would have had colourful bindings and the simplicity of the room was in sympathy with that. In 1885, the original library volumes were sold to pay for the refurbishment of the house.

The Library, designed by Robert Adam in 1766, at Osterley Park, Middlesex.

 

A view from the Hall to the Library at Basildon Park, Berkshire. The Neo-classical plasterwork decoration of the Hall shows the Adam influence on John Carr of York who designed the house in the late eighteenth century. The trophies of arms in panels above the doors are a reminder that entrance halls were used as armouries in earlier times. The Library bookcases are visble through the open door.

A view from the Hall to the Library at Basildon Park, Berkshire

 

The Library at Castle Drogo, Devon. Edwin Lutyens was the architect of Drogo between 1910 and 1930 and he designed the oak bookcases. The lustre dishes above the bookcases are Hispano-Moresque and date from the 1700s.

The Library at Castle Drogo, Devon.

 

The Library at Belton House, Lincolnshire. The room was a dining room in the seventeenth century, changed into a drawing room in 1778, and was converted into a library in 1876.

 

Gilt-brass wirework on one of the bookcases in the Library at Hartwell House, a historic house hotel in Buckinghamshire.

Gilt-brass wirework on one of the bookcases in the Library at Hartwell House, a historic house hotel in Buckinghamshire.

 

Shelves in the Library at Scotney Castle, Kent.

Shelves in the Library at Scotney Castle, Kent.

 

One of the inscribed Gothic hinges on the Library door at Tyntesfield. Only available as a scan.

One of the inscribed Gothic hinges on the Library door at Tyntesfield, North Somerset

 

View of the Library at Nostell Priory: the first room to be remodelled by Robert Adam. The view shows the Chippendale library table, lyre-back chairs (1767-8) and bookcases.

View of the Library at Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire

 

The Library at Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire. The Library was built in 1937-8 by Sidney Parvin to house Lord Fairhaven's collection of books.

The Library at Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire.

 

Looking through the Library door toward the Entrance Hall at Castle Drogo, Devon.

Looking through the Library door toward the Entrance Hall at Castle Drogo, Devon.

 

The library at St Giles House near Shatftesbury, recently restored and owned by the Earl of Shaftestbury.

The Start of Formal English Architecture

As a craft based design business focussed on creating bespoke kitchens and furniture to integrate successfully into the fabric of buildings, we need a thorough understating of them, their histories and English architecture in general.  We spend a great deal of time in buildings of all types, surveying them, designing their interiors and fixing into their structures.

We spend a significant amount of our time working in period property, so a firm grasp of their architecture, why they are shaped they way they are, what their fabric is and make up is very important to us.  In a geeky sort of way we also find it fun.

 

Screen shot 2013-12-22 at 08_45_21
Dinder House, where we created the bespoke kitchen
The First Architects

During the early 1700s and before, the building trade was actually run primarily by craftsmen; mainly by joiners and carpenters.  This makes a great deal of sense; most buildings of the time were timber framed.  These craftsmen all had at least seven years of apprenticeships under their belts and were people of considerable skill.

During this period, the term ‘architect’ was used by anyone who could get away with it.   Prior to the introduction of formal Italian inspired classical architecture by Inigo Jones in the mid 1600’s, English architecture was essentially medieval in form, with most houses being built organically and of timber frames with no formal design organisation, proportion or layout to them.  There was no real need for architects.  Most new buildings were designed by builders.  There was no such thing as English Architecture in a formal sense.

The introduction of formality in building design came through classical architecture.  Classical English architecture’s more rigid design requirements meant the need for someone to plan and design buildings more carefully.  It also required new materials to achieve the various shapes, mouldings, carvings etc and this meant a greater understanding of the materials capabilities, stresses and loads.

 

Banqueting House was the first building to be completed in the new neo-classical style.

To begin with, this new role of architectural designer was taken on by the joiner or craftsmen (occasionally it was also taken on by members of the landed gentry, plump with inspiration from their grand tours of Europe).

As you can see from the architecture of Banqueting House, Classical and Georgian architecture is complex; its shapes, mouldings, facades, heirarchys, planes and orders require the use of knowledge, academic formulas and new geometry that wasn’t necessary in the construction of timber framed houses.  It’s introduction to England presented an opportunity for many craftsmen to better themselves, and many stepped up to the plate.

Two things typically happen when a new and game-changing thinking is introduced to any society.  Firstly, an influx of quasi-specialists on the new subject appear, and in this case these were the people closest to the coal face; craftsmen and builders.  Secondly, there is a publishing revolution to support the thirst for knowledge (the same thing happened during the introduction of the internet on the mid 1990’s).

Both happened during the introduction of classical architecture, particularly in the publishing of building pattern books to help educate the uninitiated about classical architecture’s forms and functions.  Initially, these books were written by craftsmen for fellow craftsmen, and later they were written by new architects for potential clients.  These books were used by builders to copy from, and they formed the pattern around which London’s early classical architectural structure and then Georgian architecture was born.   These books also started formalising the way in which these new building designs were physically erected, and the most famous reference book at the time, The art of drawing and working the ornamental parts of architecture, was written by Batty Langley.  Click this link to see some of our favourite plates from the book.

 

Main Georgian Architectural Materials

A formality of design also led to formality of materials.

Brick – The primary material used to build buildings in Georgian London was brick made from the clay beds of London.  The exterior bricks were the best quality, with garden walls, party walls etc often being constructed from ‘place’ bricks which were as much ash as they were clay and often prone to defects.  Knowing the quality of what we’re fixing into is important for Artichoke; we often design quite technically complex architectural pieces such as minstrel’s galleries or large bespoke kitchens with heavy materials, and we need to know well in advance how robust the structure we’re fixing into actually is.  There are a number of times I can think of when one of our installation team has attempted to drill into bricks that have simply disintegrated.

 

Bedford Square was one of London’s first Georgian Squares (it was built for the Duke of Bedford) and used London stock bricks.

‘Place’ bricks were the cheapest, with the most expensive being ‘Cutting’ bricks, a brick made from fine clay and capable of being very accurately cut.  These bricks were usually reserved for exterior decorative architectural detail such as door or window arches.

Timber – The main timber types used by builders of the time were English oak and Baltic fir (Russian Deal is another name for it).   English oak was considered a premium timber, as it still is now, and Baltic fir was used for most things structural.  It was also used for interior architecture and was regularly painted and gilded. Before Georgian times, Baltic Fir was scraped and left unfinished, only being painted with the introduction of the Georgians.  Our finishers need to be comfortable in being able to match 300 year old Baltic Fir; we have had do just this for a recent project in Upper Brook Street in London.

Oak was reserved for the best and most visible structural work such as window frames and some interior architectural detailing.  Mahogany bought back from the West Indies was often used on high-end residences for panelling, hand-rails, panelled doors and so on.

Stone – Stone was used less in Georgian architecture than one may think, certainly for many of the more domestic London townhouses.  It was usually Portland stone that was sometimes used decoratively in London homes for items such as window dressings, exterior cornices and porches.

For Artichoke, a good understanding of these materials, proportions and the English architecture it makes up is vital, not just because it helps us gain an understanding of what we’re fitting our work into, but also because it often informs our design decisions.

We cannot design a bespoke kitchen or library in a country house unless we have a thorough understanding of that house, its architecture and materials. Architecture informs our work, and for us, this is vital, as with the classical builders and architects of the time, our legacy is in our work.

 

 

 

The Flexibility of Formal Architecture

As designers of bespoke kitchens, libraries and architectural joinery for period country houses, we often need to delve into the past to gain inspiration, and often that journey heads towards classical design.

It’s a common misunderstanding that formal architecture is rigid and inflexible.  In fact we’ve found the opposite to be the case.

Granted, certain shapes and mouldings are very much guided by geometry, and certain entablatures and orders are to be used in certain specific ways, but the rest seems very much down to the architect.  In fact, it’s this geometry that’s been the reason for classical architecture’s success around the world.  Geometry gave the architecture a formula that meant it could be copied, time after time, beautifully, in the same way, without risk of changing the proportions and nature of the work.  It was, in many ways, architecture by numbers.

One of our favourite reference books for classical interior architecture, bespoke classical kitchens and architectural joinery projects is The city and country builder’s and workman’s treasury of designs, written in 1750 by Batty Langley.

During the early periods of English Architecture it was not uncommon for architects to be from other trades, such as joiners, cabinet-makers or even, in Langley’s case, landscape gardeners.  Much of London’s early architecture was in-fact “borrowed” from books such as his, and we have referred to many of them ourselves when designing bespoke kitchens or architectural joinery in classical country houses.

These are some of our favourite plates from this period of English architectural publishing.

 

The geometry of doorways and door architraves

 

The geometry of pediments and cornice-work

 

The classical orders used in cornices

 

We used this plate when working with Craig Hamilton on the kitchen at Williamstrip Park in Gloucestershire. The kitchen included an elliptical niche which we coopered

 

What is so interesting about these plates are that they show so clearly the reason that classical architecture gained such popularity around the World from its origins in Athens and Rome.   The use of geometry provided a known formula that could be copied and exported through books such as Langley’s.  This allowed the proportions to be kept and thus copied repeatedly in the same beautiful way, time after time.

The best example of the exporting of architecture was the use of Langley’s book during the building of George Washington’s home Mount Vernon.  The builder used Plate 51 from The city and country builder’s and workman’s treasury of designs when building the Palladian window below.

 

The original plate from Langley’s book

 

The exact copy from Langley’s book, in the same proportions at Mount Vernon

 

 

 

Lutyens’ Architectural Joinery

We consider ourselves fortunate to have designed furniture and architectural joinery into some of Britain’s finest period and listed houses, including two homes designed by the great English Edwardian architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Lutyens was a master of his craft.   He is one of the few architects revered for both the quality of his English country house interiors as much as the quality of his exteriors.  He was as much of a furniture designer as as he was an architect.

At Artichoke we place as much importance on creative design as we do on making; a great kitchen or library designed poorly is a total waste of money, no matter how well it is made.  To us, everything starts with great design.

Research forms a key part of our design process; we hold a large database of Lutyens mouldings and we have an extensive library of period architectural detail to refer back to, including a back catalogue from the archives of Country Life Magazine.  The magazine has been kind enough to provide us with images from some of our favourite Lutyens architectural joinery and furniture designs for this study into his work.

 

Folly Farm, Berkshire

The original 17th century house was enlarged by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1906 and again in 1912-16.  Artichoke designed the kitchen for the house in 2009 and our kitchen design was influenced partly by elements of the detail in the cabinet below, in particular the mitred joins on the cabinet doors.

 

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A built in cabinet at Folly Farm
View of the interior at Folly Farm. The original 17th century house was enlarged by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1906 and again in 1912-16. Not Used 04/02/1922
An interior panelled passage – note the door handles
The Viceroy’s House, Delhi, India

Sir Edwin Lutyens joined the Delhi Planning Commission in 1912 and was responsible for designing the Viceroy’s House. The new capital of British India, New Delhi was officially opened in 1931.

 

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A fireplace at the Viceroy’s House
Castle Drogo, Devon

Castle Drogo was designed by Lutyens between 1910 and 1932 and was the last castle to have been built in England.  The kitchen, with the circular beechwood table, was designed by Lutyens.

 

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All the light in the room comes from the circular lantern window above the table

The butler's pantry at Castle Drogo. The castle was begun in 1911 and completed in 1930 to designs by Sir Edwin Lutyens for Julius Drewe. Not Used CL 10/08/1945

 

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A doorway at Drogo with Jacobean style panelling
The latch on the entrance door at Castle Drogo. The castle was begun in 1911 and completed in 1930 to designs by Sir Edwin Lutyens for Julius Drewe. Not Used CL 10/08/1945
The latch on the entrance door. Every detail was considered
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A stunning door at Drogo. Note the book-matched pair of central panels at the base if the door. The door is hinged on a pivot
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Carved pilasters on either side of a door at Castle Drogo
Marsh Court, Hampshire

Marsh Court was the last of the houses that Lutyens built in the tudor style.  It was
from local materials that Lutyens revived a 17th Century practice and built the house from ‘clunch’ chalk blocks with occasional inlays of flint.

 

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The frieze panel was carved in local chalk
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A door in the dining room. Of particular note is the stepped door reveal lined in Walnut and the quartered veneer door panels
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The log store. Lutyens invested as much effort in back of house as he did on front of house rooms
Les Boit des Moutiers, France

The staircase and first floor landing at Le Boit des Moutiers. The house was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens for Guillaume Mallet in 1898 and was one of the few built on mainland Europe.

 

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Medieval styling is in abundance here, in particular the portcullis detail below the banister rail
Heathcote House, West Yorkshire

Heathcote house was designed in the Baroque style by Lutyens in 1906.  Lutyens came to call this style “Wrenaissance” after Christopher Wren.

 

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The glazed cabinet at the back (and in the one below) has inspired many Artichoke designs
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The fireplace at Heathcote. Note the ball feet below the furniture in the recesses, the clever desk and the bevelled mirror glass
Middleton Park, Oxfordshire

The kitchen at Middleton Park.  The house was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and his son Robert Lutyens in 1938 for the 9th Earl of Jersey.

 

The butler's pantry at Middleton Park. The house was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and his son Robert Lutyens in 1938 for the 9th Earl of Jersey. Pub Orig CL 12/07/1946
The fantastic and beautifully proportioned Butler’s pantry
In this later example of kitchen design by Lutyens, the appliances are more sophisticated. Note the raised table island and zinc worktop
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A pedimented door. Note the inset mould in the architrave
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Fitted dressing room
A panelled room at Middleton Park. The house was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and his son Robert Lutyens in 1938 for the 9th Earl of Jersey. Not Used CL 12/07/1946
Fitted dressing room
Sullingstead, Surry

The kitchen at Sullingstead. The house was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1896-97 for Charles Arthur Cook.

 

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Particularly striking is the oak Doric column supporting the joinery
Crooksbury, Surry

The house was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1890 for Arthur Chapman.

 

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This fantastic crockery display cabinet was designed by Lutyens
Deanery Garden, Berkshire

Deanery Garden was built in 1901 for Edward Hudson, the creator of Country Life, to designs by Sir Edwin Lutyens. The garden was designed in collaboration with Gertrude Jekyll.

 

The dining room at Deanery Garden. The house was built in 1901 for Edward Hudson, the creator of Country Life, to designs by Sir Edwin Lutyens and the garden was designed in collaboration with Gertrude Jekyll. Not Used CL 09/05/1903
The dining room at Deanery Garden

 

 

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