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:
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
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.
The grand library at Chatsworth.
Bookcases in the Library at Hatchlands Park, Surrey.
The Library at Knightshayes Court, Devon
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, designed by Robert Adam in 1766, at Osterley Park, Middlesex.
A view from the Hall to the Library at Basildon Park, Berkshire
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.
Shelves in the Library at Scotney Castle, Kent.
One of the inscribed Gothic hinges on the Library door at Tyntesfield, North Somerset
View of the Library at Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire
The Library at Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire.
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.
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 understanding 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 mainly work in period properties, so a firm grasp of their architecture, why they are shaped the way they are, and what materials have been chosen in their construction is very important to us. In a geeky sort of way we also find it fun.
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 English architecture of the time was 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 1600s, 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.
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, hierarchies, planes and orders require the use of knowledge, academic formulas and new geometry that wasn’t necessary in the construction of timber framed houses. Its introduction to English architecture presented an opportunity for craftsmen to better themselves, and many stepped up to the plate.
Two things typically happen when a new and game-changing approach 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, a publishing boom supports the resulting thirst for knowledge (the same thing happened during the introduction of the internet in the mid 1990’s).
Both these things happened during the introduction of classical English 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. Such books also started formalising the way in which new building designs were actually erected. 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 in the choice of materials.
Brick – The primary building material for Georgian buildings in 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.
‘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 today, and Baltic fir was used for most structural things. 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 once this became popular and Georgian tastes started to influence the English architectural scene. Finishers at Artichoke need to be able to match 300 year old Baltic fir; we have had to do exactly 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 brought back from the West Indies was often used for panelling, hand-rails, panelled doors and so on in high-end residences.
Stone – Stone was used less in Georgian buildings than one may think, certainly for many of the more domestic London townhouses. Portland stone was used decoratively in London homes for items such as window dressings, exterior cornices and porches.
For Artichoke, an extensive knowledge of these materials, and the scale and proportions required to be true to classical English architecture is vital, not just because it helps us understand the context we’re fitting our work into, but also because it informs our design decisions. In this way our work becomes part of the evolution of the house continuing the legacy of classical English 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 leads us 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.
For designers, architects and artists – and for who or whatever was the architect of the natural world – 1.618 is a magic number. It represents the golden ratio: a figure arrived at by dividing a line into two parts so that the longer part divided by the smaller part is also equal to the whole length divided by the longer part. The Golden Ratio, or Golden Section, is an important principle in our work. Our designers work with the Golden Section and other classical principles to bring balance and harmony to our clients’ homes.
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 formal 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 of English formal architectural publishing from this period.
What is so interesting about these plates is that they show so clearly how classical formal architecture gained such popularity around the world from its origins in Athens and Rome. The use of geometry in formal architecture provided a formula that could be copied and exported through books such as Langley’s. This allowed the proportions to be replicated over and over again in the same beautiful way.
A really good example of the exporting of formal architecture was the use of Langley’s book during the building of George Washington’s iconic home, Mount Vernon in Virginia, USA. The images below show how the builder used Plate 51 from The City and Country Builder’s and Workman’s Treasury of Designs influenced the creation of the grand Palladian window.
To create Artichoke kitchens and interiors we blend creative, imaginative design with a deep understanding of period architecture and styles. But we are experts rather than purists. Instead of slavish reproduction, we devise interventions that weave into the fabric of a house and into its architectural story.
With each project, whether a kitchen or a whole house, we aim to create Britain’s future heritage, adding architectural value to our clients’ houses for their family and for future generations. We aren’t simply making joinery. We are making history.
To discuss your project, email the Artichoke team at firstname.lastname@example.org or call on +44 (0)1934 745270.
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 Arts and Crafts architects revered for 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 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 Arts and Crafts joinery and furniture designs for this study into his work.
Folly Farm, Berkshire
The original 17th century Arts and Crafts style 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 Arts and Crafts joinery detail in the cabinet below, in particular the mitred joins on the cabinet doors.
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.
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, showcases Arts and Crafts joinery designed by Lutyens.
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.
Les Boit des Moutiers, France
The Arts and Crafts styled 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 in mainland Europe.
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.
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 house was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1890 for Arthur Chapman.
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.