Finding the Why Behind Artichoke

When we’re all asked what we do, the answer usually trips off our tongue.  But when asked why we do what we do, we’re often lost for words.

Discovering why a company does what it does is usually hard.  In Artichoke’s case it has taken several years to find our ‘why’.  In retrospect it had always manifested itself subconsciously in our daily behaviours, but we’d never attempted to proactively find it or explain it.  It took six months of corporate therapy, a company-wide meeting, three arguments and several packs of Post It notes to look deep within Artichoke’s soul.

A board with post it notes on
The process of finding our why

 

More marketing literate companies are often founded on their ‘why’.  Starbucks sells coffee. This is ‘what’ it does.  However, the reason it was really founded was to offer a ‘third space’ between work and home. The provision of a welcoming and comfortable high street location for people to meet or email from is why it does what it does, and that’s what’s made it a success.  The coffee and cake is simply a by-product.

Other companies are founded to solve a problem, only to stumble on their ‘why’ later on in life.  In 1901, William S Harley designed a compact motor designed to power a push bike, and if you ask the Marketing Director at Harley Davidson today ‘what’ they do, he’ll tell you they design and sell motorbikes.  If you ask him ‘why’ Harley does it however, he’ll tell you they exist to give middle aged accountants the power to ride through small towns scaring people.  This is what makes their company different.  If you’re a middle aged biker, and you want to revive some of the lost front you once had in your youth, there is really only one motorbike for you.

man on a harley davidson riding through London
During the week he works for Ernst & Young

 

In much the same way, Artichoke designs and makes kitchens and fitted furniture.  This is ‘what’ we do.  While there are lots of companies describing themselves as doing this very same thing, none of them do it for the reasons we do.

To help crystalise our ‘why’, we first decided to create a brand manifesto, a living document distilling our company’s beliefs.

Artichoke’s Brand Manifesto

We are craftspeople.
We will only work with other companies and clients who share our values.
We are unrelenting in the pursuit of quality.
We regard working in our client’s houses as a privilege.
We will always act with honesty and integrity.
We believe what we design enhances people’s lives.
We have a responsibility to ‘get it right’ for our clients.
We are always learning.
We are obsessed with detail.
We refuse to take short cuts.
We will always nurture traditional skills and embrace innovation.
Our ambition is to be a centre of excellence of design and craftsmanship.
We are guardians of our craft.
We will pass this expertise to future generations.
Our work is an expression of who we are.
We believe true quality cannot be achieved without love.
We love what we do.

Distilling our beliefs in this way was incredibly helpful, triggering one of the teams observations that our beliefs were closely aligned with those of John Ruskin, the Victorian philanthropist and supporter of the arts:

“When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for; and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say, as they look upon the labour and wrought substance of them, ‘See! This our fathers did for us.”

At Artichoke, we have the innate desire to ensure our work is not temporary, but instead forms an intrinsic part of a building’s architectural heritage for centuries to come.  This belief runs through our company like words through a stick of rock, and it affects the way everyone in the company behaves, the materials we specify, the joints we deploy, the designs we create and the care we take.

So, why does Artichoke exist?  The reason we are here is to create Britain’s future heritage.

A logo for artichoke designers and makers of britain's future heritage

 

Artichoke in Country Life Top 100

As the Country Life top 100 2020 is announced, we are delighted to once again be included for the third consecutive year.  This represents the ultimate recognition of our expertise in working on fine English houses and an acknowledgement of our mission to create Britain’s future heritage.⁠

We are so delighted to be recognized once again for the quality of our work – achieving a fine balance between meeting the needs and tastes of owners and fulfilling the potential of a house without harming its architectural integrity. Over nearly 30 years, we’ve worked in houses of every architectural period and have built a detailed understanding of each. Artichoke interiors, which are joinery-led, fulfill the unique promise of architectural joinery, which is not just to embellish rooms, but to give them their status and their role in the life of a household.  Architectural joinery achieves something no other trade can in creating liveable, elegant and architecturally authentic houses. This puts us in a unique position, filling the gap between architects and interior designers, creating the interior structure that makes sense of a house – and providing designers with the canvas they need.

Artichoke looks backwards to take our clients’ houses forward, recoupling exceptional artisan skills to design expertise. We are makers and creatives working as one to achieve the remarkable for our clients and their houses.

We have been lucky to work very closely with Country Life magazine in recent years and to be part of this list, standing  shoulder to shoulder with some of the most incredible companies of designers and artisans in the country makes us very proud

The full Country Life Top 100 2020 list can be reviewed here

Country Life magazine title front cover 4 March 2020

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

We’d love to hear more if you have a project in mind.   Whether its a single room – maybe a kitchen or a dressing room, or a whole house project, please do get in touch – speak with a member of our team on +44(0)1934 745 270 or email us at newprojects@artichoke.co.uk . 

 

Symm Administration – a Blow to Traditional Craftsmanship?

The recent news that renowned construction business Symm & Company has fallen into administration after over 200 years in business is a stark reminder that traditional skills need protecting and nurturing.

Both Symm, Artichoke and many others have been committed to employing and training generations of craftsmen and women, and investing in these skills further through formal apprenticeship schemes. While smaller, independent construction companies have often struggled to afford to run valuable apprenticeships, larger traditional builders like Symm took on this responsibility with great enthusiasm.  The onus is now more on companies like ours to train the period joinery specialists of the future and to keep driving this investment to ensure the traditional joinery industry stays healthy and thrives.

As part of this commitment, we are delighted our free School of Furniture’s second year is about to begin.

The principle aim of our school is simple – to inspire young people who, through their experience of a narrowing and academically focused curriculum, may not have had the opportunity to explore their creative and practical potential.  Our ambition is to highlight to these youngsters that there are a wide range of artisan skills and crafts which are highly valued and appreciated and from which a successful career can be carved.  Kai Holmes who teaches Design Technology at the Kings of Wessex Academy is keen to show the students that, only a short walk from the school gate,  is a thriving community of Britain’s best craftsmen and women who are making a living doing something they love and feel passionate about.

Symm administration calls for better training
Artichoke maker Wilma teaching student, Peter

 

Artichoke Founder Bruce Hodgson said: We are set to launch the second year of the Artichoke School of Furniture this year, with the aim of inspiring young people to consider a career as an artisan.  We also run an apprenticeship scheme, for which we recruit on the basis of attitude rather than skill. This investment means we are able to continue to strive to achieve our company vision, which is that in 100 years, English design and craftsmanship continues to flourish.”

He continued: “The Symm administration is a great sadness, not just because many fine craftsmen and women have lost their jobs, but because a company that was a well-regarded supporter of heritage craftsmanship no longer exists to sponsor some of the next generation of joiners, carpenters, cabinet makers, stonemasons, decorators and plastering specialists.”

Our resolve to support these specialist skills is further strengthened by the knowledge there is client demand for exquisite period joinery and the supporting finishing trades typically found in large town and country houses.  Artichoke hopes to continue inspiring the artisan workforce so that the industry may stay prosperous, and Britain’s future heritage is protected.  We encourage our fellow specialists to do the same.

 

Resurgence of the Cook’s Table

The cook’s table was a classic element of a Victorian Kitchen and in recent years we have seen a revival of its popularity in the modern home.

One characteristic of country house style is simple but solid furniture – stand alone pieces that are incorporated for storage and display or food preparation.

Traditionally, country house kitchens were furnished by local craftsmen who designed and made purposeful pieces of furniture which were handed down from generation to generation. As a result, it is common to find a mix of period styles among the furniture of a country kitchen.  Similar in their practicality and durability, but with subtle variations according to the period and the budget, such pieces complement each other well.

In the ‘back of house’ of grand country houses, the cook’s table was a central piece of the working kitchen. It was used for food preparation but also sometimes as a dining table for the servants.

 

view of the Victorian Kitchen, showing cooks table and stove
The beautiful Victorian kitchen at Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton

 

Historically, the cook’s table was made out of pine, oak, elm and a variety of fruit woods, oiled or polished to bring out the natural graining and features of the wood. Others were colour washed, or painted using primitive paints made from locally available materials such as buttermilk and eggs mixed with earth coloured pigments. Interestingly, in the Victorian era, a number of deaths occurred as the result of a popular shade of green paint and wallpaper. Scheele’s Green, which was made using copper arsenite, fatally poisoned a number of people until the connection was later realised. Nowadays, this green pigment is produced without dangerous toxicity.

 

A kitchen and cook’s table, designed and made by Artichoke. Read more about the inspiration behind this design here.

 

With sustainability in mind, at Artichoke we always focus on the practicality and purpose of design. It is true that while the island has become a popular feature of  contemporary kitchen design, it can be obtrusive and can dominate a space.  A cook’s table offers an elegant and less obtrusive alternative – just as practical but bringing a romantic aesthetic with its history and rusticity. It’s a testament to the beauty of simplicity, affording elegance alongside functionally.

Artichoke’s wealth of experience and knowledge of period architectural detail and cabinet making affords us the specialist skills to deliberately design and make a variety of styles in a single suite of domestic rooms to give the impression that the rooms have evolved through various owners over time.  Such specific requirements are a perfect demonstration of the truly bespoke nature of our work.

The Walk In Pantry is Back

Scullery, walk-in pantry or butler’s pantry – we are all familiar with such rooms contributing to the status of an English country house.  While such rooms were traditionally quarters frequented by servants, modern day interior design sees them as everyday spaces used by the master of the house instead.  At Artichoke we enjoy bringing these rooms to life – planning their use and their fitted furniture to complement life in a busy 21st century home.

The Walk In Pantry – A Resurgence

We have experienced an increasing demand from clients commissioning authentic, high-end architectural joinery to support domestic spaces such as the pantry, designed in a way that is sympathetic and appropriate to the style and period of the house. When considering, for example, a Georgian country house, Artichoke has the knowledge and expertise to be respectful not only of the period of the house but also of the hierarchy of joinery – the design of such detail depending on the room – the upstairs being more elaborate than the downstairs or servant’s domain.

3D render of Artichoke designed butler's pantry
Artichoke’s design for a butler’s pantry

The Butler’s Pantry

Pantries are a relatively new invention in English country house architecture, chiefly appearing in Georgian houses as separate rooms annexed off the kitchen or near the dining room for food preparation and the storage of silver, valuable dishes, table decorations and cooking equipment.   Often the cabinetry was grand in scale to store the significant amounts of crockery and cutlery needed to entertain many guests over five or more courses.  Traditionally, pantries were much cooler than kitchens, often located in a north facing part of the house, making them the perfect place to store fruit and vegetables to prolong their shelf life.

An image of a Lutyens designed butler's pantry in Middleton Park

This is 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 Walk-In Pantry Today

Pantries provide a wonderful second space for food storage, food preparation and a shut-off room to hide used crockery and dishes when entertaining at scale.  They rarely need to be as big as their predecessors, chiefly because we don’t tend to eat as many courses or entertain as many people as regularly as they did 150 years ago.  There is also a growing awareness that many foods benefit from not being stored in the fridge.   These days, when kitchens tend to be the heart of the home, even in large, period properties, it is useful to have behind the scenes spaces where the mess and practicalities around domestic chores are hidden from view.  From a design point of view, it also means that some of the uglier appliances (such as the freezer or microvave) which look out of place in a period setting, can be hidden from view.

Artichoke in Country Life Top 100

Country Life magazine has listed Artichoke among the best craftspeople in Britain as part of its annual Country Life Top 100 Country House specialists review.  This is the second year Artichoke has been listed.

We are in illustrious company.  Also included in this year’s list are ADAM Architecture, Craig Hamilton Architects and Joanna Wood Interior Design, plus many other professionals we have worked alongside with our clients over the last 25 years.

Country Life magazine is a magazine perfectly aligned with Artichoke’s focus on creating heritage through sympathetic joinery design.  The title has deep connections to Sir Edwin Lutyens, an architect we admire greatly having worked on several of his houses.  It also is one of the few magazines with a focus solely on English country house architecture, interiors and rural country pursuits.

The full Country Life Top 100 list can be reviewed here.

country life top 100

 

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

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

 

Profile: Tim Hellier, Managing Director

Tim Hellier, Artichoke Managing Director
Tim Hellier, Artichoke’s Managing Director

Tim Hellier joined Artichoke as Installations Manager 12 years ago, and was responsible for the successful completion of every Artichoke project until his promotion to Managing Director in 2018.  Prior to joining Artichoke, Tim worked as a respected furniture designer and cabinet maker.

Before discovering his love of furniture, Tim held a passion for photography and was trained by Peter Parks, one of the UK’s original natural history programme makers.  During his film making career, Tim worked with the marine natural history company, Image Quest, where he worked with David Attenborough on the Blue Planet series – filming the marine and coral footage.

Tim is also a trained pilot, gaining his licence following the RAF flying scholarship he was awarded when he was 17.

 

tim hellier in a canoe on a wide river
Tim midway through the Yukon River Challenge in 2017. He came second in his class

Tim is also a keen rower and was Captain of rowing at Radley College.  In 2017 he entered the gruelling Yukon River Challenge in Canada, a 3 day race over 440 miles between White Horse and Dawson.  Tim came second in his category, raising over £7,000 for The British Heart Foundation, Artichoke’s chosen charity.

 

For more information on the range of project management services we offer, from design, installation and finish, please click here

Working with Weldon’s Beautiful Floors

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Profile: John, Production Manager

John Hampton, Artichoke Production Manager

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

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

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

 

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

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

Joinery, VAT & the New Country House

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Builders and Architects Fees

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

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

 

As ever, do call us if you’d like to discuss this further on +44 (0)1934 745270

For more information on the range of project management services we offer, from design, installation and finish, please click here.

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