Electrolux Grand Cuisine Review

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

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

 

 Electrolux Grand Cuisine range

 

General Overview of the Grand Cuisine Range

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

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

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

 

Combi Steam Oven

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

 

Electrolux Grand Cuisine combination oven

 

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

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

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

 

Blast Chiller

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

 

Blast chiller

 

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

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

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

 

Precision Vacuum Sealer

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

 

Electrolux Grand Cuisine Vacuum Sealer

 

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

 

Gas Hob

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

 

The Electrolux Grand Cuisine gas hob

 

 

Surround Induction Zone

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

 

Electrolux Grand Cuisine range - Surround induction zone

 

 

Sear Hob

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

 

Electrolux Grand Cuisine range - Sear hob

 

Considerations

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

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

 

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

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.

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • 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.

 

 

 

 

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.
Pros

Price
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.

Performance
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.

Looks
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.

Feel
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
Cons

Price
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.

Staining
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.

Scratching
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.

 

 

 

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.

 

4

 

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

Kitchen Appliances for Luxury Bespoke Kitchens

Much of Artichoke’s work involves designing luxury bespoke kitchens for private homes. Our projects demand not just the highest quality furniture, but also the best quality appliances to go in them.

We’ve worked with most of the major appliance manufacturers over the past 25 years, and we know what cuts the mustard in terms of performance and quality.  Here are our thoughts on the top major brands delivering at the high quality end of the market we operate in.

 

Sub-zero

Sub Zero has established itself as the fridge and freezer brand of choice in the UK for bespoke kitchens in private residences demanding high quality without compromise.  Since we started working with them we’ve had very few problems at all from clients where we’ve specified their kit (the only problem we did have was sorted pretty rapidly).

Sub Zero has a deserved reputation for the robust workmanship of their products which are used in many domestic environments as well as the professional kitchens of chefs such as Michel Roux, Aldo Zilli and Shaun Rankin.

One of the main points of interest is the unique ‘Air Purification’ system built into their refrigerator line which removes harmful gases and odours; a process that was developed initially for NASA to aid food preservation. Additionally, the Dual Compressor system, standard on all Sub-Zero fridge/freezers, is a completely unique feature to Sub-Zero.

 

Wolf

Wolf, which is owned by Sub Zero, offer a wide range of built-in kitchen ovens, hobs, cook tops gas and dual fuel ranges.  A great deal of focus has been placed on precision control of heat to help users deliver professional results.

Again, their equipment is extremely well built and we’ve had few problems.  It is worth remembering that some of their larger require 3 phase electricity to run and also some seriously powerful extraction which we can help you with.

One of their main features is a patented dual stacked burner which offers extremely precise temperature control and precision, making them perfect for melting butter or chocolate on a low heat or high temperature cooking.

 

La Cornue

La Cornue were first launched in 1908 in France by a chef with a passion for new technology.  They are still made in France, and each oven is hand-made to order using only cast iron, steel, solid brass, nickel and enamel.

Secret to La Cornue’s success is their vaulted ovens which improve circulation and even cooking temperature throughout the oven.  Each oven is assembled by hand and only a few hundred are made each year which are delivered to private homes and professional kitchens all over the world.  They have a unique look and we’ve used them successfully in both contemporary and traditional bespoke luxury kitchens.

Artichoke has installed numerous La Cornue ovens, mainly their Chateaux series; it is well worth visiting their show-room.

 

Gaggenau

Gaggenau appliances have been produced in Germany, with all of the engineering precision you’d expect from a German engineering firm, for 300 years, and their experience shows.  They now offer a huge range of cooking and chilling appliances aswell as appliances for washing and ventilation.

Artichoke has been specifying them for a considerable length of time and their performance has always impressed our clients.  Their designs work particularly well in contemporary kitchen design.

 

Electrolux Grand Cuisine

Electrolux Grand Cuisine are relative new-comers to the domestic luxury bespoke kitchen scene. The backbone behind the new arm of the well established Electrolux brand is the domestication of their existing professional ranges and putting the tools of the professional restaurant within reach of the home chef.

We’ve attended a couple of demonstrations of their new range, which includes combination oven, blast chiller, vacuum sealer and induction and gas hobs.  The kit was demonstrated by a professional chef and performed brilliantly and looks superb.

 

Officine Gullo

With strong roots from Florence, Officine Gullo is a relatively young company compared to the strong heritage roots that it can claim.   Founded in the 1990s, the companies founder based his first oven in a large range oven made in the 1800’s.  The look is renaissance and probably quite polarising, but works well in the traditional and period settings where Artichoke spends much of its time.

These are appliances built for professional chefs and dedicated domestic ones, and they are as robust as you’ll find anywhere.  Also come with a great range of accessories.

 

If you have questions about appliances, contact Bruce or Andrew on +44 (0)1934 745270 and we’d be happy to give you our thoughts.

Where Wood Comes From

On the odd occasions where a client presents a conceptual design produced for them by a third party, it is often the case that the design intent cannot be delivered because the material chosen is unsuitable for the designs prepared.  T o help one such interior designer we prepared the infographs below to show them where certain hardwoods come from, how hardwood moves and also which veneers come in what lengths. This will help when designing larger pieces.

WHERE WOODS COME FROM | Infographics

TIMBER MOVEMENT | Infographics

Typical Veneer Lengths | Create infographics

 

If you are an Interior Designer or Architect and wish to discuss any timbers you are considering using, please get in contact with us on newprojects@artichoke.co.uk

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

A Soap Finish to Oak

Not long ago, we were asked by the designer Ilse Crawford to create a bespoke contemporary kitchen for one of her clients in a listed Regency house in Somerset. Nothing particularly unusual presented itself in the design until we began discussing the scullery, at which point we were informed that no finish to the oak was required.

Not finishing timber is highly unusual practice and typically not something you want to do. All timber, even teak, needs some form of protection.

After a discussion directly with the client, it became apparent that what they really wanted was for the timber to look unfinished.  They did not want an efficient modern lacquer finish but instead wanted the English oak used by us in the scullery to remain as natural as possible and to age quickly but gracefully.

This is a tricky brief.  There are only a few finishes that will provide a protective layer to timber and at the same time keep the natural look of the timber.  One of these is soap.

The major benefit of soap is that it doesn’t alter the colour of the timber being finished, unlike oil which can yellow the timber beneath it.  There is also no shine to a soap finish.  Waxes and oils typically add a sheen to the surface. With soap, this is not the case.  The surface remains flat; just how this particular client wanted it.

 

Above: The scullery furniture, finished in soap
No Ordinary Soap

Before you rush out and scour the shelves of your local super-market, you need to be aware that the soap you need for this task is a natural soap, not bars.  Lux Flakes to those in the right age bracket!  This is the only soap that will work.

Soap finish is used a great deal in Scandinavia; in Denmark in particular where the soap finish is considered to be desirable and sophisticated.  The soap finish is why many Danish furniture pieces from the 1970’s look natural and unfinished.  Soap is also used in Denmark to finish floors.

 

Screen shot 2013-08-28 at 17_56_36
Above: Lux flakes work best for soap finishes
Maintenance Required

Soap finished furniture does require maintenance and we would not suggest it for areas of a house that will be getting a hammering unless you are prepared to maintain the finish which can be done as follows:

First, sand lightly with 220 or 320 grit sandpaper; just enough to make the surface feel smooth. (Never use steel wool, particularly on oak as it will react with the tannin and blacken it.)

Once this is done, apply another coat of soap (a mix of soap flakes and warm water) and wipe off the excess with a well wrung-out cloth.  Sand again to remove the grain that will have been raised during the first application and repeat.

Let the soap dry and buff lightly with a clean lint free cloth.

Be careful not to wet any end-grain surfaces too heavily; end-grain surfaces suck up moisture at faster rates and this can lead to splitting.

Click here to find out more about how we work. For more on our services, contact us today to discuss your requirements.

The Dark Art of Specialist Wood Finishing

period finishing

 

Throughout our 22 years working in the high-end private residential market we’ve seen numerous examples of well-made cabinetry and bespoke kitchen furniture let down by their maker’s failure to get the finishing to match the standard of their making. This is not only a great shame, but avoidable.

When specifying our new workshops in Somerset, great attention was placed on ways of improving the efficiency of our finishing, in particular period finishing. The key is in controlling the environment in which you finish, and while controlled environments are not cheap to create, they pay huge dividends in the end result.

We’re proud of the environment we’ve created. Stretching at over 30 metres in length, the finishing booths housed in our 12,000 square foot cabinet-making workshop consist of four key areas.

 

Factory (90 of 91)
Artichoke’s environment controlled finishing plant enables us to deliver flawless finishes to furniture first time.
Spray Room

The environment within the spray room works on the same principles used in car spraying. Fresh air is sucked into the booth, which is then heated before entering the spraying chamber to give our finishing team the perfect environment in which to deliver the finish onto the furniture. The room itself works on negative pressure to ensure the environment is kept clear of dust particles throughout the process.

 

Chris is in charge of the spray room
Drying Room

Once the finish has been applied to the kitchen or furniture component, it is taken to the drying room through an internal doorway to avoid external contamination. This room also works on a re-circulated heating system, temperature controlled to provide the best environment for the finish to dry under its own steam. We do not force dry any of our finishes at Artichoke; force drying a finish will often result in what we call orange peeling, where a finish shrinks faster than it should during the drying process and the surface becomes rippled and uneven.

 

Sanding and Finishing Room

This a fully enclosed chamber with filtered air inputs and two down-draft extract benches which remove sanded material into our external extraction plant. It is on these benches that Chris and his team either hand or machine finish furniture to its desired finish.

 

Sanding a cabinet door for a Georgian library before it goes into finishing.
Hand Painting and Preparation

This is the largest of the four rooms, allowing numerous kitchen and furniture components to be laid flat before a hand paint finish is applied. All of our painted furniture projects are hand-painted in the traditional manner and to the highest possible standards. All hand-painted furniture requires a clean and controlled environment and this room also has a filtered air input and heating system to provide control over the air quality and temperature.

Currently the heating to these rooms is generated via a gas-fired system although plans are afoot to add an additional wood-waste fuelled boiler plant.

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

Different Wood Finishes and Period Effects

Many of our projects require authentic period finishes and effects to be added to the furniture we design and make for clients.  This is particularly important as we spend much of our time in country houses and listed buildings, each of which require different wood finishes.

To join Artichoke’s finishing team, apprentices first need to show off what they can do.  At Artichoke, we call it The One Board project.

Apprentices are given a solid board of European Oak and asked to create as many different finishes as they’re able to along it’s length.  Sometimes they will create finishes that are relevant to a specific project, in this case a large aged dresser for a bespoke kitchen in a listed Georgian house in Hampshire.

Our bespoke approach does not stop at design. The finishes below showcase just what’s possible from a creative finishing team with one board of beautiful oak and some skill.

 

ART003Milk paint finishes

ART012ART011

ART009ART010

ART005ART007

ART004ART003

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

If you have a specific project you’d like to discuss with Artichoke, please contact the team on +44 (0)1934 745270.

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