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
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 email@example.com .
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.
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.
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.
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.
As the Rostov’s Dacha shows us, natural and unfinished softwood can look beautiful in the right setting, but good quality softwood produces a strong grain pattern which can be used to great advantage when painted as seen in the Artichoke sample below. Here our finishing team have mixed up a milk paint and applied it to Swedish Deal for a bespoke kitchen project in Oxfordshire.
As designers of bespoke kitchens and interior architectural joinery for country houses and period buildings, a knowledge of materials and where to procure the best of them is really important. We have a responsibility to get it right for our clients, and in our experience the modern day prejudice directed at softwood stems from a combination of the quality material being offered by poor quality timber merchants and the general population’s diminishing knowledge for craft and timber. The best quality softwoods are still incredibly versatile when you know what to buy and how to use them and they should not be dismissed.
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.
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, was 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 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.
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 kitchen at Sullingstead. The house was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1896-97 for Charles Arthur Cook.
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.