What is the best wood for bespoke joinery in kitchens?

With decades of experience in joinery led interiors and wooden kitchen design, it’s fair to say that Bruce Hodgson, our Founder and Creative Director is a connoisseur of wood.  Here he shares his thoughts about which is the best wood for bespoke joinery in kitchens.

Photo courtesy of Country Life magazine.

A luxury experience

Kitchens are first and foremost practical spaces.  Therefore, satisfaction will come not only from how the fitted furniture looks.  Just as important is the tactile experience a user has when they interact with the cupboards and drawers. The weight of the chosen wood is therefore key. Just as a high-quality car will have a weightiness about the door when you open it – the same goes for kitchens.  The more substantial the material, the higher quality it feels.

The carcass

Even in the most luxurious timber kitchen design, hardwood is very unlikely to be the best choice when it comes to the carcassing.    Wood is hydroscopic and therefore moves according to temperature and humidity.  A carcass made from solid wood will therefore move over time which is a problem. Man-made board is more stable and we therefore favour it for carcassing.  It does however, need to be the highest quality man-made board.

As the thickness and weight significantly affect the feel of the cupboard, we tend to use the finest 19 mm thick Finnish birch ply which is veneered with timber or craft paper which we then paint.  Like solid hardwood, it’s very dense and strong and therefore takes screws well. For a sink cupboard or an area which will have particularly heavy wear we use laminate on the ply to make it even more robust.  We have on occasion lined under sink cupboards with stainless steel.

The proof

An early Artichoke project – the magnificent Elizabethan Manor, Parnham House, provides a fine example of the durability of the high-quality plywood we favour. Tragically the manor house burnt to the ground some years ago and yet, on a recent tour with the new owners, we were delighted to discover that amongst the rubble and carnage, our kitchen cupboards were still standing!

kitchen joinery at parnham house

An education in wood

Bruce is passionate about wood and very much enjoys sharing his extensive knowledge with his clients.  He knows about the different timbers, the different cuts of the tree and how its stability is affected by which part of the tree it comes from. Not only is the type of tree important but where it was grown.  This knowledge is invaluable when selecting materials for bespoke joinery.

Sustainability is key

Timbers go in and out of fashion.  For example, there is a trend now for designers to specify rift cut wood for bespoke joinery.  However, rift cut wood has little figure and is very wasteful as many of the beautiful elements of the wood are discarded.  Our view is that if a tree is felled to build a cabinet, we owe it to that tree to make the finest possible cabinet with as little waste as possible.

Finishing bespoke joinery

As specialists in bespoke joinery, we are expert in timber finishing. Our choice of wood is often informed by the final aesthetic we are aiming towards in terms of grain and colour. For example, we might choose sweet chestnut to achieve a greyer version of oak.  Whilst sweet chestnut is sometimes referred to as ‘Poor Man’s Oak, we hold it in high regard – it is a beautiful timber.  In turn, grey elm creates another colour tone. Bruce is very fond of the nut woods for their colours – a particular favourite is European walnut because of its tones – the colour is nuttier and less red in tone than other nut woods.

Maple from North America was very popular in the 1980s but as it oxidises to a yellow colour, we are reluctant to specify it in our bespoke joinery. Sycamore is another favourite wood for us in bespoke kitchens– it is home grown and starts off as a pinkie cream with a tight, close grain offering a lovely smooth surface with anti bacterial qualities.  We therefore often use it for work surfaces especially in country house interiors.

Legend has it

Oak is very versatile, and we use it widely in our wooden kitchen design – usually sourced from Europe. Nowadays Europe is much more forested than the UK, but this was not always the case. Legend has it that a squirrel could leap from tree to tree from one end of the UK to another without touching the ground – certainly not the case today. Our woodlands have been depleted dramatically over the years. After the great Fire of London (1666) there was a shift towards building in stone, but country houses continued to be built of timber.

European oak, grown in plantations tend to be straighter and taller which is helpful when selecting timber for furniture making and bespoke joinery.  UK timbers tend to be farm grown rather than plantation grown.  Farm grown wood is more likely to have defects and a wider grain as the trees are more isolated, and the tree is exposed to the ravages of weather.

Painted kitchens

Tulip wood is a popular choice for wooden kitchen design with a painted finish.  It has a dense, flat surface making it an ideal canvass.  At Artichoke, we tend to use tulip wood grown in plantations in North America.  Because it is slower growing it has twice the density of other tulip woods.  If we want to bring texture through the paintwork, we use Siberian birch – its texture is pronounced so the pattern of the grain grins through the paint or finish.

Traditional kitchen design by Artichoke

Timber choice in the past

Historically furniture and bespoke joinery were made using timber sourced from local woodland.  When we analysed the timbers used in the beautiful Lanhydrock’s cook’s table – the inspiration for several of our projects – we discovered it was made up of several different woods. The drawer boxes were pine, the legs elm, the main drawer fronts, and frame around the apron were oak while the work top was sycamore.  The timbers would have been chosen for how they look and their practicality but also their accessibility.

Our passion for wood

Our extensive knowledge of timber is key to our wooden kitchen design.  We fit kitchens for modern life without compromising their period charm.  By choosing timber and appropriate finishes that will endure daily use and heavy wear, we believe our kitchens and bespoke joinery can form part of a building’s architectural heritage for generations to come.

If you’d like to discuss our approach to design and discover first hand our passion for brilliantly designed furniture and how it can improve your experience of living in a period house, please email newprojects@artichoke.co.uk or call +44 (0)1934 745270.

 

What Should be the Focal Point in Bespoke Kitchen Design?

With bespoke kitchen design, there are so many approaches to deciding the focal point of a kitchen. It will depend on the house, its period, the requirements of the household – their habits and their desired aesthetic.

Historically, the obvious focal point in a kitchen is the solid fuel range to cook on. An Aga stuck in a fireplace is a quintessential focal point in a traditional English country house.  The Aga or stove was critical not only for cooking but as a source of heating the kitchen. Its focus was accentuated further by a chimney cowl to ventilate it.  The range remains an obvious and appropriate choice as the focal point of a kitchen, so much so that we create other features around the range to increase the focus.

Bespoke kitchen design with Artichoke's glossy painted cook's table
The beautiful stone mantel was introduced to create a focal point of the range cooker

Life with no heating

In other rooms in period homes, the fireplace was also the natural focal point – life without central heating was cold and therefore furniture was arranged in a way to take maximum advantage of the heat source.  In new houses and with 21st century technology like underfloor heating, this is no longer the case.  This brings possibilities for alternative focal points like views or art in both the kitchen and the rest of the house.

Bespoke kitchen design makes the most of garden views and sunlight
The orangery kitchen makes the most of garden views and spectacular light.

Modern living

Family life has evolved so that kitchens and the way we use them has changed. Even in grand houses, they are not just the preserve of servants but tend to be central to family life.  Kitchens are not simply practical spaces stuffed with cupboards.  Kitchens have become more like living rooms.

Bespoke kitchen design in this London apartment creates a wonderful kitchen and living space
A kitchen that’s easy to live in.

The heart of the home

Traditionally kitchens were small, located in the back of the house for logistical reasons. The purpose of a kitchen was entirely functional.  In our market, kitchens are much larger, often centrally located in the heart of the house.  They enjoy the best light and the best views.  Read more about how we move a kitchen in a listed building here.  The generous space allows more room to absorb the many functions associated with storing, preparing, and cooking food.  Kitchens such as these can afford to be more like living rooms.  Therefore, a focal point may well be a beautiful painting or a view – features that are not related to functional cooking equipment or storage.  Instead, the bespoke kitchen design deliberately emphasises a piece of art or decorative element like a fireplace.

Bespoke kitchen design creates an island in this Bristol kitchen.
The location of the fireplace interfered with the layout of this Bristol kitchen so we created a unique island as the focal point instead.

Ancillary rooms today

In large houses, ancillary rooms like pantries and sculleries can be useful in freeing up the kitchen, making it a more pleasant place to hang out and entertain. Kitchen storage, washing up, cooking and preparation can therefore be kept slightly separate.  It is very much a speciality of Artichoke to design such rooms.

Bespoke kitchen design can involve ancillary rooms like this pantry
Artichoke’s hand finishing gives depth and character to the timber.

The scullery

Recently we have been treating the scullery as a secondary focal point in our bespoke kitchen design. Washing up is an important element of kitchen tasks and is often neglected.  We believe, with a bit of flair and imagination, a scullery can be just as exciting a focal point.

Bespoke kitchen design can involve ancillary rooms like sculleries for washiing up
Tasks related to washing up are housed in this eye catching scullery.

Alternative focal point

An approach we sometimes take with our bespoke kitchen design is to consider each area with the same focus as might historically have been given to the kitchen range. This sink is expertly crafted out of a block of soapstone creating an unusual focal point at the window.

Bespoke kitchen design creates additional focal points like this soapstone sink

Material choice

Material choice is an important part in bespoke kitchen design and can create natural focal points. Making certain elements out of a very special timber or stone or highlighting particular pieces of furniture via a pop of colour can be very effective in creating a focal point.  In this London kitchen, we have used marble with a striking figure to elevate the cooking area to be the focal point.

Bespoke kitchen design means striking materials can be chosen to create a focal point

If you’d like to discuss our approach to bespoke kitchen design and discover first hand our passion for brilliantly designed furniture and how it can improve your experience of living in a period house, please email newprojects@artichoke.co.uk or call +44 (0)1934 745270.

Designing a Warehouse Industrial Style Vintage Kitchen in London

Despite being designers ourselves, we are occasionally called upon by other designers to take their concept ideas forward to reality.  Because we are both maker and designer we bring deep understanding of wood, the manufacturing process and period finishing to the conversation which enables us to add value to their ideas and create rooms of exceptional individualty and quality for their clients.

We were invited to do just this for the design team at Studio Indigo.  The practice, based in Chelsea, is one of the best design companies we work with.  Quite uniquely their teams are made up of both architects and interior designers, which gives their clients a really efficient service.  We love working with them for this reason.

This particular project was for a Victorian villa in London which was to have a modern and fresh industrial style vintage kitchen at its heart.

Initial Conceptual Idea

Studio Indigo’s initial idea was for a U shaped island on one level at the centre of the room with an integrated central hob and preparation sink.

 

 

 

The original island featured a central raised bar which enveloped a supporting post at the centre of the room.  The ovens were to be behind with tall refridgeration on a tall run alongside the main scullery sink.

 

 

 

 

Design Development

As is the case with most projects, as discussions with clients continue, ideas develop and interior architecture shifts.  One of the principle issues we all had with the initial kitchen was there was little room for larder storage.  To overcome this, we consulted with the team at Studio Indigo and commandeered some redundant space under the stairs behind the kitchen to the right  which provided ample room for larder storage for the family.  This freed up the main kitchen and allowed us to make some important improvements to the design.

Moving the larder storage out of the main kitchen freed up the design of the main run.

 

Once this was resolved, we could then turned our attention to the island, the centrepiece of the room.  Our first collective decision was that we should raise the entire front face of the island to hide the main hob from the rest of the room; hobs can be messy spaces and rarely benefit from being on view.  In rooms with tall ceilings such as this, we also find that raising an island’s height better serves the room’s proportions.

3D Renders

Once the design was agreed, a render could be produced to bring the elements of furniture to life.  At this stage it was decided to add zinc to the raised island section which had the effect of turning it into a bar from its public side, a feature which suited the client and the relaxed intention for this social kitchen space.

 

 

 

Seating Area

The initial idea for the bench seat from Studio Indigo was to create a wonderful Victorian industrial booth seat with distressed bronze finish, leather seating and shelving.  Their initial concept sketch to us below was incredibly helpful.

 

As research was undertaken into the best approach to take for this piece, it became apparent that to create the frame from mild steel, which is hollow and has rounded edges, would not deliver the crisp engineered look we were all after.  It could also buckle if fallen into, creating a safety concern,.  It was therefore decided to make the entire frame from solid brass bar.  This provided the opportunity to create a really authentic engineered look, and it also allowed us to distress the surface of the brass to add patina to the piece.

The Completed Room

Some professional images taken of the completed work are below.

industrial style kitchen

vintage style family kitchen in a georgian house

Solid Brass kitchen Bench Seat

Photo credit Studio Indigo.

Further information regarding this completed kitchen space can be found here.

 


If you would like to discuss a kitchen or joinery design project with Artichoke, please email newprojects@artichoke.co.uk or call 01934 745270

The Case for Slow Making in a Throwaway Culture

Slow making versus throwaway culture has been brought into sharp focus over the last year and a half as we have all begun to realise the impact that poor quality purchasing decisions can have on both our lives and the planet.  With sustainability becoming an increasingly important factor in how we all behave, we felt it warranted further exploration.

If you type ‘How long should a kitchen last’ into Google, the accepted answer is around 20 to 25 years.  Most commentators seem to feel this is some sort of benchmark to be celebrated.  We don’t.

Cost efficiencies come at a price

There are two reasons why most kitchens have such short shelf lives. The first is quality of design.  The second being quality of manufacture.  For a kitchen to last 20 years, it must be of a certain quality but it won’t be outstanding.  Market forces will prevent it from being such.  It is impossible to make kitchens or architectural joinery of a quality that will last for generations at a price point that most kitchen companies like to pitch their product at.  To provide a product which is commercially attractive to their market, something has to give.  That something is time and the quality of materials.  Time must be saved to reduce cost in order to reduce price. Cheaper materials are chosen to help the company reach its desired price point.

walnut and oak boards in Artichoke workshop
Responsibly sourced solid hardwoods, seen here in Artichoke’s workshop, will last forever.

Time costs money

Rooms that will last for generations need to be timeless in how they look and robust enough to endure decades of use.   Achieving this requires time.  And with time costing money, kitchen companies find savings. Pre-designed ranges achieve economies of scale. Cost efficiencies are found in a myriad of ways – by speeding up manufacturing processes and taking shortcuts in making traditional joints. By making doors thinner, by mechanising finishing and by using cheaper, often man made materials,    This speeds the design and manufacturing process up and lowers the quality.  This all sounds rather sniffy but it’s not meant to be. It’s simply economics.  These companies are providing a product at a price point that is acceptable to their customer.  However,  it’s not our product and its not our market.  We discussed this need for time with Country Life a few issues ago.

cabinet maker using a chisel to pare a joint
An Artichoke cabinet maker making sure a solid wood joint fits to perfection.

Designing for sustainability

For us, sustainability is central to our mission.  We don’t design rooms to be trendy.  Trend has a shelf life, and anything with a shelf life usually meets its untimely end in landfill.  We owe it to the raw materials we respect so much to take a much longer term view.

By designing architectural joinery which sits elegantly and serenely within its architectural environment, and by using natural materials which have not been processed, we are able to circumvent the need to replace it because it’s gone out of fashion or because its deteriorated.  Our clients want joinery-led rooms which will be admired in 200 years in much the same way that we all admire rooms designed and created 200 years ago.  To achieve this takes time, investment and a desire by the client to create heritage for future generations to admire and take value from.  You cannot achieve design harmony in a beautiful period house by picking a pre-designed item off the shelf and hoping for the best. It won’t work.

Slow making

The slow movement is based on these principles.  Slow making is our expression of this philosophy. It is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed to achieve the desired result.  And in our case, the desired result is in the creation of this country’s future heritage.

 


If you’d like to discuss our approach to architectural joinery and our passion for how brilliantly designed furniture can immesurably improve your experience of living in a period house, please email newprojects@artichoke.co.uk or call 01934 734270

 

 

English Joinery – the lost art explored in Country Life

Shining a light on the lost art of English joinery in a recent article in Country Life magazine, Interiors Editor, Giles Kime invites our founder, Bruce Hodgson, to explain how door casements, shutters, panelling, skirtings, architraves, cornicing and dados can transform a space.

 

If you’ve been inspired to know more about the transformative impact of authentic joinery led interiors, please do get in touch and tell us about your project or read more about our services. To view the article in Country Life Magazine Interiors section, click here

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 . 

 

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 like that of a cook’s table, that are incorporated for storage and display or food preparation.

Traditionally, country house kitchens were furnished by local craftsmen who designed cook’s tables 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’ quarters 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, achieving elegance alongside functionally.

Artichoke cook's table painted red

 

Artichoke’s wealth of experience and knowledge of period architectural detail and cabinet making affords us the specialist skills to design and integrate a traditional piece like a cook’s table into a country home. We design and curate 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. The style of the joinery, therefore, suggests the story of the house. Such specific requirements are a perfect demonstration of the truly bespoke nature of our work.

 

If you’d like to learn more about the transformative potential of well-considered and authentic architectural joinery, please do get in touch and tell us about your project. Email the Artichoke team at newprojects@artichoke.co.uk or call on +44 (0)1934 745270.

A New Owner’s Guide to Listed Building Regulations, Kitchens and VAT

Artichoke is regularly asked to design bespoke kitchens in listed buildings.  Quite often these listed buildings have been purchased by new owners who are unclear about the listing process, what it means, and how it effects them financially if they are planning to renovate.

The rules were altered by HM Customs and Excise in 2012 and this short article will help explain what the listing process means and how it effects the kitchen in your listed buildings project.

 

St Giles House, Shaftsbury

Grade I Listed Buildings

These are of deemed to be of exceptional interest and sometimes considered to be internationally important; only 2.5% of listed buildings are Grade I.  In these buildings it is typical for English Heritage to be adamant that the existing interior detail must remain unaltered and untouched (including architectural joinery, light switches, and plaster work).  Designing bespoke kitchens into Grade 1 buildings can be full of issues, usually involving extraction routes, methods of fixing into the existing fabric of the building (which can often be made up of soft lime mortar and rubble walls), interference of the existing joinery and so on.

Artichoke was recently asked to design a kitchen for the West Apartment at Burley-on-the-Hill which was built in 1690 in the style of Sir Christopher Wren.  In 1909, the West Wing was almost completely destroyed by fire and the joinery inside this part of the house has a very Edwardian feel.   Despite the fact that it is modern in comparison to the rest of the house, it is still Grade 1 listed and the panelling in the kitchen could not be touched in any way.

 

Burley on the Hill, Rutland

Grade II* Listed Buildings

These are deemed by English Heritage as particularly important buildings of more than special interest (Grade II); around 5.5% of listed buildings are Grade II*.   There are many reasons why a building can be awarded Grade II* status.  It maybe that they are houses that while not particularly grand, are particularly important examples of local vernacular and they are in essence “Grade II but of particular significance” .  It is likely that a Grade II* house will have a particularly special interior or interior features which will be treated in the same say as Grade 1 features in that English Heritage will not allow them to be touched or altered.

Depending on the features and their location, English Heritage can be more relaxed (although not much!) about designing kitchens and furniture into these properties. For instance, it maybe that a farmhouse has a particularly special roof structure which is the reason the house has a II* listing.  In this case, English Heritage will be willing to discuss extensions to the house within reason.

 

 

Grade II Listed Buildings 

These are buildings that are considered nationally important and of special interest; 92% of all listed buildings are in this class and it is the most likely grade of listing for a home owner.  This is a  good example of a recent Artichoke bespoke kitchen designed into a Grade II listed building.

While permissions for alterations are down to the discretion of the individual listed planning officer, in Artichoke’s experience it is the exterior of the building that they are focused on more.  While the interior is still of importance, they are often a little more relaxed.

 

Dinder House near Wells is Grade II

Regardless of the listing of your house, it is important to stress that Listing is not seen a preservation order preventing change. Listing has a reason, and that is to identify the life stages of a building and it’s various characters.

Listing does not freeze a building in time, it simply means that listed building consent must be applied for in order to make any changes to that building which might affect its special interest. Listed buildings can be altered, extended and sometimes even demolished within government planning guidance.

 

Listed Property, Bespoke Kitchens and VAT

Pre 2012 it used to be the case that a bespoke kitchen built into a new extension of a listed building was zero rated for VAT (or rather the built in/fixed items such as the Aga, furniture and extraction were zero rated).

Since 2012, the Government decided to “simplify” things, and sadly for many listed property homeowners, VAT relief on approved alterations was removed (although if you had applied for Listed Building Consent before 21 March 2012, zero rating will still apply for approved alterations until 30 September 2015.)

There are still VAT advantages available for work on buildings that have been unoccupied for more than 2 years, for a change of use from commercial to residential use and for a change in the number of individual dwellings within a property – eg splitting a house into flats.

Other than that, we’re sorry to say, it’s the full 20%!

 

We would caveat the above by stating that we are neither nor lawyers or accountants, but designers of fine bespoke kitchens. For a final adjudication on whether your project could be awarded reduced rate status, please speak with a trained professional!  in the past we have found the HMRC team extremely helpful and they do publish a book which we have used to advise our clients ion kitchens in listed buildings.  For more information on VAT in listed buildings, you can follow this link VAT in building and construction.

UPDATE 2020:  Historic England has now taken on responsibility for listed buildings in England.  We explore the difference between English Heritage and Historic England here.

Victorian Kitchen Design Inspired by Lanhydrock

There are many Victorian kitchen designs which have inspired Artichoke projects over the last 25 years, but few really hit the mark as soundly as the National Trust’s Lanhydrock House kitchen. It is, in our view, one of the finest examples of Victorian back of house interior design and architecture in Britain.
 

The main kitchen at Lanhydrock house
Beautifully lit by natural light; the main kitchen at Lanhydrock house.

Originally Jacobean, the house was damaged by fire in 1881 and it was given an extensive restoration in the high Victorian style. With the UK buoyed by the successes of the industrial revolution, the newly restored, magnificent Victorian kitchen design was updated with the very latest equipment and technology for staff to cook food for the owners, their guests and other staff.

The Artichoke kitchen design team has been quietly obsessed with Lanhydrock for many years. When the opportunity arose to share our passion and interest with a client, we jumped at it, travelling down to Cornwall with him to help explain why we felt we should take inspiration from it for his bespoke Victorian kitchen design. Our initial visit was about capturing some of the detail which makes this kitchen so special.

 

Cast iron ovens at Lanhydrock House kitchens
The huge cast iron oven forms the centrepiece of the Victorian kitchen design.  Note the recess in the background, framed with a cast iron mould
Artichokes Victorian Kitchen Designs

Much of Artichoke’s work involves designing kitchens with aesthetic links to the past. More often than not this is because we are designing kitchens into period buildings where some link to the past is a sensitive and pragmatic way to ensure the kitchen design has longevity, does not date and sits comfortably within its architectural surroundings. At the same time, we try not to let the past constrain us. After all, we are designing kitchens and practical spaces which need to be used for modern living.

In this particular Victorian kitchen design project for a country house in Hampshire, we have been exacting in our attention to the smallest details. Surveys were taken of moulds and copies of the Victorian handles have been made using the same lost wax cast brass method used at the time of Lanhydrock’s restoration.

 

Render of Artichoke's bespoke kitchen design
Render of Artichoke’s bespoke kitchen design.

 

plate rack in Victorian kitchen design
Render of Artichoke’s bespoke kitchen design.

The plate rack Artichoke has designed above the brass sink is decorative and will be used to both store plates as well as dry them. Each plate rack has a bespoke pewter drip-tray base. The main sink is made from solid brass. During the late 1800’s Victorian kitchen designs often featured metal sinks, usually made from copper or nickel alloy, a corrosion-resistant and robust lightweight material capable of standing up to the rigors of a large country house kitchen environment.

 

copper sink in the bakery
The copper sink in Lanhydrock’s bakery. The walls were painted blue as it was considered the colour least attractive to flies.
The Range Oven

A large cast iron range formed the centrepiece to many Victorian kitchen designs. Artichoke works regularly with Officine Gullo, a modern Italian company specialising in the design and manufacture of incredibly hard wearing cast iron kitchen ranges. The ovens are known for their build quality and distinctive period character; they fit well into many of the country house projects Artichoke designs kitchens for.

This particular oven top features a pasta cooker, four large gas burners, a French plate (used typically for sauces) and put down. A pot filler has been integrated into the back.

 

Officine Gullo coup de feu top
The heavy gauge cast iron Coup de Feu or French plate is an essential piece of kit in professional kitchens.
Casting the frame mould

The original moulding which surrounds the recess on Lanhydrock’s kitchen is made from cast iron, which Artichoke has replicated for this bespoke Victorian kitchen.

 

Officine Gullo range oven in Victorian kitchen

 

The moulding was cast by a foundry in Somerset and was a highly involved process. Starting with the mould frame pattern (made from timber), a reverse sand mould was made into specialist casting sand. This had tapered edges to ensure it can be removed – similar to the reason children’s beach buckets have tapers on. Molten pig iron was then poured into the mould and left to solidify and cool for 24 hours before it was shot blasted and fettled. The finished mould is very dark grey in its natural state.

 

Cast iron moulds

 

Cooling in the original Kitchen

Domestic fridges were not invented until 1913, and until that point, a host of relatively creative methods were deployed to keep food cool in large country houses.

 

Cold water feed in a cast iron trench system with marble and slate

 

The method above, as seen in Lanhydrock’s dairy, is one such example and not one we’ve seen anywhere else. A cold water feed distributed water (from the hills above the house) around a cast iron trench system to keep dairy products cool. The dairy room uses both marble and slate to keep the dairy products and desserts cool. However, more modern cooling methods were decided upon for our client’s Victorian kitchen design with a Sub Zero refrigerator being integrated into the wall next to the cast iron range oven. We have made sure it’s introduction is discrete – it takes a central position in the kitchen but is disguised by being housed in a cabinet – a practical and neat solution.

 

Victorian Pull Handles

During Artichoke’s numerous visits to Lanhydrock, we surveyed the handles on the cook’s table which were copied using the traditional method of casting them in brass.

 

Brass pull handle for kitchen
Stage 1:  Surveying one of the original kitchen handles from Lanhydrock.

 

Scale version of the Lanhydrock handles in timber 
Stage 2: Artichoke makes a 1:1 scale version of the Lanhydrock handles in timber for the casting team to then use as a model

 

 

Completed copies of the new handle design
Stage 3: The completed copies, ready for client approval
Technically detailing the Cooks Table

Because Artichoke only designs one off projects, each is unique, so it is imperative to ensure the cabinet-making team is given the clearest possible information to make from. To do this we design each component part using a specialist 3D technical drawing package. This modern version of what used to be called ROD drawings allows us to provide our team with detailed drawings of incredible clarity, meaning that regardless of whether this is the first time the furniture has been made, they know exactly what to make and how to make it.

 

Cabinet maker making an island
Artichoke cabinet-maker Arthur making the Cook’s kitchen table.
Assembling the Kitchen

An important element of Artichoke’s cabinet-making work is the assembly phase in the workshop. It is the first time we get to see the kitchen come together. The assembly phase allows us to fit the appliances, cut in the butt hinges and shoot in the doors and drawer fronts into their frames “shooting in” where a cabinet maker uses a well sharpened plane to dimension a component to exactly the correct size. Because all of our kitchens are bespoke, we are making each project for the first time, and doing this work on our premises means that we can avoid undertaking it at our clients’ homes, making the final installation more efficient.

Once the fully assembled Victorian kitchen design was signed off by our Production Manager, it is disassembled and prepared for finishing.

 

kitchen island table
Cook’s table island with wrought iron tie bars and visible joints.
Large plate rack
The kitchen’s large plate rack, ready for the sink and surfaces.
Close up image of how the frame of the Cook’s Table is jointed into the top of the turned leg
A close up of how the frame of the Cook’s Table is jointed into the top of the turned leg. The hole allows us to pass electricity cables through it.

 

The finished project can be viewed by following this link
 

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 newprojects@artichoke.co.uk or call on +44 (0)1934 745270.

Jacobean Country House Kitchen & Pantry

Every so often, a kitchen space is presented to our design team that requires particularly specialist attention.  In this case, a beautiful Grade II* listed Jacobean hall situated near the Peak District National Park.

The house sits beautifully in walled gardens with a perfectly symmetrical Georgian facade and wonderful views over rolling valleys and farmland.  The kitchen space is large (approximately 8×7 metres) which for designers presents a challenge. Often large kitchen spaces are more difficult to design into.  Added to this, the room is an unusual shape (not unexpected given the age of the house), but a challenge nonetheless. Further complications arise from various beams and supporting structure which require further investigation and structural engineering advice.

Artichoke was commissioned to undertake detailed kitchen design work on the back of our extensive 25 years experience designing into country houses.  Our brief was to design a kitchen space which worked for a modern family but which was also sensitive to the architecture of the listed Jacobean interior.

Following a number of visits and investigative work by Artichoke’s team, an idea began to formulate.  This  involved taking advantage of the existing beams and supports to divide the kitchen up using a combination of both architectural joinery and furniture. This is not an entirely new idea; it was extensively used by the architects of grand country houses to divide up parts of the domestic back ends of their servant’s kitchen and utility spaces.

 

Kitchen design and development

Artichoke’s 3D visuals show how architectural joinery has been introduced to the kitchen to divide the space up.  The joinery elements feature solid brass glazed framed windows to ensure light floods the room.  These windows are to be made from solid brass and are moulded.  They open on pivot hinges, secured with brass ball catches embedded into the oak frames.

 

1795-view-4

 

The glass shelves within the interior hand painted furniture elements feature turned brass gallery rails supported on brass posts.  The large central island is hand painted, with the colour taken directly from the main kitchen at Tyntesfield Abbey. The batterie de cuisine over the island will be in blackened steel, and the chopping block will feature brass straps (not steel as shown).

 

View of island

 

Brass detail development

The image below shows one of the unwelded frames machined from solid brass.  The glass we are setting within the frame will be restoration glass which has slight imperfections which refract light, making it well suited to match ‘old fashioned’ windows throughout the rest of the building.

 

brass window frame

 

Close up detail showing the turned brass gallery rails mounted onto the glass shelves.

 

turned-brass-gallery-rails

 

Sink and Taps

A heavyweight solid brass sink has been designed into the scullery to match detailing throughout the rest of the room.

 

OfficineGullo_lvq039

 

We have chosen to use the fantastic Regulator tap from Waterworks in unlacquered brass to ensure it ages.

Brass Waterworks Regulator tap

Lighting

Artichoke has specified these lovely simple wall lights (in antique brass) with clear reeded glass shades.

 

carey_prismatic_glass_contemporary_bathroom_wall_light_1

 

Update: 7th October 2016

A welded sample for the solid brass windows with an aged patina.  Each window is calculated to be around 12kg (with glass), with double windows being around 20kg.  This will affect how the joinery into which they are set is re-inforced.

 

Aged brass window fame for kitchen

 

detail of brass window frame for kitchen

 

 

14 November 2016:  Ongoing project.  Further updates soon!

More Case Studies of Artichoke’s work can be viewed by visiting our Profile page.

Request Portfolio

Request Portfolio

Please get in touch using the form below

  • Hidden
  • How did you hear about us?
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.