‘One of the best country house specialists in Britain’
We are delighted to be included for the 5th consecutive year in the Country Life Top 100 and be recognized as the widely respected in the design and manufacture of joinery-led rooms for country houses.
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 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. Explore the extend of our services.
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.
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. Read about how we work.
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 which makes us very proud
The full Country Life Top 100 2020 list can be viewed 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 it’s 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 .
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)1934 745270.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com or call +44 (0)1934 745270.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01934 745270
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
Round houses were once all the rage (think mud huts, yurts and teepees). Houses were built in the round because they offered strength against earthquakes, strong winds and heavy snow, and because they were quick to heat and simple to roof.
These days, modern building materials and fixings offer enough strength and stability to not have to deploy round exteriors for strength, and it is unusual to see one. Not because the shape is unappealing aesthetically, but largely because the machinery that makes and shapes building materials such as steel, brick, glass, timber and stone is designed to produce it flat, square and straight. Flat, square and straight is the default setting for most building material manufacturers, so it should be of no great surprise that design and manufacture of curved furniture takes longer and ultimately costs more.
Design Challenges – Designing A Kitchen in a Round House
The project has been designed in collaboration with Mark Gillette and for it to be authentic and a design success, it was first vital that all of the curved elements of the bespoke kitchen doors were actually curved, and not faceted.
This challenge is further compounded by the fact that the curve becomes tighter the nearer to the center of the roundhouse the furniture is positioned. This means that the radius of the furniture doors in the scullery at the back of the kitchen is different (shallower) to the radius of the doors on the outside of the island (tighter).
Radius dimensions are 16.16 metres for the scullery, 15.32 for the glass splashback, 14.62 for the main kitchen furniture, 13.49 for the inside of the island and 12.09 for the outside of the island.
In addition to the varying radius dimensions, other challenges present themselves. Dishwashers and fridges have flat doors, raising the question of how you fix a curved furniture door to the face of a flat metal door? Does the hinge on the appliance throw the curved door out far enough so that it doesn’t meet adjacent doors? Hardly any of the joints meet at 90 degrees. How do you clamp these items together at an angle? Are the floor tilers using the same radius as you and will their floor radius match your plinth radius? The glass backsplash needs to be specially curved. How do you set out the kitchen at the installation stage?
Artichoke’s creative design images of the desk area with doors open and closed. The right hand side of these images show the strength of the curved doors.
The primary material chosen for this kitchen is fumed Eucalyptus, typically found in Australia, New Zealand and Spain. The material is a light brown/golden yellow in its natural state, and it is made to go a deep chocolate brown colour by fuming it (a process using ammonia that causes a reaction with the tannins in the timber).
As you can see, the timber has a wonderful ripple running through it and great care and considerable time was chosen to source a pack of veneer that was even in colour throughout and maintained its ripple across the width of the kitchen. As is often the case, we took the client to our veneer suppliers to advise and discuss the choice.
The Fumed Eucalyptus in Artichoke’s workshops before it is worked.
This video shows an Artichoke cabinet-maker bonding veneer onto one of the curved substrates using a vacuum bag-press.
At Artichoke, because our kitchens are so highly bespoke, we put every completed design through a process called Production Engineering. This essentially means we are making the kitchen digitally into an accurately surveyed wire-frame model of the room. This allows us to iron out every issue on computer first before any materials are purchased.
Images show the kitchen being digitally cabinet-made into the wire frame model of the room. Once this process is complete and we are happy the kitchen works, we can use this software to produce making drawings for the cabinet-makers.
For quality control reasons, every bespoke kitchen we design is assembled at Artichoke’s workshops to ensure any issues are ironed out before we come to the installation phase. This also gives us the opportunity to ensure that all of the appliances fit perfectly and that all of the door gaps are perfect. Only then is the kitchen dis-assembled and finished in Artichoke’s high tech, air filtered finishing booths.
Individually, the curve on each door is surprisingly slight, but when compounded it becomes more pronounced.
Artichoke’s workshop environment is specifically set to domestic heat and humidity levels, so moving completed furniture into a non domestic environment is a potential danger.
The installation phase is often the most risky, and we take great care to ensure that our furniture is introduced to the building at the correct stage of the build. We are particularly focussed on ensuring the relative humidity is appropriate (between 40 and 60%). If humidity levels are under, it can cause the timber in the kitchen to shrink, causing cracking, gapping and surface checking. If the humidity levels are above (which can be as a result of plasterers still working on the site), then it can encourage mould growth and buckling. Solid timber is particularly vulnerable.
The house nearing completion.
The main sink elevation.
The double doors lead to the scullery. The glass was also curved, as was the stone profile. The stone has a textured surface.
If you are interested in curved kitchen design and would like to discuss a project with us, please contact Andrew or Bruce on +(0)1934 745270.
This case-study shows how one such grand kitchen island has evolved from a series of simple sketches to the finished article in Artichoke’s workshop.
The kitchen island has humble origins. In the days when large houses were supported by busy kitchens teeming with staff, the oak table was the workhorse of the room.
Today, most domestic kitchens are used by the home-owner and not by staff. We prepare our own food, and as a result, kitchen islands tend to look less utilitarian.
Many of Artichoke’s kitchen design commissions are for large country houses where history has played its part in shaping how the house looks and runs. Often these design commissions are from the new owners who are responsible for replacing years of lost period character. As bespoke kitchen designers, it is often our responsibility to balance their wishes for period authenticity with the practical needs of a modern home.
This case-study shows how one such kitchen island has evolved from a series of simple sketches to the finished article in Artichoke’s workshop.
The brief was to design a kitchen with a period feel that met the needs of a modern family. The house is a captivating Grade II listed house set in National Trust parkland near Alderley Edge in Cheshire, with owners keen to re-introduce some high quality period detail back into the house, as well as practical modern features like a grand kitchen island.
Initial Hand Sketch
Each kitchen design project evolves in different ways, but in this case, initial ideas were roughed out on paper to gauge the feasibility and to help give the client an understanding of what can be achieved.
Once the concept is proven, the general intent drawings of the grand kitchen island are prepared, showing turning detail, period moulding detail and interior layouts of the drawers. At this stage we are drawing to scale.
Artichoke’s design team often deploys CGI (Computer Generated Images) to explore how kitchen furniture works with the rest of the room and the architecture. The studies below show the grand kitchen island carved in oak at the centre alongside other decorative items. CGI can be extremely useful in helping clients understand how design impacts their space.
Once the kitchen island design is approved by the client, our cabinet makers will make the piece in digital form first using a software package that will also calculate bills of materials, quantities of components weight of parts etc. We make every piece virtually in this way. It ensures all potential problems are ironed out before we purchase materials, and it improves efficiency for the client.
Artichoke makes the finest quality kitchens that are robust enough to last for many years. To make kitchens of this quality requires the component parts to be jointed traditionally using craft base skills that have stood the test of time.
In the case of this grand kitchen island, the rail is jointed to the turned legs using dovetail joints and mortice and tenons. These traditional joints take time to make and will be unseen by the client, so some would argue that they are unnecessary. However, we know that these methods are a mark of quality and will far outlast mechanical fixings, so it’s important to include such details in the design of such a substantial piece of furniture as a grand kitchen island. We know they will never fail.
The final phase is the finishing, and in this case the finish required is mid to late 19th century. Our Head of Finishing, Rob, used to be a well known antique restorer and has incredible skill for turning new oak into old. Like most professionals, Rob keeps his recipes a closely guarded secret.
To view the finished project and see how the grand kitchen island turned out, follow this link