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.
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.
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.
The kitchen island has humble origins. In the days when large houses were supported by busy kitchens teaming 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 often 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.
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 for what can be achieved.
Once the concept is proven, the general intent drawings 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 oak kitchen island 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 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 uneccessary. However, we know that these methods are a mark of quality and will far outlast a mechaniocal fixings. We know that it 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 recipies a closely guarded secret.