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.
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.
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’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 email@example.com or call on +44 (0)1934 745270.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.