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 country house kitchen 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 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 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 more exacting than we might usually be.  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 features 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.

 

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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 almost always formed the centrepiece to many Victorian kitchens.  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 kitchen

 

Officine Gullo range oven in Victorian kitchen

 

The moulding is being cast by a foundry in Somerset and is a highly involved process.  Starting with the mould frame pattern (made from timber), a reverse sand mould is made into specialist casting sand along with tapered edges to ensure it can be removed (similar to the reason children’s beach buckets have tapers on).  Poured molten pig iron is then poured into the mould and left to solidify and cool for 24 hours before it is then shot blasted and fettled.  The finished mould will be 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 this Victorian kitchen design with a Sub Zero refrigerator being integrated into the wall next to the cast iron range oven.

 

Victorian Pull Handles

During Artichoke’s numerous visits to Lanhydrock, we surveyed the handles on the cook’s table which we will be copying 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.

 

Technical drawing in preparation for creating a mould for a new handle
Stage 2: Artichoke technically draws and details the handle in preparation for creating a mould for the brass team.

 

Scale version of the Lanhydrock handles in timber 
Stage 3: 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 4: 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 it and how.

 

Technical drawings of a kitchen island

 

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.  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 makers 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 kitchen has been signed off by our Production Manager, it is disassembled and prepared for finishing.

 

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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 project is ongoing and will be added to as the project progresses.  For further information, contact Artichoke on 01934 745270 or email newprojects@artichoke.co.uk

Softwood in Russian Interior Design

Fans of the BBC’s recent adaptation of War and Peace will not have escaped the incredible Russian interior design in many of the locations.

While the general media has been gushing about the sumptuous gilded rooms seen in buildings such as the spectacular Catherine Palace, one property went largely unnoticed.  I would hesitate to use the word modest to describe Count Rostov’s Dacha (the name for a Russian country retreat), but in comparison to many of the interiors used elsewhere it is indeed modest. The interiors are panelled length ways in rough un-finished timbers and the architectural joinery is made from softwood and un-treated.

 

Country house from BBC's War and Peace.
The Rostov Dacha in the BBC’s adaptation of War and Peace.

What we find particularly alluring about this building is the use of softwood.  It is of course the obvious building material for a house surrounded by some of the World’s largest coniferous forest, but in modern Britain softwood is often derided as hardwood’s cheaper and less attractive younger sibling.    This prejudice towards softwood is unfair and if you spend as much time in country houses as we do, you begin to understand how important good quality softwood is (and was) to period architecture and buildings. You also begin to understand how beautiful softwood can be when used decoratively.

 

Architectural joinery made from Yellow Deal.
Architectural joinery made from Yellow Deal.

Softwood was used extensively in the building of country houses, with the premier material being Yellow Deal (Pinus Sylvestris), a species commonly found across northern Britain, Sweden, Norway, North America and Russia.   However it is the Russian sourced Deal which good builders and joiners have always favoured.  The Deal from northern Russia grows slowly in the particularly cold climate, making it dense, stiffer than oak and perfect for the long supporting beams once required to span the wide rooms of large country houses.  In many ways Deal performs like a hardwood and no other tree produces timber so long, straight, stiff and light (with the added advantage of it being disliked by deathwatch beetle!).

These benefits placed Russian Yellow Deal in great demand during the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries and it was used extensively as both a structural material (beams, roof trusses and so on) as well as architectural painted joinery such as skirtings, architraves and doors.  It was also used extensively in fitted joinery for the domestic areas of houses, such as kitchens, sculleries and pantries such as the one below at Tyntesfield.

 

Room view of the Butler's Pantry at Tyntesfield, North Somerset
Room view of the Butler’s Pantry at Tyntesfield, North Somerset

 

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Original Russian Deal skirting removed from an Artichoke country house project , a Grade II* listed Georgian hall.

 

Interiors from War & Peace
Unpainted Deal takes on a beautifully mellow and creamy texture over time.

Today it is challenging to buy Deal from Russia, not because it is scarce but because large Russian timber yards are not commercially interested in selling us the comparitively small volumes of high quality knot free boards we need.  Instead we now rely on a source of Yellow Deal from northern Sweden which is of a similar quality and density.

Painting Softwood

As the Rostov’s Dacha shows us, natural and unfinished softwood can look beautiful in the right setting, but good quality softwood produces a strong grain pattern which can be used to great advantage when painted as seen in the Artichoke sample below. Here our finishing team have mixed up a milk paint and applied it to Swedish Deal for a bespoke kitchen project in Oxfordshire.

 

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As designers of bespoke kitchens and interior architectural joinery for country houses and period buildings, a knowledge of materials and where to procure the best of them is really important.  We have a responsibility to get it right for our clients, and in our experience the modern day prejudice directed at softwood stems from a combination of the quality material being offered by poor quality timber merchants and the general population’s diminishing knowledge for craft and timber.  The best quality softwoods are still incredibly versatile when you know what to buy and how to use them and they should not be dismissed.

For more information on our work, particularly bespoke kitchens and architectural joinery, please contact 01934 745270 or email newprojects@artichoke-ltd.com

Historical & Period Kitchen Reference Images

At Artichoke, a significant number of the bespoke period kitchens  we are commissioned to design are in English country houses, many dating back many hundreds of years.  When designing for these clients, we find referencing from kitchens from the past a particularly useful way to gain inspiration.  Here are a few of the period kitchens that have inspired our work:

 

The scullery at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

 

The kitchen, Avebury Manor, Wiltshire (prior to its redecoration)

 

The Kitchen in the Basement at Ickworth, Suffolk.

 

The Kitchen at Attingham Park, Shropshire. The elm-topped table and dresser are filled with the copper batterie de cuisine.

 

The range and surrounding stonework with carved inscription in the Kitchen at Gawthorpe Hall, Lancashire.

 

The double sink and taps in the Scullery at Dunham Massey, Cheshire.

 

The Kitchen at Dunham Massey, Cheshire.

 

The Kitchen with the Philip Webb dresser at Standen, West Sussex.

 

The Scullery at Tredegar House, Newport, South Wales. The wooden draining boards and sinks and plate rack are a modern replacement for the original fittings.

 

The Great Kitchen at Tredegar House, Newport, South Wales. The walls are partly tiled with 1880s Maw and Company tiles, with the upper parts painted blue which was a colour believed to repel flies.

 

Old kitchen equipment including graters, a corkscrew, a toasting fork and a sieve at Sunnycroft, Shropshire.

 

Old kitchen utensils used as display at Polesden Lacey restaurant, Surrey.

 

Part of the copper batterie de cuisine on the dresser shelves in the Kitchen at Attingham Park, Shropshire.

 

The Kitchen with wooden table, and range, at Osterley Park, Middlesex. The room has been a kitchen since the 1760s and is in the opposite corner of the house to the Eating Room, so that no noise or cooking odours should disturb the diners.

 

The sixteenth century kitchen built by Sir Richard Grenville at Buckland Abbey, Yelverton, Devon. The kitchen was re-sited to be near to the Great Hall and the room is dominated by two open hearths used for cooking. The walls are painted in a traditional pink limewash.

 

The Kitchen at Castle Drogo, Devon, with the circular beechwood table designed by the architect of the house, Edwin Lutyens. The only natural light in the room comes from the circular lantern window above the table, echoing its shape.

 

Partial view of the oak table designed by Lutyens and made by Dart & Francis in 1927 in the Butler’s Pantry at Castle Drogo, Devon.

 

Three large oak-framed sinks and the long rows of plate racks above partially lit in the Scullery at Castle Drogo.

 

The Larder with a food safe at Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton, West Midlands.

 

Library Interior Design Reference Images

A precursor to starting the interior design work for any bespoke library or study is to take reference from the past.  Here are some of the libraries we love.

 

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The Philosopher’s Hall, Strahov Monastery, Prague(we are currently designing a project inspired by this library).  Click this link to see a fascinating detailed 360 tour of this room.

 

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The grand library at Chatsworth.

 

Bookcases in the Library at Hatchlands Park, Surrey.

Bookcases in the Library at Hatchlands Park, Surrey.

 

The Library at Knightshayes Court, Devon. The bookcases are in a Gothic style with linenfold panelling by John Crace.

The Library at Knightshayes Court, Devon

 

View from the Book Room into the Library at Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire. The Book Room was created by John Soane in 1806 by annexing part of the orangery.

View from the Book Room into the Library at Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire

 

The library steps by Thomas Chippendale the Younger, in the Library at Stourhead, Wiltshire.

The library steps by Thomas Chippendale the Younger, in the Library at Stourhead, Wiltshire

 

The Library, designed by Robert Adam in 1766, at Osterley Park, Middlesex. The room is in a stony white with neo-classical details, the original collection of books would have had colourful bindings and the simplicity of the room was in sympathy with that. In 1885, the original library volumes were sold to pay for the refurbishment of the house.

The Library, designed by Robert Adam in 1766, at Osterley Park, Middlesex.

 

A view from the Hall to the Library at Basildon Park, Berkshire. The Neo-classical plasterwork decoration of the Hall shows the Adam influence on John Carr of York who designed the house in the late eighteenth century. The trophies of arms in panels above the doors are a reminder that entrance halls were used as armouries in earlier times. The Library bookcases are visble through the open door.

A view from the Hall to the Library at Basildon Park, Berkshire

 

The Library at Castle Drogo, Devon. Edwin Lutyens was the architect of Drogo between 1910 and 1930 and he designed the oak bookcases. The lustre dishes above the bookcases are Hispano-Moresque and date from the 1700s.

The Library at Castle Drogo, Devon.

 

The Library at Belton House, Lincolnshire. The room was a dining room in the seventeenth century, changed into a drawing room in 1778, and was converted into a library in 1876.

 

Gilt-brass wirework on one of the bookcases in the Library at Hartwell House, a historic house hotel in Buckinghamshire.

Gilt-brass wirework on one of the bookcases in the Library at Hartwell House, a historic house hotel in Buckinghamshire.

 

Shelves in the Library at Scotney Castle, Kent.

Shelves in the Library at Scotney Castle, Kent.

 

One of the inscribed Gothic hinges on the Library door at Tyntesfield. Only available as a scan.

One of the inscribed Gothic hinges on the Library door at Tyntesfield, North Somerset

 

View of the Library at Nostell Priory: the first room to be remodelled by Robert Adam. The view shows the Chippendale library table, lyre-back chairs (1767-8) and bookcases.

View of the Library at Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire

 

The Library at Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire. The Library was built in 1937-8 by Sidney Parvin to house Lord Fairhaven's collection of books.

The Library at Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire.

 

Looking through the Library door toward the Entrance Hall at Castle Drogo, Devon.

Looking through the Library door toward the Entrance Hall at Castle Drogo, Devon.

 

The library at St Giles House near Shatftesbury, recently restored and owned by the Earl of Shaftestbury.

Villa Guglielmesca, Tuscany, Italy

Villa Guglielmesca is situated near the town of Cortona, in the province of Arezzo in Tuscany. While the prevailing character of Cortona’s architecture is medieval Renaissance, the villa itself dates back to the beginning of the 1900’s.  Originally a private house, it was transformed into a hotel with 12 bedrooms in the 1950’s before being purchased by the current owner.

 

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Villa Guglielmesca, Cortona, Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy (in 2011 before work started)
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The View from the Villa

In 2010, Artichoke was commissioned directly by the owner to reconfigure the Villa and make it function again as a private residence.  This has involved extensive interior architectural design work by Artichoke’s creative team and includes designing the architecture and furniture for the entrance hall, master bedrooms, bespoke kitchen, dining room, butler’s pantry, boot-room, guest and master bathrooms, ballroom, interior architectural joinery, doors, skirting and floors.

 

Front Entrance Door

The front entrace door was designed taking inspiration from the architecture of local vernacular. Our initial design below proposed the door as European Walnut, althoughthe door is now more likely to be hand painted.  The exterior elevation on the left shows the stone architrave which will be in Pietra Serena to match the the Tuscan columns we designed for the interior.  Pietra Serena is a beautiful grey Tuscan sandstone which was used by Michelangelo in the Medici Chapel Romeare.

 

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The splayed reveal August 2014, ready for plastering
Entrance Hall Design

Below is the Entrance Hall as it existed while Villa Guglielmesca was a hotel.   As you can see, the existing interior architecture of the Villa required significant design work.  Our initial focus was to research and gain a thorough understanding of local vernacular to create an appropriate space for family living.

 

The Villa’s entrance hall when it was a hotel

The images below show the approved Artichoke re-design of the entrance hall with twinned Etruscan columns supporting the vaulted ceiling and hiding the re-enforced concrete columns. The stone we are using fo the columns are made from Pietra Serena.

 

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Artichoke’s re-design of the entrance hall

 

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Plans show Artichoke’s architectural plans for the main hall

 

Bespoke Kitchen Interior Design

Artichoke’s design team also introduced the groin vaulted ceiling detail used in the entrance hall to the principal bespoke kitchen as both a device to architecturally tie the two ends of the vast space together and to frame the large open fireplace (also designed by us).

 

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The Villa’s kitchen space taken back to brick

Inspiration for the bespoke kitchen design in Villa Guglielmesca was taken from typical Tuscan agricultural furniture design.  The primary timber being used for the kitchen is French oak. The oak on the island will be bleached and the oak for the pan-shelves will be fumed to age them. The bread board island tops will be made from wild-grain European Walnut which we will source in Italy. The arched doors on the end of the island, which is plastered, are made from solid oak, and roughly hand planed across the grain with a curved plane blade to create an aged effect. The glazed dresser doors close on traditional espagnoletes.

 

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Image shows the two brick islands finished in rough finish lime render
Boot room Design

Artichoke’s design teams have designed numerous bespoke bootrooms for country properties and apart from plenty of storage, a key aspect to most successful bootroom designs is combining practicality with simplicity.  Bootrooms get a lot of wear. They get dirty and are more loved for their practicality than their looks, mainly because most of the fitted furniture becomes draped in coats, hats and scarves, and eventually much of it become invisible. Artichoke designed the Villa’s boot-room with drainage at the centre of the room to allow mud to be washed and brushed away.

 

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Artichoke’s design for the Villa’s bootroom
Kitchen Fireplace

Artichoke designed the fireplace and surround as a multi-functional space, and it is far from simply decorative.  A chargrill has been designed on the right hand side, with the left reserved for open fires and spit-roasting meats.  The stone for the surround is Pietra Serena.

 

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Shows the Artichoke designed fireplace being prepared in tandem with the groined ceiling, also designed by us
Interior Architecture

There are nearly 100 individual features designed by Artichoke inside Villa Guglielmesca, including coffered ceilings, fireplaces, windows, columns, doors and stone architraves.   A few examples can be seen below:

 

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Construction in progress of the groined ceiling in the Villa’s Limonaria

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Pietra Serena stone architrave being set into the Villa walls
One of the Artichoke designed Pietra Serena window surrounds

 

Installation Phase
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Artichoke’s European walnut vanity unit with walnut mirrors. The marble to be added will be Carrara
The Villa’s exterior showing the Pietra Serena windows and door frames designed by Artichoke. The shutters were make locally

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Walnut skirting was designed for the dining room
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Artichoke designed this simple linen store. Note the detail in the clay tiles at the threshold of the door

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Completed Project

A small selection of images from the completed project are below.

Kitchen

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Scullery

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Bootroom

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Guest WC

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Hallway Doors

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Selected Architectural Joinery

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Designing a Country House Kitchen Island

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.

 

The kitchen at Middleton Park. The house was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and his son Robert Lutyens in 1938 for the 9th Earl of Jersey. Not Used CL 12/07/1946
The central island in the main kitchen at Middleton Park was simply a domestic table raised off the ground on blocks

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.

 

Island 1

 

Island 4

 

2D Drawings

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.

 

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3D Renders

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.

 

Blackhurst - View 4

 

Blackhurst - View 7

 

Production Engineering

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.

 

Island b

 

Island d
there are 141 individual hand made component parts in this island. Each is bespoke made from the original raw materials (European Oak)
Production

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.

 

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Dovetail joint
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Mortice and tenon joints
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A specially designed jig with leather protective padding clamps the rail to the leg
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Dovetailed drawers
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Artichoke cabinet maker Craig putting final adjustments to one of the island drawers
Finishing

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.

 

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24 February 2016: Project being installed.

 

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