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.
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 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.