Reviving the Art of Specialist Wood Finishing

The hand application of traditional finishes is a dying art to many cabinet makers.

Throughout our 30 years of designing and making rooms that sit comfortably alongside period architecture, we’ve seen numerous examples of well-made cabinetry let down by their maker’s failure to get the finishing right.

Making and period finishing (or polishing) are completely different disciplines, and in the UK (and more accutely in the US), the art of period finishing has slowly become victim to mechanisation and modern pressure spraying methods.  This is understandable.  As accountants push companies to build in efficiencies to boost profit, something’s got to give.  That something is often hand finishing.


Mixing a finish for a project is an alchameic process. It doesn’t come out of a tin.


While our accounts team form a vital role within Artichoke, we do not let them dictate the methodology of our craft (much in the same way that our French polishers are not given responsibility for managing our work in progress valuation).  While the wider world of fitted joinery has marched enthusiastically into the modern era towards profitable glossy spray applied finishes, we’ve chosen a different route, instead bringing period finishes up to date without compromising their original integrity and character.

While period finishes are more complex to apply than their modern replacements delivered from a spray gun, they do offer more versatility.  Being hand applied they allow for human touch to infiltrate the finished result.  They require mixing by hand, they require an experienced human eye to achieve the right colour balance, they require craftsmen and women to make aesthetic decisions.


Because finishes are applied by hand and not machine, they are not uniform. The process allows for the human eye and it allows for our crafstmen and women to make their own judgement, a huge element of the bespoke process.

Up until now, the difficulty with many hand applied finishes has been that they have not been robust enough to withstand the rigours of modern family life.  At Artichoke we have spent many years perfecting how to develop period finishes which look authentic but perform well for modern families in modern environments.



The ability for a skilled craftsman or woman to make their own judement on the outcome of a piece goes to the very heart of craft.  If you take this away from them, you are stripping out the soul of a piece.  And we don’t do soul-less.


To see some of the stunning work we have completed please click here.

Different Wood Finishes and Period Effects

Many of our projects require authentic period finishes and effects to be added to the furniture we design and make for clients.  This is particularly important as we spend much of our time in country houses and listed buildings, each of which require different wood finishes.

To join Artichoke’s finishing team, apprentices first need to show off what they can do.  At Artichoke, we call it The One Board project.

Apprentices are given a solid board of European Oak and asked to create as many different finishes as they’re able to along it’s length.  Sometimes they will create finishes that are relevant to a specific project, in this case a large aged dresser for a bespoke kitchen in a listed Georgian house in Hampshire.

Our bespoke approach does not stop at design. The finishes below showcase just what’s possible from a creative finishing team with one board of beautiful oak and some skill.


ART003Milk paint finishes





To see some of the stunning work we have completed please click here.

If you have a specific project you’d like to discuss with Artichoke, please contact the team on +44 (0)1934 745270.

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