Our production Manager John, first gained a BA Hons in fine art painting at Winchester School of Art. After finishing his degree, he first worked as a technician before moving to London to become a display and lettering artist at Simpsons of Piccadilly. He then moved on to work as a prop maker and carpenter for the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.
Following his time in London, John moved to Somerset, and joined a team of other expert makers who were commissioned to make a pair of large oak installations for the modernist British sculptor Sir Anthony Caro. The installations were installed into the church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Bourbourg, Northern France, seen below.
John joined Artichoke in 2011 as a maker and now leads our skilled team in the workshop.
A previous article about Kitchens and VAT in Listed Property has helped a number of clients new to listed buildings gain some understanding of how their home’s listing affects their VAT position.
A number of Artichoke’s clients are, however, building new country houses, and in these, the VAT position is slightly different. Somewhat frustratingly, the advice from HMRC also tends to be somewhat woolly and vague (in our opinion!).
Firstly, it’s worth double checking that your house is in fact considered a new build. If the house you are building is yours and you plan to live in it (not run a business from it), it’s separate from other buildings, and you are building it from scratch, it should be considered a new build for VAT purposes.
Now you and your builder will need to work out what is, and what is not VAT-able. The general rule of thumb is that if you tipped your house upside down, anything that fell out would be subject to VAT. However, as with all forms of tax, there are grey areas.
Kitchens and VAT
Your kitchen furniture for instance is zero rate-able for VAT, as are some appliances which are considered part of the building; an AGA for instance is considered by HMRC as forming an intrinsic part of the building, but an integrated oven (which can be removed easily) is not.
The extraction also forms an integral part of the building and can be zero rated. Other elements of fitted furniture however, such as wardrobes, are not exempt from VAT although panelling is in some cases if it is considered architectural joinery. Doors and architraves can also be zero rate-able for VAT purposes in as much as they are considered forming part of the building.
Builders and Architects Fees
Your builders labour is exempt from VAT on a new build, but your architects fees are not (unless they are not VAT registered).
The HMRC VAT claim form for new builds is worth reading, and as ever, we would advise asking your accountant to clarify this before employing a builder as the rules change.
26 years seems like a long time to wait before creating your first advertising campaign. Ironically, we’re busier than ever. So why now?
As we’ve matured, we’ve gained greater understanding of what sets us apart. Subconsciously we’ve always known, but it’s not been expressed until now. To use marketing jargon, it’s about positioning.
Put simply, we design rooms which look as if they were always meant to be there and we then make them to ensure they always will be. With each new project we are motivated by the opportunity to improve how clients live in their houses. We are also motivated by legacy, and with every project we aim to create Britain’s future heritage.
Among the Art Director’s initial sketches were this set of striking images (above) designed to illustrate that Artichoke is not simply a designer of kitchens, a skill we’d become well known for. We are a company which uses architectural expertise, joinery design, interior design and a deep understanding for household life to create beautiful and practical spaces which add value to our client’s houses for many generations.
Bringing the Art Director’s creative idea to life required a delicate touch. Matthew Cook is one of the UK’s greatest reportage artists with a wonderful ability to observe real life. And it’s real life which Artichoke deals with daily. The design decisions we make for our clients, and the quality of our craftsmanship, directly affects how they and their families live in their homes for many generations.
Matthew is not only a professional illustrator but also an experienced soldier having undertaken two tours of Afghanistan as a corporal with the Parachute Regiment in the TA. His work has been commissioned widely in publications such as Country Life, The Spectator and The Times, and we are delighted he agreed to illustrate our advertising. You can see more of Matthew Cook’s work here: https://www.theartworksinc.com/portfolio/matthew-cook/.
We are on the cusp of a new Arts and Crafts period led by new craftsmen and the circumstances of its coming are remarkably similar to the original.
Arts and Crafts (version 1.0) started in the UK in around 1880 and it spread across Europe rapidly. It followed a period of huge change in the UK, a period in which industrialisation totally changed the lives or ordinary working people. The arts and crafts movement poured scorn on the mechanisation and materials of industry, and it was in many ways a cry for help. This new movement focussed on design, on craft and on traditional skills. The glue that held it together was idealism and it established a new set of principles for living and working.
Fast forward 140 years to today, and society is in a similar place. We have followed twenty years of extraordinary technological change, both in manufacturing and computing, and there is an underlying feeling that society is yearning to get back to working with its hands. People are suffering from TMT (Too Much Tech). In the same way that the burgeoning Victorian industrial mass manufacturing methods placed limits on design (the design of cast iron bridges were controlled by the way the parts could be manufactured), so too have modern automated manufacturing methods steered high street design of today. Modern furniture looks the way it does (often bland) because its design is restricted by the functionality of the machinery that makes it at scale. To overcome this technical constraint, the furniture is marketed slickly and heavily using budgets made available through the large profits generated. The consumer is none the wiser. If the tail is manufacturing, design is the dog, and both then and now, the tail has been wagging the dog. The new craftsmen are fighting against this and it’s producing wonderful furniture rooted in rooted in craftsmanship and narrative.
Take bespoke kitchen and architectural joinery design and craftsmanship, a field we specialise in. For the last 10 years, interiors magazines have been groaning with mass produced ranges of pre-designed kitchen furniture. These products are pre-designed so rooms can be laid out rapidly, and the furniture is designed in such a way that it can be mass produced, allowing manufacturers and kitchen retailers to generate significant margins through economies of scale. Their motivations are financial in much the same way as were the motivations of the Victorian industrial manufacturer. It is an approach which has made many people very rich, but we would argue an approach that will not continue to delight future generations. It is a temporary approach, and one we have written about before.
A small group of designers and craftsmen, ourselves included, have never subscribed to this approach. Our company vision is that great design and craftsmanship will be thriving in 100 years, and if we are to create Britain’s future heritage today we have to design and make furniture which will sit appropriately and elegantly into its surrounding architecture for centuries. This simply cannot be achieved with automated processes which constrain design. Each room we design requires its own very personal touch. Each moulding and the materials we chose for each project have to be intensively scrutinized to ensure they will still look as good today as they will for the next generation. This is why Artichoke only makes around 20 kitchens a year; you cannot mass produce one offs.
A recent article in the Spectator backs this up. The piece focuses on the work of George Saumarez Smith, a partner at classical architects ADAM Architecture. The premise of the piece is that while classicism never went away, it did become unfashionable for a period before now coming back. That’s the great thing about classicism. You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone, and eventually it always comes back. You can only achieve the quality that authentic classical and traditional design demands by designing and making it properly in the first place; with love, by hand, and with an obsessively focussed attention to detail. And herein lies the problem. To create the level of detail needed to pull off a fine classical or traditional interior requires complete dedication to the craft and a rigorous focus on the detail; and this doesn’t sit well with shareholders looking to make a fast buck. So they turn to automation. How many public craft based design or cabinet makers do you know?
As designers we often take inspiration from the great periods of classical English architecture, from early Georgian to Edwardian. We take a particular interest in period house detail, materials and finishes because they are the ones we love and admire the most. They are almost always the ones created by hand, with love. As craftsmen, we make furniture with integrity using traditional skills, not because we are stuck in the past, but because these methods have yet to be improved on by modern technology. Naturally we embrace technologies which make us more efficient, but when it comes to the integrity of our furniture, we do not believe in taking short cuts. Ever.
At Artichoke, we’ve always been arts and crafts; creating Britain’s future heritage cannot be achieved any other way.
Welcome to Arts and Crafts V.02. We hope you enjoy the ride.
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.
Traditional kitchen design and period architectural joinery design is a wonderful and highly skilled discipline. It is also a minefield. In the wrong hands it can produce lacklustre and uninspiring results. For important country houses and significant domestic projects, traditional and classical design is not something you can simply ‘have a go at’. Naive is the client that hands responsibility for designing complex period joinery and traditional kitchen design detail over to a designer that doesn’t understand joinery construction or moulding detail or the rules and pitfalls of classical design detail, scale, proportion, joints and shadow.
In most cases, Artichoke is commissioned to design traditional bespoke kitchens and architectural joinery directly by the homeowner. In rare cases however, we are presented with design work that has previously been undertaken by a third party for us to develop before making. What is usually designed is not necessarily wrong, but in every case the joinery or kitchen design is restrained by its original designers’ lack of knowledge and understanding of classical and traditional furniture detailing. It is therefore not as good as it could be, and the glories and elegance of traditional design detail are usually not deployed. The paying client is the loser. Artichoke’s creative designers inevitably have to re-design it, which means the client pays twice for the design. A lot of time is also wasted.
Over the last 15 years or so we have witnessed a marked reduction in the number of designers capable of designing really successful traditional kitchen interiors and period detailed architectural joinery. There are a number of reasons for this in our view.
Contemporary Projects are seen as more exciting
Firstly, London has become the largest interior design market on earth, a boom that has been responsible for a welcome influx in young and enthusiastic interior designers choosing it as a career. Naturally, young people prefer to focus their attentions on pushing the boundaries of contemporary design as opposed to focusing on past styles where the boundaries have already been pushed and are now, in their minds, largely encased in aspic. Young designers are either not interested in traditional design, or they are confused by it.
Further compounding the issue is that because contemporary joinery is quicker to design and make, it’s therefore more commercial. The fact that contemporary design, by it’s very nature, goes out of fashion quite quickly is neither here nor there to designers putting profit first.
Traditional Design scares some designers
Secondly, many designers find it is easier to design contemporary work (with flat doors and no handles) than to design traditional work (with framed and raised and fielded panelled doors with differing widths of rails, lock rails and styles, butt hinges, moulding types, aris moulds, panel depths, interactions with other mouldings, cock-beads, knobs, shadows and so on). With traditional kitchen design and architectural joinery, there is much more detail and it is easier to trip up. As a consequence, traditional detail scares many designers who tend to avoid tackling it, preferring to retract to a comfort zone of safety by drawing flat doors with finishes on and letting their joinery shop develop their designs further.
This approach sets off a dangerous chain reaction. Most joinery companies do not offer an experienced creative front end design, let alone any with a skill in classical detailing. It’s a bit like asking your builder to detail the architecture. Most joinery shop business models rely on moving pre-designed projects through their workshop with minimal overhead, and usually a good draughtsman with no link to the end user or with any creative training is deployed to create the finished drawings. With no creative skin in the game or emotional connection to the client or house, this often results in underwhelming designs inspired from poorly detailed originals.
Classical detail is not on the syllabus
Thirdly, designers, particularly interior designers, are simply not being trained to design traditional joinery, and most don’t have the experience. Interior design courses (such as the KLC Diploma and BA (Hons)) have to cover huge subject areas and they simply cannot afford to specialise on the specifics of traditional joinery. So they don’t offer it. To design something well you really need to know how to make it first, and furniture making is sadly not covered in their syllabus either. It’s too big and too specialist a subject.
Artichoke’s value is in our years of experience in bespoke kitchen and joinery design; these skills have been learned through 25 years, day in day out, designing, making and fitting work into country houses, making mistakes and learning from them. A recent Country Life Magazine article about us put it well, describing us as bridging the design void that exists between architects, interior designers and specialist joiners.
Private clients who really value their houses want design which sits comfortably in its surroundings, and they commission us because they want their joinery designed by an engaged specialist with experience in the subject. With 25 years of experience designing the kitchens and domestic joinery for some of Britain’s finest country houses, we think we’ve more experience than most in understanding what works creatively and how to deliver it through design.
It’s a tremendously exciting and humbling position to be in.
When a child under the age of ten is asked to draw a house, it is typically a Georgian house, with a door in the middle and sash windows to the side. Everyone loves Georgian architecture. There is something about its proportions, its materials and its grandeur that makes it appealing to all of us, and the same applies to elegant Georgian kitchen design.
Georgian kitchen design as we think of it today is a little misleading. In the 1700s, most kitchens on the great houses of Britain were often positioned in a wing or subsidiary building. This was to keep cooking and curing smells away from the main house. Original Georgian kitchens were in fact quite devoid of furniture and any sense of intentional interior design. Their focus was more on the appliances such as cooking grates, spits and ovens. There may have been a cook’s table and a dresser to store pots in, but that was as flamboyant as most got.
From back of house to front – How the Georgian Kitchen gained prominence
Owners of grand houses did not like to spend money on their back of house spaces and consequently most original Georgian kitchen designs were kept pared back and understated. As the industrial revolution began to take hold, a burgeoning middle class began to appear and servants left their roles serving the upper and middle classes to take jobs in factories. Servant’s wages began to rise to a point where hiring them became unsustainable for country estates, and as a consequence, the lady of the house became more involved in the kitchen. This marked the turning point in kitchen design. Home owners did not want to spend their day in the dingy spaces that their predecessors’ staff had had to endure, and as a result, back of house kitchens manned by maids were userped by front of house kitchens manned by their owners. And with the Georgian kitchen’s new prominent location within the home came a sharper focus on interiors and kitchen furniture design.
Georgian Kitchen Design for Grander Houses
When kitchens were back of house, their detail was kept to a minimum for a number of reasons. Detail costs money, and detail takes time to clean. The door frames were therefore typically square and the cabinets were usually devoid of mouldings and decoration.
When kitchens were moved to the ground floor of the main house, the rooms were larger, as were the budgets. The scale and proportion of these larger spaces also allowed for greater decoration and moulding to match the spaces they were in. Typical kitchen tasks, previously divided in separate smaller basement rooms such as scullery, pantry, larder and cooking were now amalgamated into a single larger space. The Georgian kitchen had become and multi functional space.
For further information about Georgian kitchen design and Artichoke’s bespoke kitchen design services, email email@example.com or call +44 1943 745 270
Bruce Hodgson is Founder and Creative Director of Artichoke. Artichoke is known for designing beautiful bespoke furniture, and architectural joinery for English country houses.
Established in 1993, Artichoke has worked hard to secure a high reputation among clients, and within the British design world. The company is renowned for its meticulous attention to detail and an un-compromising approach to quality.
In particular the company has gained a reputation for designing elegant family kitchens for country homes, and well considered back of house joinery such as Butler’s pantries, boot rooms and sculleries. Bruce and his team draw upon their extensive knowledge, and vast database of classical and period detail to produce truly exceptional designs. Bruce is passionate about his work and he and his team take huge pride in their ability to really understand how their clients live and use the spaces being designed.
All of Bruce’s designs are made in Artichoke’s own workshops in Somerset, England.
In order to design kitchens of the future, it helps to understand kitchen design of the past. By doing so, we believe we can help clients with large country houses understand how their houses were initially intended to be used, and in doing so, how we can improve how they are used in the future. The Artichoke team pays particularly close attention to how country houses were originally intended to operate, and how changing socio-economic environments have affected this use over time. There have been huge cultural changes over the last 150 years.
It was not until the mid 19th century that kitchen design became of interest to house owners. Prior to that, the owners of large country houses were simply not interested in their kitchens or how they were designed. The rooms were out of site, often in the basement or away from the main body of the house. They were therefore out of mind, run by the cook, the servants and the housekeeper, and the closest they got to interior design was choosing the paint colour.
In the 1860s, changes in social attitudes began to alter the social hierarchy of the country. Before this, the Lady of the grander country house would plan her weekly meals with her cook. With the industrial revolution creating more jobs in factories, and an establishing rail network allowing easier movement, a burgeoning middle class began to appear. Servants positions became less interesting to the ambitious jobseeker. This turn of events was very well documented in the BBC’s series Downton Abbey.
The growth of the middle classes (who could afford fewer servants and smaller houses), meant an increasing number of women found themselves in the kitchen. Originally they made bread and trained their staff, but more increasingly they found themselves working alongside the kitchen staff they employed. It was inevitable that improvements to cleanliness, comfort and kitchen interior design would soon follow. This was emphasised by influential cookery writers of the age such as Mrs. Beeton who capitalised on the countries’ new found love for kitchen design and kitchen living.
The improved kitchen interior was further fuelled by the introduction of mains water, gas and plumbed in sinks and boilers during the 1870s. The Victorian kitchen was now becoming a more pleasant place to spend the day.
Fast forward to present day, and it is estimated that the British spend over an hour and a half a day cooking which for many represents 3 years over the average life. It’s small wonder then that we place so much value on good kitchen design.
Artichoke’s design team is fairly obsessed with boot rooms. In fact, the domestic back end of a country house holds a rather geeky fascination for us. While boot rooms (or mud rooms) are hardly glamorous, they do present a variety of interesting design challenges.
The primary function of a boot room is to act as a valve between the outside elements and interior house. It should be a practical, functional room that everyone in the family uses, including the dog! In this blog we will explore some of the main considerations when designing a boot room.
It all stars with a conceptual design. In order produce the perfect boot room, its important to fully understand the family for whom it is intended. By getting to know our clients personally we are able to consider every aspect of their day to day life. For example, how many children or animals are there? Are shooting, fishing or riding regular family activities? What kind of sports kit needs to be stored? What sort of hats, and how many coats do they own? Do guns need to be stored? If so, what are the security requirements?…The list of requirements can be almost endless!
Early into the design process we produce a watercolour sketch, like the one below. This gives clients a clear picture of initial ideas and intent for the design.
Common design oversights
How to deal with mud should be thoroughly thought through, especially if the room is likely to have heavy use. A hard-wearing material for the floor is essential. An obvious choice in a country house would be stone or tile (as seen below). Vinyl floor is another cheaper, very practical alternative.
In many country houses, boot rooms act as the main back entrance to the house. If this is the case it could be wise to consider an additional smaller entrance to act as a second valve to trap the cold and wind as family members or guests, enter and leave the house.
Consideration should also be given to drainage. Artichoke designed the boot room below with a drain in the centre of the floor meaning mud and dirt could be swept directly into it. An externally mounted tap may be another key feature to think about. Having this outside allows muddy boots or animals to be cleaned off before they enter the house.
Function of the sink
If a sink is required we like to make sure its made appropriately for what it will be used for. For example, if it will be used for washing muddy boots or pets it must be large and made of a robust material. Alternatively if its only used for lighter activities such as flower arranging, we must consider the height of the tap to ensure that all tall vases can be filled.
Obsessing over the small details is vital if one is to create boot rooms that work for each families very unique needs. Like much interior design, there are no right or wrong answers, but there is certainly poorly considered design which can be avoided by asking the right questions.
If you have a boot room project you’d like professionally designed, we’d love to discuss it. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)1934 745270.