Carrara & the English Country House

The interior design of many of our most treasured country houses in many ways reflects the characteristics of the English themselves. Restrained, understated, subtle and, occasionally, elegant.

These are all traits the Artichoke design team tries to inject into the kitchens and furniture we design for our client’s country houses.  Many of these attributes are successfully delivered through the physical form of the furniture we design, such as the period mouldings we create for each piece, the width of the door frames we design and the proportion of the furniture.  Achieving elegance through form can quickly be tarnished if the materials then chosen to adorn it are not well considered.

 

Carrara marble for country house
Carrara marble grain. Understated and elegant.

 

Our view here at Artichoke is that if a designer creates beautifully detailed kitchen furniture, very little else needs then to be added to detract from it.  This is particularly so with classical furniture where mouldings and shadow inject a wonderful flow and ripple into the face of the work. Contemporary kitchens are so often adorned with striking and flamboyant marbles because the furniture itself has little creative substance to it.  By introducing a bold patterned marble, the designer is simply deflecting attention away from the fact the furniture is principally flat and lifeless.

It is inevitable that as designers and makers of kitchens and domestic areas of country houses, we have a view on which marble worktops look most appropriate in traditional environments. Despite our work being principally in English country houses, we tend not to suggest English stones for many of our kitchen worktops.  While many of them are extremely hard wearing (such as slates available from Lancashire), few of them can be used for pieces such as cook’s tables or islands. This is mainly due to the nature of their extraction from the rock bed. Most English stones are blasted from the quarry face with explosives, resulting in eccentric sized blocks usually no wider than two metres. By contrast, marble slabs are cut from the quarry face in huge rectangular blocks, allowing for a much greater size of slab (typically up to three metres in length). This makes marble much more practical to use in kitchen design. We explore which stones perform best for kitchen worktops in another blog ‘Ideas for Kitchen Worktops’.

 

Carrara marble islands
Honed Carrara Marble worktops and backsplash form an understated background to this Artichoke kitchen.

 

In the Georgian and Edwardian periods of English architecture, Carrara was the favoured marble of choice. Not only was it readily available, but its quiet and understated graining also reflected the characteristics of the English themselves. It is luxurious without being opulent and it has a more understated veining compared to other more ‘vulgar’ marbles.  It can be seen in many of England’s finest country houses such as Chatsworth.  Marble Arch is built from Carrara.  It has been described as the elegant workhorse of the kitchen, and it ages beautifully.

From a longevity point of view, Carrara marble is also timeless.  This works well with our designs which we create to sit comfortably and elegantly into their architectural surroundings for many years.  If we are to create furniture today that will be admired by future generations (in much the same way that today we admire work created in houses like Chatsworth), then it is worth remembering Carrara for your project.

 

To discuss your project, email the Artichoke team at newprojects@artichoke.co.uk or call on +44 (0)1934 745270.

Lutyens’ Architectural Joinery

We consider ourselves fortunate to have designed furniture and architectural joinery into some of Britain’s finest period and listed houses, including two homes designed by the great English Edwardian architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Lutyens was a master of his craft.   He is one of the few architects revered for both the quality of his English country house interiors as much as the quality of his exteriors.  He was as much of a furniture designer as as he was an architect.

At Artichoke we place as much importance on creative design as we do on making; a great kitchen or library designed poorly is a total waste of money, no matter how well it is made.  To us, everything starts with great design.

Research forms a key part of our design process; we hold a large database of Lutyens mouldings and we have an extensive library of period architectural detail to refer back to, including a back catalogue from the archives of Country Life Magazine.  The magazine has been kind enough to provide us with images from some of our favourite Lutyens architectural joinery and furniture designs for this study into his work.

 

Folly Farm, Berkshire

The original 17th century house was enlarged by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1906 and again in 1912-16.  Artichoke designed the kitchen for the house in 2009 and our kitchen design was influenced partly by elements of the detail in the cabinet below, in particular the mitred joins on the cabinet doors.

 

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A built in cabinet at Folly Farm
View of the interior at Folly Farm. The original 17th century house was enlarged by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1906 and again in 1912-16. Not Used 04/02/1922
An interior panelled passage – note the door handles
The Viceroy’s House, Delhi, India

Sir Edwin Lutyens joined the Delhi Planning Commission in 1912 and was responsible for designing the Viceroy’s House. The new capital of British India, New Delhi was officially opened in 1931.

 

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A fireplace at the Viceroy’s House
Castle Drogo, Devon

Castle Drogo was designed by Lutyens between 1910 and 1932 and was the last castle to have been built in England.  The kitchen, with the circular beechwood table, was designed by Lutyens.

 

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All the light in the room comes from the circular lantern window above the table

The butler's pantry at Castle Drogo. The castle was begun in 1911 and completed in 1930 to designs by Sir Edwin Lutyens for Julius Drewe. Not Used CL 10/08/1945

 

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A doorway at Drogo with Jacobean style panelling
The latch on the entrance door at Castle Drogo. The castle was begun in 1911 and completed in 1930 to designs by Sir Edwin Lutyens for Julius Drewe. Not Used CL 10/08/1945
The latch on the entrance door. Every detail was considered
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A stunning door at Drogo. Note the book-matched pair of central panels at the base if the door. The door is hinged on a pivot
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Carved pilasters on either side of a door at Castle Drogo
Marsh Court, Hampshire

Marsh Court was the last of the houses that Lutyens built in the tudor style.  It was
from local materials that Lutyens revived a 17th Century practice and built the house from ‘clunch’ chalk blocks with occasional inlays of flint.

 

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The frieze panel was carved in local chalk
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A door in the dining room. Of particular note is the stepped door reveal lined in Walnut and the quartered veneer door panels
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The log store. Lutyens invested as much effort in back of house as he did on front of house rooms
Les Boit des Moutiers, France

The staircase and first floor landing at Le Boit des Moutiers. The house was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens for Guillaume Mallet in 1898 and was one of the few built on mainland Europe.

 

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Medieval styling is in abundance here, in particular the portcullis detail below the banister rail
Heathcote House, West Yorkshire

Heathcote house was designed in the Baroque style by Lutyens in 1906.  Lutyens came to call this style “Wrenaissance” after Christopher Wren.

 

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The glazed cabinet at the back (and in the one below) has inspired many Artichoke designs
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The fireplace at Heathcote. Note the ball feet below the furniture in the recesses, the clever desk and the bevelled mirror glass
Middleton Park, Oxfordshire

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.

 

The butler's pantry at Middleton Park. The house was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and his son Robert Lutyens in 1938 for the 9th Earl of Jersey. Pub Orig CL 12/07/1946
The fantastic and beautifully proportioned Butler’s pantry
In this later example of kitchen design by Lutyens, the appliances are more sophisticated. Note the raised table island and zinc worktop
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A pedimented door. Note the inset mould in the architrave
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Fitted dressing room
A panelled room 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
Fitted dressing room
Sullingstead, Surry

The kitchen at Sullingstead. The house was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1896-97 for Charles Arthur Cook.

 

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Particularly striking is the oak Doric column supporting the joinery
Crooksbury, Surry

The house was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1890 for Arthur Chapman.

 

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This fantastic crockery display cabinet was designed by Lutyens
Deanery Garden, Berkshire

Deanery Garden was built in 1901 for Edward Hudson, the creator of Country Life, to designs by Sir Edwin Lutyens. The garden was designed in collaboration with Gertrude Jekyll.

 

The dining room at Deanery Garden. The house was built in 1901 for Edward Hudson, the creator of Country Life, to designs by Sir Edwin Lutyens and the garden was designed in collaboration with Gertrude Jekyll. Not Used CL 09/05/1903
The dining room at Deanery Garden