ARTICHOKE cook’s tables

Notes on a classic component of the Victorian kitchen

May 1, 2024

The cook’s table was a classic element of a Victorian Kitchen – a stand alone piece that incorporated storage and display or food preparation.

Traditionally, the country house kitchens they stood in were furnished by local craftsmen who designed and made purposeful pieces of furniture which were handed down from generation to generation. So it is common to find a mix of period styles – similar in their practicality and durability, but with subtle variations but that complement each other well.

In the ‘back of house’ quarters of grand country houses, the cook’s table was a central piece of the working kitchen. It was used for food preparation but also sometimes as a dining table for the servants.

A spacious kitchen with red wooden cabinets, a large central island, and traditional tiled backsplash. natural light filters through amber window shades.

Plate 1: Victorian Kitchen, showing plan view of cooks table and stove

A rustic kitchen with a wooden cooks table, stone flooring, and star-patterned drapes. a wooden cabinet and hanging glass pendant lights add to the room’s vintage charm.

Plate 2: Artichoke cook’s table painted red

Historically, the cook’s table was made out of pine, oak, elm and a variety of fruit woods, oiled or polished to bring out the natural graining and features of the wood. Others were colour washed, or painted using primitive paints made from locally available materials such as buttermilk and eggs mixed with earth coloured pigments. There is a beauty in their simplicity that makes a Cooks Table worthy of elevating to a new level in the modern kitchen.

Bright kitchen with natural light, featuring blue and cream cabinetry, a central wooden table, and a checkered tile backsplash. the floor is tiled, and there is a pendant light above.

Plate 3: Cooks table inspired by Lanyrock

With sustainability in mind, at Artichoke we always focus on the practicality and purpose of design. It is true that while the island has become a popular feature of contemporary kitchen design, it can be obtrusive and can dominate a space. A cook’s table offers an elegant and less obtrusive alternative – just as practical but bringing a romantic aesthetic with its history and rusticity. It’s a testament to the beauty of simplicity, achieving elegance alongside functionally.

These key differences between a cook’s table and a modern kitchen island help explain our fascination here at Artichoke. The ability to play with light – where simpler shapes allow light to travel through a domestic space that can otherwise become dark. Or the overall elegance against the more substantial wall cabinetry needed for storage or modern appliances. The cook’s table can bring this lightness of touch both literally and metaphorically to a kitchen.

Of course, every modern kitchen also needs to function perfectly and so an Artichoke cooks table is designed and built to incorporate beautiful design details that handle the everyday essentials – from electrics to surfaces to drawers and shelves. All designed in a way that retains the simplicity and beauty of those early Victorian examples.

We often design and curate a variety of styles to give the impression that rooms have evolved through various owners over time. The style of the joinery, therefore, suggests the story of the house. And so each table, like every piece of furniture we make, is entirely bespoke.