Artichoke’s Bruce Hodgson on getting restoration right: ‘There is no need for a period house to feel like a museum’

Bruce Hodgson of Artichoke explains why carefully conceived, beautifully executed joinery is vital to the evolution of a period house in the 21st century.

What do you see as key to a sympathetic, successful restoration of a period house?

Restoration requires the same approach that was first used to create a beautiful period house: an unyielding commitment to the best design, techniques and, of course, materials.

Another is time, which is, without a doubt, our favourite tool. Today, it’s a rare commodity, but, in the past, it was a key ingredient in the creation of fine buildings.

Why is time such an important tool?

Time transforms every stage in the process, from planning and design to making and installing beautiful cabinetry and architectural details. It allows you to focus on elements that are vital to both the structural integrity of a piece and its appearance.

Adequate time means that every design is completely bespoke and the team is freed of the constraints of pre-existing templates or by work we have done for other clients.

How important is an understanding of the past to this process?

It allows you to get under the skin of what it takes to make truly great joinery, offering an understanding of scale and proportion, through to materials and almost imperceptible details. These are qualities that all contribute to a sense of harmony that makes a design feel appropriate to a period setting.

Is it possible to fulfil the needs of a period building as well as its owners?

Almost every period building has evolved over time, as it passes from one owner to the next. The interventions we make for our clients are merely the latest chapter in that story. They also allow our clients to make a house their own, yet keep its spirit alive.

But any intervention has to be extremely carefully handled — and you’ll see many that haven’t been, both in the past and in the present day. By listening to the architectural needs of a house, as well as the needs of our clients, it’s possible to create spaces that are sympathetic to one and a delight to the other.

What do you see as the main benefit of restoring a period house?

As well as creating a home with enormous integrity and character, you are building a legacy that will contribute to our future heritage. One of the reasons Britain is so beautiful is because we have a respect for the past.

What is exciting is that we live in a golden era of restoration. Knowledge, experience and craftsmanship are creating opportunities that would never have been possible before.

What are the key ingredients in a period house that’s suitable for 21st-century life?

The focus has to be on how the house is used by its owners and how it can be manipulated around their needs while maintaining authenticity and warmth. There is no need for a period house to feel like a museum.

What are your favourite examples of how joinery and architectural detailing can transform period spaces?

There is enormous satisfaction in reviving the character of formal rooms with joinery and architectural detailing that evoke the spirit of the age in which they were built. Over the years, however, we have also developed a deep understanding of how houses work and, as well as formal spaces, we often focus on practical areas.

Recently, we were commissioned to work on a Regency property, the transformation of which involved adding new rooms that would act as a ‘valve’ between the outside world and the interiors. It comprised a series of domestic spaces that are understated, but luxurious.

The result of the works is a house that offers the best of both worlds: it remains true to its origins, but also serves as the ideal space for living, working and entertaining.

For more information, see Artichoke’s website at or call telephone 01934 745270.