Over the past year I have been making regular trips to a workshop in Kent to learn the craft of furniture making. I go to Kent because Peter Quinn, the guvnor of the Furniture Craft School, is happy to have me on a part-time basis and to let me stray from his curriculum. I have started building my kitchen with only a jewel box and shaker table to my name.
Also, the workshop is on the Scotney Castle Estate, a lovely place to escape to from the big city. And I have the opportunity, cycling the local roads, to admire the traditional domestic architecture of Kent and East Sussex, houses that inspired many of the early architects of the Arts and Crafts movement. Think tile-hung cottages, prominent gables with ornate barge-boards, the decorative use of red and blue brick, and sweeping roofs and deep eaves.
I've begun the kitchen with a key feature that defines the character of the whole kitchen: a set of wall hung shelves in walnut and sycamore that is based on a typical Victorian picture frame (walnut with gold interior trim). Our plan is to fill the shelves with attractive containers and so create an ever-changing art-work. Finding the containers is not easy as they have to be robust, opaque, air-tight and beautiful. And probably not purple. But it's an interesting hobby in itself - let me know if you have any recommendations.
The shelves have been tricky to make. Anything with prominent mitred joints (i.e.a 45 degree junction) has got to be spot on if it is not to look a bit rubbish. Happily it has all come together: the veneered back panel, the sycamore shelves and internal frame (with curved edge detail), the walnut frame, and the shadow gap dividing the two parts of the frame.
I've brought it home and put it up in the garage. The jar collection is growing, though as every jar has to be both useful AND beautiful they may not all last the journey to The Orchard. Of course, we now face the minor issue of working out how to associate each jar with what goes in it, but that's a game we can play for years to come. For now, I'm happy to have a tiny but lovely component of the new house complete. Next job: build the wall to put it on.