As a successful independent bathroom studio – and winner of last year’s Essential Kitchen & Bathroom Business Best Bathroom Retailer award – why add kitchens to the mix? Shane Fraser, showroom manager and designer at Camberley-based Stone & Chrome, has no hesitation in his reply.
“We were sick and tired of clients saying, ‘We’re spending £80,000 on the kitchen and we are £10,000 over budget, so that money will have to come off the bathrooms’,” he explains. “Everyone seems happy to chuck money at the kitchen, but the bathrooms have to be second best, which is so frustrating. We want that £80,000.”
Bespoke furniture, painted in Farrow & Ball Skimming Stone, with Miele glass hob, oak trays and chopping board
Over the years, Fraser explains that the company had “done kitchens on the side now and then”, in response to customer requests, but without a proper showroom they were unable to showcase their design skills. “We had no plans to extend the showroom, but in September last year we discovered that the unit next door was about to become available,” he continues.
Franke Box Centre sink with draining rack, knife holder and chopping boards shown with Franke Omni boiling water tap
Previously used as a warehouse “with a roof and a ropey old toilet, but not much else”, they moved quickly to snap it up, knocked through to create a connection between the existing showroom and the new space, and grew the overall display area by 50%. “We refurbished it completely by ourselves, from the ground up – which is why it took us the best part of a year
to complete,” he says.
Who are we? Shane Fraser, showroom manager and designer
What we do Independent bathroom retailer
Business history Founded in 2007 by Jim Gibson-Brown, the business remains owned by him today, with Shane Fraser as shareholder. Bathroom prices start from £15,000, bespoke kitchens by Stone & Chrome, from £35,000; also by 1909 Kitchens, from £25,000.
Appliances by Miele, Bora, Neff, Fisher & Paykel, Caple. Sinks and taps by Quooker, The 1810 Company, Abode, Perrin & Rowe, Franke
Sales stats “About £1million a year,” says Shane Fraser
Staffing levels 4
In October, the new 1,300 sq ft space opened, with displays of a bespoke in-frame kitchen, handmade to Stone & Chrome’s specification, and a display of a contemporary in-frame Slab design from 1909 Kitchens. “We could have crammed in more displays, but everyone is doing extensions these days, so we wanted to show larger, more realistic kitchen sizes, and both are fully working,” says Shane.
Custom Pantry, painted in Farrow & Ball Studio Green with dark stained oak shelve, wine racks and a Caple wine cooler
“The showroom is designed to feel like someone’s house, with styling – from fresh flowers and bread to reed diffusers – to make
it more homely. Lots of other showrooms around here have what we call ‘pig pen’ displays with half height walls, which reminds me of being in B&Q or Wickes.”
He says that the focus is on the handmade designs, of which they sold two £50,000 kitchens in the first few weeks (to existing bathroom customers). “We are proud of our strong carcasses, made of solid, rigid marine ply, rather than MDF, and no one else in the area does handmade in-frame Shaker,” says Fraser, 25, who has worked for the business for seven years, since leaving college.
He says he has learnt on the job and been allowed to develop his design skills with a fairly free rein. “I’ve been able to approach things with a fresh eye,” he says.
And the ambition for the kitchen business? “We’re not trying to take over the world, but aiming to sell about two kitchens a month,” he says. “We have built up the bathroom side by reputation, by being friendly and relatable – and we want to do the same on kitchens.”
Your greatest challenge? Having enough hours in the day
Your greatest opportunity? Being part of a small team allows me to have ideas and opinions, and act on them
Strange but true You wouldn’t believe the amount of people who come into the showroom, look around, then say, ‘do you sell bathrooms?’