Putting the boutique into bathrooms
Quarrybank Boutique in Cheshire’s affluent Wilmslow set out to be so much more than just a bathroom showroom. Chris Frankland went to get the full story from owners Steven and Koralia Hume
This bathroom showroom on the main pedestrian shopping street in Wilmslow may be small, but it certainly has the wow factor, from the eye-catching window display with its copper bath and stunning one-off artwork creation to the carefully curated displays that ooze colour and style.
On its website, it says their aim was to create a truly unique experience unlike any other showroom with displays intended to inspire fresh ideas and elevate its customers’ vision of their perfect bathroom.
And such was their confidence in that business model that only four months after opening in June 2022 co-owner Koralia Hume submitted Quarrybank Boutique’s entry for the 2023 kbbreview Retail & Designs Awards New Bathroom Showroom of the Year category. And they were shortlisted as one of our four finalists.
Koralia and Steven Hume certainly chose a great location for Quarrybank Boutique, right on the main shopping street in affluent Wilmslow right next to a Nero coffee shop. They are surrounded by sophisticated high-end boutiques, restaurants and bars, all of which attract the kind of customer demographic Quarrybank is targeting.
Koralia says that the demographic is mainly 35- to 50-year-olds who are wealthy, where the wife perhaps doesn’t need to work, they have a big town house with two cars on the drive and they have the money to spend. They like to show off in front of their friends and the wow factor and uniqueness of choice is important.
The other key target customers, she continues, are 50- to 65-year-olds, retired, waiting to renovate their bathrooms and they too have the money to spend as the kids have long moved out. They have sizeable savings and they have a detached or semi-detached house, and they want to deal with one company who will look after the whole project for them.
So how does Quarrybank cater for this affluent clientele’s high expectations?
“The whole idea about Quarrybank is that it is a boutique showroom. We wanted to create something unique,” explains Koralia. “If you look at the high street, there are a lot of boutique shops selling clothes, and if you walk into one of those, they will greet you, serve you with a glass of champagne and show you around, give you advice, measure you and you will get best possible care.”
She continues: “I had that vision in my mind – that if we wanted to do this, it had to be different. And I wanted to incorporate that kind of boutique service into the bathroom industry. People love the fact that when they walk in here, they get served champagne, jazz music is playing, they are exposed to beautiful art, and they can immediately see that this is just so much more than taps and tiles.
“It is a unique concept. We have our own merchandise that we gift people with. We do our own branded candles. So people feel it is not just a shop. We want people to feel pampered.”
Although Koralia and husband Steven only launched Quarrybank Boutique in May 2022, they had been running their own Quarrybank Plumbers business since 2019. Steven had worked in plumbing since he left school and he saw an opening in the area for a plumbing company that offered better service.
Feedback from Quarrybank Plumbers customers was instrumental in their decision to open a bathroom showroom of their own.
Koralia recalls: “The feedback we got was that there was not enough variety of products being offered by showrooms in our area and that they were not very creative with their bathrooms. So we wanted to do something that would actually fit that gap in the market – doing something different, offering different types of services and we hope we have achieved it.”
And our judges for the kbbreview Retail & Designs Awards 2023 were certainly impressed by what they have done.
When you look around the showroom, it is easy to see why. As Koralia puts it: “You are surrounded by colour, everywhere you look there is an injection of colour of some sort.” And textures, with a variety of tiles, panelling, surfaces, vanity units and suites all chosen because they offer something outside of the normal whites and greys, something that would inspire the kind of discerning, high-end clientele of the area.
To achieve this, they chose to partner only with brands that share their values. “We like products that are UK-manufactured,” says Koralia. “We have a lot on board and some that are based locally.”
Once such collaboration is with local company Parker Howley, which makes vanity units in wood with marble or stone tops. “They are totally bespoke and each one is specially made, so everyone will have a unique piece,” adds Koralia. They also prefer brands that are not available all over the internet.
Steven also mentions their live moss ceiling. “Initially,” he says, “we used plastic leaves from Ikea, then we found a local company that does live moss and so we are getting it from them and it is sustainable.”
The art of bathrooms
“Art in Bathrooms was born from my passion for interior design and art. Last year we attended Manchester Art Fair and I thought I would love to have some pieces of art in the showroom. I was looking for inspiration and we met Lily Greenwood, who was our first exhibitor, and a very successful one too. We had six of her artworks here.
“The beauty of it was that it really fitted in with the bathroom theme as her canvasses are covered in see-through varnish, which protects them against moisture. We started marketing them as Art in Bathrooms, with an #artinbathrooms hashtag on social media. It brought us a lot of recognition and people really loved it.
“We have also had works from Samantha Baguley and recently got in a canvas from local artist Ben Melton, who creates pieces in resin and glass. We now have more and more artists beginning to knock on our door.
“The collaboration with Mary Goodwin is a very special one because we met her at a tile event in Manchester. I got in touch with her a couple of months ago and I said we had space here for her artwork and I was quite nervous as she is a very well-known artist, but she said she had two pieces she thought would go really well. She brought them in and I loved them. They feature Vivienne Westwood and Kate Moss. She has also agreed to do a special piece just for us. I am trying to educate our customers to make their bathrooms into more than just a place to wash.”
Koralia Hume, co-owner, Quarrybank Boutique
In keeping with the luxury experience the showroom offers, Quarrybank has recently added a feng shui service, with a dedicated display with wooden tiles and a live moss ceiling.
Koralia explains their thinking: “We are aware that our clients are very well-being-oriented. The women go to pilates and yoga classes, they do meditation and we thought that this could be an additional service for this market. And the younger generation of women absolutely love it. We pick the furniture and colour scheme and where everything goes within the room to allow the good energy to flow. I have studied feng shui and feel that I now have enough knowledge. I believe we are one of the first in the UK to offer this service.”
With Koralia having run a digital marketing agency after leaving a career in investment banking, she makes sure Quarrybank stays active on social media and keeps on top of Google landing pages and website updates and blogs. They also host open-day events in the showroom at least every three months. Often they have a live model in the bath in the window display, which always turns heads and helps people remember them. They lay on drinks and snacks and run competitions for the children to win prizes.
To help give back to the community, Quarrybank also sponsors the local Styal Festival, the local kids theatre group and through Quarrybank Plumbers it sponsors a local youth football team. Quarrybank Boutique is also planning to sponsor a local girls football team.
“We understand that our business relies on our community and we want them to know that we are here for them as much as they are here for us,” adds Koralia.
Future plans will see Quarrybank Boutique open up its first-floor area with eight more bathrooms displays and also an area to showcase Worcester Bosch boilers. They want the upstairs to show more high-end brands and are in talks with, among others, House of Piccadilly, Oasis, Cielo, Matki, Utopia, Lusso, VitrA (Designer range) and Novello.
Quarrybank also has plans to launch its own range of bespoke furniture, specially made for them and branded with their name, and are already in talks with a local joinery company.
Quarrybank prides itself on providing that special retail experience. As Koralia sums it up: “We don’t sell bathrooms – we sell a vision.”