Claude Monet is quoted as saying ‘Everything changes, even stone’ and husband-and-wife team, Dave and Becca Cranfield, demonstrate just that through their stone restoration and maintenance business, Athena Stonecare. Back in September 2020, we were fortunate enough to be joined by the lovely and extremely knowledgable Becca as our Brunch Guest Speaker.
As we Interior Designers are well aware, natural stone has been used for many thousands of years, its durability unquestioned. But this quality often means stone can be overlooked – seen as functional rather than beautiful. Athena Stonecare are keen to bust these myths, instead promoting and maximising through their work the versatility and beauty of stone showcasing the material’s timeless appearance.
So read on below to gain an insight into this how this busy and efficient company got started.
Getting to know your business….
How did Athena Stonecare come about and how long ago? How did you get started?
Athena Stonecare was established in 2012 by my husband, Dave Cranfield, who spotted a gap in the market for stone restoration whilst working in carpet and tile cleaning. The business grew through word of mouth and Athena Stonecare gained a reputation across London and the Home Counties as specialists in restoration, maintenance and resurfacing of all natural stone surfaces.
Who forms part of your team?
We are a husband-and-wife team: Dave is in charge of all things technical, whilst I lead on business development. Jack joined the team in 2020 and is a full-time Stone Care Assistant. We are hoping to take on another full-time team member on site in the very near future as well as a Marketing Apprentice.
Who or what are your biggest inspirations or influences within your own business?
We all share a passion for natural stone and this is what really drives us. We have a team WhatsApp group just full of photos of beautiful stone that we have spotted on Instagram or when out and about. We all just want to make sure everyone knows how to keep their stone looking that beautiful all year round.
With all your knowledge about stone care what top 3 tips / pieces of advice would you offer a designer just starting out in the Interior Design industry, who knows absolutely nothing about marble, granite or other natural stone and is keen to specify it for the first time?
1. Don’t be scared of using natural stone. It has been used inside and outside buildings for thousands of years.
2. Think carefully about the finish on the stone as much as the type of stone a client wants to have. For example, limestone flooring will look stunning honed and be much easier to maintain.
3. Make sure you talk to your client about the ongoing care that their natural stone will need. As long as a client is equipped with the know-how to keep their stone looking stunning, then there is no reason not to go natural!
Who is your main customer type and which service do you sell the most of?
We mostly work in the high-end residential market with customers who have invested a lot in their stone. These customers want to ensure that their investment stands the test of time, so will take out a maintenance package with us. This will be an annual visit where the stone will be lightly resurfaced to make it look like new again. Having a maintenance programme in place means that we can focus on areas that see higher traffic with a slightly deeper restoration and then just a lighter treatment on those areas that are not so badly worn. This is a very cost-effective way to care for stone.
What hand tools/ or even software, do you find indispensable in your day-to-day work?
We have a lot of very specialist equipment that we simply couldn’t work without. However, for us the biggest asset is the experience of the team. It is the time that we take with each client to talk through the process that makes the real difference and helps to ensure that we can get the best results possible for their stone.
What is still your biggest challenge within your own business?
One of the biggest challenges is dispelling some of the myths and misconceptions about natural stone. A lot of people don’t know how versatile stone can be when used in the right way. We are really passionate about working with stone suppliers and anyone specifying stone to help them to get the right information to their clients.
How do you choose your suppliers/products?
We use one main supplier for all of our equipment and this has been after a lot of research and time experiencing different tools available on the market. We have gone as far as Italy to train with some of the products that we use too. We always ensure that we are up to date with the most recent developments in the field by regularly staying in contact with suppliers and other industry specialists.
What was your lightbulb moment? OR What has been your most successful milestone to date?
One of the biggest turning points for us as a business was when we started working together as a husband-and-wife team. It was quite literally an overnight decision made while I was helping Dave out on a site. As we typically did during a night shift, we talked about our future and what part Athena Stonecare played in it. We realised that there would never be the perfect time for me to pack in my job and start working on the business, so we needed to just go for it. And we did, I handed my notice in the next day and I’ve not looked back.
Have you been able to continue providing your stone restoration services through the Covid pandemic? Have you had to adapt working on-site protocols at all?
We are very lucky that other than the very first lockdown, we have been able to continue to operate with very strict safety procedures in place. We have started to provide initial surveys and quotes from photographs and dimensions via email to reduce the number of visits that we make to site too. You can read more about all of the safety procedures that we have in place on our website.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
Not necessarily advice, but the mantra that I tend to live my life by is ‘you cannot control what happens around you but you can control your reaction to it’. I think this has really come into play more than ever over the last 12 months.
Did you enjoy your guest speaker appearance at Metier Rendezvous back in 2020? What did you bring away with you from that?
I loved it! Education and sharing our knowledge are huge parts of our plan as a business moving forwards and so it was great that people were so keen to hear what we had to say. The questions that I was asked were brilliant too and has given me even more ideas for future talks!
What are the key benefits for Interior Designers to be working with Athena Stonecare?
It is so vital if you are going to be using natural stone to make sure that your clients know how to care for it from day one. We are really happy to share our advice and guidance – after all our knowledge is completely free.
What is next for you / your business?
We are looking to grow our team in 2021 and are really excited to expand our work and be able to restore even more stone.
And now finding out what is beneath the stone… We are delighted that Becca was happy and willing to share with us some of her personal inspirations, motivations, and aspirations.
Tell us about your own home… or perhaps about your favourite room in your home. What type of property do you live in?
I probably shouldn’t say this, but my favourite room is actually my office! We recently swapped around the main bedroom and office in order that I could have a bigger space. We’ve since filled that space with home gym equipment, but I now look out over a stunning view of trees and hills. The room gets so much light and warmth and I just love having that feeling of being in a bigger space with a view of the outdoors.
How would you describe your own interior style?
I’m not sure I would have said I have a style, but if you had to give it a word, I’d say Scandi. This was more accidental than deliberate but as we have moved around each room in the house we seem to have built upon this theme.
Tell us about a recent buy for the home …
We recently purchased some marble slabs which are definitely my favourite purchase for a long time! We have Nero Marquina on top of the dining table and Calacatta on the coffee table. The plan is to use both pieces to test new products and train the team too! In the meantime, they are just so beautiful – I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to spend more time sitting at the dining table as I do now!!
What has been your biggest home extravagance?
Our home gym equipment is without doubt the biggest extravagance. It’s been really interesting to have to find ways to use our home for so many different functions since we’ve been locked down. I couldn’t live without my home gym now!
And what is on your coffee table?
We actually don’t have anything on our coffee table – I hate having things out! We do have a lot inside it though as it is actually a chest made from old crates (now with a marble top!). Inside I keep all sorts of cookbooks, candles and incense.
Lastly, if you had a blank cheque, what would you be splashing out on for your own home?
Limestone floors. And stone everywhere! We often play a game where we build our dream house from all of the different homes that we’ve worked on. So, we will pick the marble bathrooms from a lovely penthouse in London and then the limestone from a country house in the Cotswolds.
Many thanks to Becca for joining us at our brunch and sharing your incredible knowledge, expertise and experience about stone. It was really interesting to discover how versatile natural stone is, and how important it is to select the right type of stone for a project, but perhaps crucially that clients understand how to maintain it from day one so its beauty may endure. So, if you are looking for advice on how to care for a stone product you may be using or need stone restored, whether floors, walls, tiles, or worktops, inside or out, then please contact Becca at Athena Stonecare.
T: 01494 438 294 / M: 07595998218
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You can even catch up with them on YouTube and get their expert tips for yourself.