Cheltenham’s nationally acclaimed bathroom designer. crack
With a host of design awards behind her, a stunning showroom and nationally acclaimed bathroom design and installation business to her name, life is looking good for Cheltenham born Alison Ebanks.
From the shy little girl who started school at Naunton Park Primary and whose biggest love in the world was horses, Alison Ebanks has come a long way, and with the support of husband Adrian and children Erica, 8, and Rio 4, Alison says she is just getting into her stride.
Brought up in Charlton Kings and Leckhampton, Alison says she can’t remember a time when she hasn’t loved art and drawing.
Says Alison, ‘The first time I realised I had a talent for drawing was at Naunton Park Primary School; one day our teacher asked us to draw characters from a Victorian play - ladies with huge skirts - and all my friends were crowding around looking at mine saying how good they were. Before that I really had no idea I had any talent for art.’
Alison laughs when she remembers that Rolf Harris was a huge inspiration to her during her childhood as she was an avid viewer of Rolf’s Cartoon Club, which apart from being a TV show, also had the added bonus of being an actual club that children could join and send in their art work. Alison remembers sending in lots of her own cartoons but can’t remember if they ever actually made it onto the TV! Her cartoon skills came into play again later in life when a friend asked her to stencil her bathroom in Disney’s Snow White and the Severn Dwarfs characters.
After graduating from Balcarass School Alison moved on to Gloucester University where she completed a four year Media Studies course that included everything from interior design, photography, display and history of art to technical drawing, live drawing and printing.
Alison Explains, ‘I loved my time at College; I had been drawing and painting for so many years it was wonderful to finally be able to concentrate on the one thing I loved. Cheltenham & Gloucester were great places in the 90s, my friends and I spent way too much time eating peanut butter on toast and drinking coffee in Spencers and saving up for the latest Kookai outfit.
Once graduation with an HND in Media Studies was behind her, Alison began work for an Interiors company, learning her trade from the ground up, servicing clients everywhere from the Midlands down to South Wales.
‘This was real interiors work’ Alison explains, ‘soft furnishings, fabrics, wallpapers, beds, sofas etc. It gave me a great grounding in the business and taught me how to listen to a client, and interpret what they visualise in their heads into an actual design.’
A move to a bathrooms specialist a few years later heralded the start of exciting new times for Alison when she was awarded Young Designer of the Year by industry magazine KKB. From this moment on the job offers flooded in and she took advantage of the wave of success to try out various different aspects of the design industry until finally deciding that it was time to go it alone.
A chance introduction to Alison by husband Adrian to two of his rugby mates, brothers Steve & Shaun Hawkins, who also happened to be bathroom installation specialists, began the process that three years ago, resulted in the birth of Water & Stone, her business in Stroud. Partners in the business with Alison, Steve and Shaun are her biggest fans and speak in unison when they say what a great professional Alison is to work with.
‘She is the best; all our clients love her which makes our job of installing the products so much easier!’ says Shaun, ‘she has an amazing eye for design and even after all the years we have been doing this she still comes up with something that surprises us and reminds us what a really talented designer she is.’
Visitors to Water & Stone’s showroom in Stroud can see everything from entry level budget bathrooms with comparable prices to their local DIY merchant, to Antonio Lupi and Agape, luxury Italian designers whose product Alison stocks exclusively. Although she is extremely discreet about clients, working in such a celebrity rich environment as Gloucestershire, Alison reveals that she recently used the Italian bathroom ware in Luxury London hotel, The Hempel.
Excitingly, Alison has just been selected as a finalist for the ‘Contract Bathroom Designer of the Year Award’ in the 2010 Design Awards and she and the team are crossing their fingers that soon they will be adding another award to the collection.
Italy features large in Alison’s life, and she freely admits to loving everything Italian.
‘It’s true! I love the food, the people, the landscape and mostly, the way of life. I love the fact that children are still up eating with parents in restaurants at midnight, it really is a great way to live.’
When she is not designing or advising customers in the showroom, Alison is a fitness fanatic who makes sure she gets up early 3-4 days a week to go for a run, before the children are awake.
‘I love my exercise, it is my thinking time, I often come up with some of my best ideas when I’m out running and circuit training.’
Only a few years ago she completed the London Marathon and says another attempt is not out of the question.
And when asked about her goals for the future Alison says it’s simple, to keep doing what she is doing, grow the business and maybe, just maybe indulge her dream…a high spec apartment in her beloved Italy. Now that’s what we call a real dream.
To find out more about Alison’s design service and the products on offer at Water & Stone call:
01453 873 030
Photograph by: Clive Burling