An appreciation by Jane McIntyre:-
As a designer I have always remained stoically faithful to my deep passion for all kinds of natural stone, be it for interior or exterior it is an ageless and elegant answer to so many spaces. In the heady days of corian work tops and sinks I stubbornly used granite in all it’s myriad colours. Prior to that, when the world was in love with pine kitchens, I took seconds of travertine and marble to make my own designs for tops, bashing them up and sticking them into a mix of sand, colour pigment and tile adhesive – more off the wall than actual mosaic but a style that offered endless opportunities. Latterly I have become more adventurous, creating whole bathrooms from marble and can only ever contemplate granite for any of my own kitchens. So it’s with great delight that I can share with you the joys of working with that doyenne of stone and all it’s counterparts, Molly Fisher of Landford Stone.
Truly a family run business, Molly heads the team in her inimitable style – retired six years ago, boredom at home brought her back and now, aged 72, she is embracing the new technologies, discussing seo like she was born to it and steering the company she has built from nothing towards even greater success. She is a larger than life character despite her diminutive frame, a powerhouse of energy and a fountain of information.
Molly discovered stone and tiles during a brief and otherwise unsatisfying stint at art school. Disillusioned after two terms, she headed off to Europe to see where her ability to blend and carry colour in her mind’s eye would lead. Ending up in Portugal she discovered factories full of stone, marble and hand painted tiles at a time when the only tiles available in England were the turquoise, pink, yellow, black and white ones from Pilkington’s. Quickly seizing the opportunity Molly took out a bank loan and set up her own tile shop in Boscombe at the tender age of 18. By the time she was married with children she was employing 20 men and tiling flats and houses all around the Bournemouth and Poole areas. Not daunted by the “Get back into the kitchen” comments from her male dominated world, her willingness to learn every aspect of her trade inspired respect for her work ethic, thus bolstering the self confidence which now exudes from her. Powered by hard work and being ahead of the game, the company grew in such strength that it was soon taking on huge contracts such as Heathrow airport, The Arc, de Vere and Hilton Hotels, as well as countless private homes for well heeled (and unmentionable) celebrities. Sadly, as with all bubbles, this one burst with considerable drama in 1989 when the sub-contractors of a large project failed to get paid, leaving a shortfall of a quarter of a million pounds.
More faint-hearted people would have buckled under the strain, but Molly not only rose again with even more determination, she paid off her debts and embarked on the creation of the existing company, Landford Stone. Firstly she bought a saw, then hired 2 masons and went out on the road herself to sell her product, which grew and kept on growing into the hugely successful company she now heads. Working closely with her son, together they personally choose each piece of granite, marble or stone from quarries in Portugal, Italy and South America. She travels to the quarries four or five times a year, often with particular clients in mind – her next visit is a special search for a hard limestone for Lady Shaftesbury – and she oversees every aspect of the production of beautiful kitchens, bathrooms and acres of specialised flooring. The word dynasty springs to mind as she has recently been joined by her 2 grandchildren, Jenny and Philip, who work in the office and on the shop floor respectively and her second husband Hervey still drives the accounts, although at 86 he no longer takes a daily seat of office.
Happily married for 27 years, Molly and Hervey’s home is in Cranbourne, 40 minutes away from her office in Landford. Her usual day starts at 4.45am with a brisk walk with her dogs in the beautiful countryside surrounding their house, a potter through the aviary with her birds and a leisurely and chatty breakfast with her husband. By 8.30 she is at her desk ready to take charge of her 30 staff, all of whom have a deep and obvious respect for her honesty and integrity.
When taking me on a tour of the factory her eyes shone with pleasure at the sight of the new saw, purchased for £150k, which enables more slabs of stone to be cut per day, thus upping production dramatically. She clearly relishes the fact that her factory is eco friendly, recycling all the waste stone and even the copious water needed for the cutting.
Three times a week, at least, she rides her beloved skewbald cob Trooper whom she liveries with Trina Yarrow, Master of the Portman Hunt. With miles and miles of riding available on Cranbourne Chase this is Molly’s passion and her escape from the demands of family and work, and although recently having fallen badly and endured a cracked pelvis she is absolutely determined to keep riding for as long as she is able. A fit woman, despite having had 8 feet of her insides removed in a hemicolectomy, she keeps that way with a careful diet which avoids gluten and dairy and dabbles in yoga and pilates to keep her lean and supple. Hervey, who at one time rode the Queen’s horses and those belonging to Olympic Gold medallist Richard Meade OBE, now no longer rides very often but is actively pursuing his interest from ground level. He keeps his newly acquired 2 year old eventer, sired by the great Catherston Dazzler, in the beautiful stables belonging to Lady Shaftesbury on her Dorset estate. He and Molly share two other eventers, Dazzle at Midnight and Captain Future, both currently in training with Georgie Spence and together they have memorable days discussing blood lines and hopes, watching training and visiting events.
Molly is an inspirational woman without doubt, strong in business but I suspect very soft with her family, who she clearly adores. To find someone of her age – and believe me, she looks nothing like her years – with such a skip in her step is quite remarkable and I expect it will be a long while before she relinquishes her position at the helm. Her forthright manner seeps through her business dealings and Landford Stone is run as a very tight ship, there is no such thing with them as a late order, a great bonus for a designer reliant on other trades.
I wholeheartedly recommend them and I am pleased to say that these prestigious natural stones are more accessible and affordable than they once were and are therefore enjoying a resurgence of popularity. The September issue of Elle Decoration, that must tome for interior designers, thankfully informs that marble is the new trend material for this year, so for those of you that aren’t converted yet, let yourself be seduced by the aeons of history that has gone into the mineral wealth beneath our feet. Once there, believe me, it is truly addictive! http://www.landfordstone.co.uk/
Jane McIntyre is Editor of Interior Design for The Vintage Magazine and can be contacted at:-
Jane McIntyre Design, Interior Design & Project Management
11 Southgate Street, Winchester SO23 9DZ
T: 01962 853882