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BePlas/Komastyle interview with Deputy MD of Stepstogether, St, Helens, Lancs

The Perfect Treatment

Steve Jones of Stepstogether talks about creating a new facility with warmth, resilience and lasting values.

Established in 2017, Steps Together Group is a collection of private addiction treatment services, providing a winning combination of residential and outpatient addiction treatment & therapy services for individuals, their families, and their employers.”

Rainford Hall in St.Helens, Lancashire was built by the Pilkington family as their main home in 1885 and converted into offices in the 1980's.

Good morning, Steve and thank you for speaking with us.

To begin, could you tell us a bit about StepsTogether and your operation?

We are private addiction treatment centre to help our clients with drug and alcohol addiction. We are based in the midlands and have five facilities at the moment. This is our first location in the North West.

For several years, the profile of our clientele was consistent, but we started to notice a sea change over the pandemic. The shift in working practices, particularly homeworking created a perfect storm of shifting habits. Their consumption of alcohol increased dramatically, causing significant problems they had never experienced before. These were highly functioning individuals who realised they’d developed issues with which they needed our help.

We also started to see clients who genuinely couldn’t cope with the associated stresses of the pandemic and had started to ‘self-medicate’ with alcohol. They were suffering from a number of issues – particularly bereavement, feelings of being unable to cope and isolation.

Having gone through a repositioning exercise just at the beginning of the pandemic, we uncovered what has turned out to be core to our brand – that we were homely and basically ‘a big hug’. This is central to all our operations and influences everything we do and choose. This included the interior design brief that it needed to feel homely, warm, and safe.

A lot of what we do is helping people reframing their habits, life, and challenges.

"People who stay here often say that its big, but feels very friendly and homely"

How did you choose this building and location for the new facility?

Pure chance initially!

During Covid we focused on our existing facilities, like everyone we thought the pandemic would be over in six months or so. Obviously, it has been a lot longer than anyone expected, so we knew we had to start the search process urgently across the North-West. Given the nature of our business, we need to find the perfect location, which takes time.

The new clientele who were approaching us particularly wanted the hotel feeling we offer but with a greater focus on health and wellbeing. They want to exercise, so we needed a gym and lots of attractive outside space. This spurred us on to find a place, even with the challenges of the pandemic. We saw lots of types of properties – closed hotels and care homes, but none met the brief or had the quality of space and environment needed.

It was through a feeling of frustration in not finding anything that met our brief that resulted in a late Friday afternoon Google search. I spotted this property on a commercial office letting website. The building contained about 30 self-contained serviced offices, which presented obvious issues, especially as home working had seriously affecting lettings.

As it happened, the agent had just been instructed by the Pilkington family to seek a single tenant and were open to new ideas. The new occupant’s business also needed to maintain 600 acres of beautifully managed estate. That was on a Friday and by the following Tuesday we had already met with the family. They felt straight away that it was the right fit for their ethos, the property and local area. The place had been a health care facility before and it, so it wasn’t a big leap for them.

There was even a covenant in the deeds from the late Colonel Richard Pilkington that the property should not serve or sell alcohol which was pure serendipity.

“We wanted to offer a building that felt like a country retreat while offering full medical detox, full rehabilitation with different therapies which people feel speaks to them such as talking therapy, exercise, holistic therapy, spiritual walks, massage, a spa, a lovely gym outside, so we are catering to a lot of people”. Steve Jones, St.Helens Star July 2022

What was your approach to the refurbishment of Rainford Hall?

The Pilkington family were able to assist in the planning process in change of use. We engaged closely with the local community and council leadership. Even through the pandemic, with this collaboration we were able to get planning permission in just four weeks!

We have 19 residential rooms with 20 beds and four grades of rooms from standard to suites. The size of the property was perfect for us.

Although there are some wonderful features – ornate fireplaces in every room, personalised solid oak doors, it isn’t listed at all. But we wanted a sympathetic approach that conserved the best of the house but with modern, luxurious comfort levels.

In terms of our commitment to our work on the redevelopment of this building, and the necessary ongoing relationships with suppliers, it meant being as local as possible. The ethos of the Pilkington family behind this wonderful place is to work closely with local businesses and workforce. We have a similar approach as a company and were determined to meet that same objective. It’s a big project and we need to contribute to the local community; develop relationships and can find the staff we need.

What was your thinking on the wall cladding material selection?

I’d seen the application of this type of wall surface material and had used a similar material beforehand but wanted to find as local supplier as possible.

I wanted to use it because it works on all sorts of levels. We house a number of clients staying at any time and naturally wanted to ensure excellent hygiene and ease of maintenance. Ceramics just don’t work for us. I’ve watched our housekeepers and the effort involved in religiously cleaning grout – basically scrubbing away dead skin. PVC technology has improved no end and there is so much more availability in terms of colours and style. Komastyle and Komadur fitted the bill in the guest bathrooms and in the utility and back of house spaces. BePlas was suggested to me by our M&E consultant, as they’d used them for their own property.

It’s extremely efficient and much quicker in the construction than traditional ceramic tiles. It’s modern, crisp and blends well with the building - the range of patterns and textures create a luxurious feel. Our Housekeeping team thinks it’s ideal, literally wipe and go. Also, you don’t get the streaking associated with glossy ceramic tiles – just easier all round.

What was your selection process in terms of material choice?

I visited the showroom with our interior designer, who initially had proposed ceramic tiles. But they understood our approach in terms of speed, cost, and maintenance – not to mention needing a flexible sheet material because not all the walls in this building are not exactly forgiving!

Jay and people at Beplas were great, giving us the help we needed, including samples and advice on sizes and jointing. They even recommended a local installer for us.

It really was the best decision we could make – it works for us on every level.

Our architect simply said – ‘it makes sense’.

The matching jointing strips were key in terms of detail that we needed to achieve and we worked closely with Beplas in developing the look we wanted.

Another key benefit was the ability to curve, form corners and wrap surfaces. The Thinner white material (Komadur) was very easy to form, but even the thicker Komastyle material worked extremely well.

"Our Housekeeping team thinks it’s ideal, literally wipe and go. Also, you don’t get the streaking associated with glossy ceramic tiles – just easier all round"

It’s been fascinating to hear about your approach and philosophy!

Steve – thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us

My pleasure.