Each year Polycor invites a group of design professionals to journey with us into the woodlands outside Atlanta to visit our historic Tate, Georgia marble quarry.
This year our designers came from Chicago, Ill. Salt Lake City, Utah, Columbus, Ohio, and just down the road in Atlanta. Designers were chosen based on their use of American natural stone in their design work and their interest in sourcing local materials.
Under crystal clear blue skies and a hot Georgia sun we descended down into the heart of a miles-long vein of American stone to walk among blocks of Pearl Grey marble as tall as our houses. Future countertops and public plazas just waiting for a new home.
Pam Sessions, who is a Georgia native, was astounded to see this natural wonder less than an hour from her studio. Sessions, a designer and developer at Hedgewood Homes in Atlanta who specializes in creating mixed use, walkable, high design in city neighborhoods, uses local materials and talent in her projects whenever she can. See her own home kitchen here featuring showstopping laquered cabinetry and Pearl Grey marble.
"It's a wonderland. It really is," Sessions said. "I don't think people would even believe this is Georgia."
Sessions plans on incorporating Pearl Grey marble into her program of local material choices available to her homeowners.
The Tate quarry has been in operation since 1835 and has supplied the marble to iconic American structures like the Lincoln Memorial, the United States Capitol, the New York Stock Exchange and even the restoration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
In addition to Pearl Grey, the quarry is home to White Georgia Marble, White Cherokee, Pearl Grey and Solar Grey. There is even an older area we call the Etowah Quarry, where we extract a light pink-colored marble called Etowah with a pronounced white and grey vein pattern that happens to be very on trend with Pantone’s 2016 color of the year, Rose Quartz.
Brad Hanner, associate publisher of Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles, is known around Atlanta as 'Mr. Kitchen and Bath' and as the producer of showhomes around the region. Even this Atlanta resident was surprised to see what lay inside the Georgia mountains.
"This is amazing," Hanner said. "I never knew about this place." Here he is with a piece of Georgia marble that looks a lot like the outline of his home state.
The path down to the active quarrying area is tamped down calcium carbonate dust, the most beautiful white mud you've ever seen. In this zero-waste quarry every bit of stone is used from giant blocks to small bits of crushed marble sold to landscape outlets and the fine powder is used as additives in plaster and mortars. Even white mud and broken bits of marble are used as berms for quarry roads and to brace equipment.
Melinda McCoy a Columbus, Ohio designer and blogger at House 214, places special emphasis on helping clients understand the feeling they want to convey in their home before they select their materials. Many of her clients want the look and feel of natural, approachable materials but don't necessarily know which natural surfaces are right for their life or style.
"My design process always begins by asking one important question, Why? Why are you choosing a particular design element for your home? Taking the time to learn about natural stone allows my clients and I to make an informed decision when it comes to evoking a desired feeling in their homes. When you know the answer behind why you are choosing something for your home, the "what" to put in your home becomes an easy decision and one that you will be happy with for quite some time."
McCoy is in the process of swapping out her concrete kitchen island for Polycor's White Cherokee American marble.
"I loved seeing the comparison of Georgia marble to European stone," said designer Sarah Gibson of Room for Tuesday. "Specifically the fact that it is more granulated and textured, as well as more durable. This is definitely a selling point for my design process. Marble is beautiful, but scary to some because it's not as durable as other products. Georgia marble is really the best of both worlds, and it's sourced locally, which is a huge bonus."
Jean Kaiser of Fredman Design Group in Chicago, joined the tour as the winner of our Black Equinox contest. She has worked in the industry for 30 years, and as an avid traveler she loves exploring new cities and landscapes.
About the Tate quarry she said, "The marble vein running through the mountain is visually striking. I can't believe that after more than 100 years only 10 percent of the deposit has been quarried."
Below, Jean checks out a slab of soapstone quarried at our Virginia location. In its natural state, soapstone is cement grey but turns a silky black when oiled or waxed. In the stone yard Jean learned that soapstone can be sanded to remove scratches. More on the care of soapstone here.
After the quarry tour the group got an inside look at the Polycor block facility where blocks from other Polycor quarries - granite, marble, limestone and soapstone - are cut into slabs.
Because Polycor processes its own stone, we are able to maintain a clear supply chain, maintaining quality work, fair labor practices and, because the stone is locally sourced, a lower carbon footprint.
The designers also got a behind the scenes look at how marble, granite and limestone can be cut into ultra-thin slabs only 3/8" thick and reinforced with a compsite backing to give them 10x the flexural strength of a traditional slab. Thin stone slabs are just one of the custom products available to designers through their local distributor.
The thin option is one that Gibson is considering for her upcoming fireplace project. "I loved exploring the possibilities of customization. The option to cut the material into tile, and 1 cm thickness is a great advantage to carry the look into unexpected places: a waterfall countertop edge, a seamless backsplash behind a range, or even large-scale floor tiles. It opens up a world of possibilities," she said. More on 1 cm ultra-thin reinforced slabs here.
Because the Tate quarry isn't open to the public, these designers (here with me and a member of our marketing team) got a rare look at the inner workings of an international company that operates on a local level producting a truly American made product.
If you have a showroom click below to learn how you can get free display material, including ultra-thin reinforced American marble slabs.