Interview with Simon Stocks and Paul Smith

Words by Michelle Heslop. Photo by Matthew Yeomans.

Where did the name K2 Stone originate? Tell us briefly what K2 is all about. Simon: Even though K2 references the iconic mountain in the Himalayas, our name actually comes from the original two owners of the company. Both of their last names started with “K” so they used the name “K2” Stone.

Paul: K2 specializes in all types of natural building stone, quarried and cut exclusively from North America. Our product offerings include masonry building stone, landscape stone, dimensional stone, and tile. K2 Stone can be installed on interior or exterior walls, columns, fireplaces, outdoor kitchens, patios, walkways, retaining walls, water features, or around swimming pools.

What should elite natural stone mean to a consumer? Simon: Elite natural stone is ethically quarried in an environmentally responsible way. The stone should be available in a wide variety of colours and styles while being expertly fabricated into stunning finished products. Stone is a natural work of art for the home; each piece tells a story.

Paul: When you add our local K2 natural stone to your home, you are adding 200 million years of Vancouver Island to your house. Elite natural stone provides an unmatched organic texture and timeless elegance to your home’s design aesthetic.

Building codes are shifting to embrace more rigorous standards, including green technology and building practices. How does K2 fit into the context of this conversation? Paul: Building codes are becoming more focused on energy efficiency. We are lucky to be a part of a building tradition that dates back to… well, the Stone Age. Stone has a long history of being the strongest organic building material available on earth. Thin veneer is a product that has become popular because of the building codes. Rather than building a wall out of stone, you can clad a wood or steel-framed wall and it will have no negative impact on the energy efficiency or insulation of the house.

Simon: Modern architecture incorporates natural stone into its designs because of its strength, durability, and thermal mass. Many customers who are concerned about how much energy was used to produce products for their homes or how many toxic chemicals are in their homes are turning to real stone as a solution. K2 Stone is naturally beautiful and does not include harsh paints or chemicals like simulated manufactured products.

Describe some of the applications that architects and designers have been using K2 natural stone for? Simon: There are so many amazing projects we’ve collaborated on in Greater Victoria. We’ve seen some really cool commercial projects in recent years, but probably one of our favourites is the Songhee’s Wellness Centre, which includes the gigantic stone mural featuring artwork from local Songhee’s artists (installed by Rob Tournour Masonry). We never would have thought that our stone could be used to help preserve local First Nations artwork for future generations.

Paul: There have been so many incredible projects over the years that have featured K2 stone, and every single one is unique in its own way. Some of the projects that stand out for me are the custom-cut stone pieces for the expansion of The Fairmont Empress, The Oswego Hotel, and The Sidney Pier to name a few.

Can you speak to the versatility of natural stone? Paul: Natural stone can be the perfect complement to a fireplace or a contrasting exterior material that improves the look of your home’s curb appeal. Having local stone from our environment is also a key factor; you don’t need to worry about the stone changing colours or fading over time. Additionally, using a regional stone will allow for it to weather naturally, whereas imported products may change colour unexpectedly.

Simon: The local design community has done an amazing job of finding ways to make the transition from exterior stone to interior stone seamless. One of the great things about natural stone is the durability and knowing that it will look as great inside as out for the lifecycle of a structure.

K2 has quarries on Vancouver Island and in Montana. What reaction do you get when customers realize that they can get such high-quality stone right here in their backyard? Paul: K2 Stone has seven store locations: Victoria, Nanaimo, Vancouver, Kelowna, Calgary, Edmonton, and Seattle. The one thing that stands out at each location is that the local stone is consistently the most popular. This tells us that buying local is influenced by architects, designers, and the consumer. If you’re building a home on the West Coast, a local stone has all the right colours to blend into the surrounding environment.

Simon: K2 Stone has partnered with some of the best stone producers in North America. We have access to stone from Vancouver Island, the B.C. interior, Montana, Indiana, and Idaho to name a few. But as Paul mentioned, the most popular products in Victoria are quarried right here on Vancouver Island.

How would you recommend customers think outside the box to expand on applying natural stone to their next project? Paul: Being the quarrier and manufacturer, we are only limited to the capability of what our saws can cut. A great example is when we had a customer who was looking to create a three-inch sawn face planking for their project. We didn’t have anything like that in our current line up, so we gave it a try. It worked out really well and we now have our Sawn Ashlar as a stock item.

Simon: Stone feature walls are becoming more popular and we’re seeing more customers use stone to make a big statement on walls that would otherwise be a plain, uninspired surface. Feature walls are a great way to bring elements of a design together while adding a vibrant texture and colour to the space.

Thin stone is referenced on your website. Can you explain what this is and why it is beneficial? Paul: Thin stone is simply a natural stone that is cut or split to approximately one inch thick which allows installation anywhere fake stone can go. The applications of stone were much more limited before thin stone was available due to the weight of the stone that required additional structural support. Thin stone has a similar weight to manufactured products which allows us to apply the product as a veneer over structural walls.

Simon: Thin stone can be installed on virtually any interior or exterior wall, which provides the opportunity to incorporate natural organic textures into any space.

Does K2 have any new products or innovations planned for the near future? Paul: We are always on the lookout for new products, but we have built the company based on a foundation of local natural stone and we don’t want to lose that ideal. We like to know that the products we are selling come from responsible and environmentally conscious sources.

Simon: Our lineup of Vancouver Island products has over doubled in the last ten years. We’re constantly looking at new products and new applications for stone and I’m sure we’ll be selling lots of new products a decade from now.