This Artist Beautifully Molds Sand and Cement to Cast Concrete Sinks That Nod to the Past

Kelly Corbett
·3-min read
Photo credit: Atmosphyre
Photo credit: Atmo sphyre

From House Beautiful

James Gardiner challenged the idea that a sink doesn't have to be made from fresh porcelain to be beautiful. His decoratively distressed basins, which either mount to the wall or sit atop a vanity, are rich in character, and all made by hand. Paired with his custom antique brass faucets, his sinks are brand new yet antiquated at the same time.

Gardiner is the creator behind the Pownal, Vermont- based brand Atmosphyre, which sells pre-cast concrete sinks and antique brass faucets. Gardiner is known for experimenting with materials you won't see at most manufacturers.

Sand, cement, colors (think: reds and yellows for a terra cotta styled-sink), and fiberglass are his main ingredients. Once his mixture is complete, he'll lay it into the rubber molding, then onto a vibration table to release any trapped air. After leaving it overnight to dry, he'll remove his creation from the mold, add a coat of grout to remedy any blemishes, and finish it off with a layer of sealer to assure that the structure is both waterproof and chemical proof.

Photo credit: Atmosphyre
Photo credit: Atmosphyre

Gardiner began his business six years ago inside a now 133-year-old church in southern Vermont. When he bought the church, it had no running water or a septic system — in fact, it had been abandoned for years. Today it's where he and his son Aaron bring to life Atmosphyre's Garden Terracotta Sink, Aged Iron Square Vessel Sink, Parisian Glass Bell Lever Handle Deck Mount Faucet and more old-fangled fixtures.

"We took a risk at making things that just looked authentically old, and then we would back into how durable we can make it after," Gardiner recalls of Atmosphyre in its early stages.

Photo credit: Atmosphyre
Photo credit: Atmosphyre

Prior to making sinks, Gardiner worked in the furniture business where he built tables for wholesale. At markets, he was unimpressed by the redundancy of wood in almost every piece. "One evening I made a list of every possible material I could think of from leaves to wood, to metal, to concrete, and I evaluated the list for a couple of days," he recalls. One material that stuck out like a sore thumb: concrete. "It just seemed like it was something you can go down to the store, buy and get your hands on for relatively cheap," he says. "That's really how it all got started."

Over the years, he refocused to strictly bathroom sinks and faucets. In fact, he says Atmosphyre stemmed from a need. "I felt almost an obligation to make products that I think people wanted, but just weren't on the market," he tells House Beautiful. What made his pre-cast concrete sinks so special was that there was nothing like them. It was an idea he cultivated and ran with.

Gardiner recalled a farm sink he worked on early in his career — and how it amplified his passion to pursue this niche craft. "It was late at night and I thought to myself, so many things are going to happen in the lifetime of this sink," he says. He listed all the possibilities: the birth of a baby, the baby's first bath, a marriage proposal, perhaps even a wedding, he remarked. "And I started to think about how many little things are going to take place, and my little sink is kind of the fly on the wall to these people's lives," he recalls.

While Gardiner is a natural-born creator, it's the customers that continue to keep his heart full. When he introduced Atmosphyre to the world, there was an instant fan base of like-minded folks appreciative of work that looks and feels old.

Photo credit: Atmosphyre
Photo credit: Atmosphyre

"I think honestly, my favorite part of the process really is seeing people write or call and express how happy they are," he says. "To know that when I go to bed at night and put that light out, that there's somebody out there who feels really good about their bathroom. Believe it or not, that means a lot to me." You can shop Gardiner's creations here.

Follow House Beautiful on Instagram.

You Might Also Like