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Inspirational Ideas on how Concrete can be used in the home

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Ideas for Using Concrete in Your Home

by Fu-Tung Cheng

 circular sink set in concrete worktop







Courtesy of Cheng Design.
©Copyright Matt Millman

Concrete is an extraordinary material that is
practical, expressive, and aesthetic all at once. From a primal and
formless slurry, you can transform it into virtually any shape that
becomes a solid mass. The possibilities for creative expression are
endless. You can grind, polish, stamp, or stain it. You can embed
meaningful objects within it.

Concrete has substance and mass,
permanence and warmth. It feels earthy, and is at home in both
traditional and modern settings. It assumes forms that irrevocably touch
our daily lives-bridges, highways, floors, walls… even countertops.
Concrete is also surprisingly tactile. Cast and shaped, it can feel like
stone rounded by the sea. Textured and colored, it can echo the patina
of timeworn tile.

It first occurred to me to make a
countertop out of concrete in 1985, when a friend and I were hired to
design and renovate a professor’s house in the Berkeley Hills. He gave
us a modest budget and announced, “This is all I can afford to spend; do
whatever you want.”

with this rare creative license (and plenty of youthful exuberance) we
aimed to be as innovative as possible.

This invitation to imagine, play, and explore
inevitably led me to experiment in my own kitchen, where concrete and I
began what is now our nearly two-decade dance. My first
concrete countertop was a
single piece containing 11 cubic feet of concrete. It weighed nearly 1500
pounds and took 10 people-and 2 engine hoists-to turn it over once it had

concreter counter with hob

Courtesy of Cheng Design. ©Copyright
Matt Millman


We barely managed it, but the piece
came out beautifully and is still being put to good use today. Because
of its adaptability, concrete finds itself welcome in all areas of the
home, especially in the kitchen and bath, but also in fireplaces,
patios, garden paths, or water features. Concrete can also be used as a
floor material with enormous creative advantages whether seeded,
stained, stamped, broomed or diamond-finished. It can be a sole
performer or play the supporting role to tile, mosaics, decorative
aggregates, stone, wood, or metal. It is inexpensive, durable,
noncombustible, impervious to decay, and also very effective for passive
solar gain in the right application.

With vertical treatments, concrete
gives us an opportunity to recapture some of the feeling of the
monolithic wall-the feeling of substance, of protection. Walls are also
a great place to explore form. A wall doesn’t have to be flat or
straight, but can curve and undulate. It can be textured to be rough as
stone or smooth as glass.

fireplace with concrete surround and hearth

Courtesy of Cheng Design. ©Copyright
Matt Millman

Surrender to the impulse… carve your
initials in concrete.