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How to use concrete in the kitchen

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kitchen setting using concrete counter tops

of Joy Rasmussen

How to Use Concrete in
a Traditional Kitchen 

by Fu-Tung Cheng

Concrete’s use in kitchens and
bathrooms may still be considered relatively “modern” design-wise
by the standard homeowner. But while concrete can be used to create a modern
or minimal look, it’s also perfectly adaptable to a more traditional setting
– where it was so extensively used in the first place.

Concrete can act as a substitute
for more traditional materials. Rather than just using concrete to
explicitly re-create something from the past, you can also combine it with
other elements to suggest a timeless quality. In my work, I always strive to
strike a balance between innovation and emotion, between spare contemporary
and warm traditional. Adding mosaic tile along the front edge of a concrete
surface, inlaying bits of tile along a backsplash, or even embedding a
fossil in a countertop all connect us to the past.

A California cottage we
renovated recently moved from “traditional” to
“transitional”. A large concrete curved wall/counter boldly
separates the living room from the kitchen. Meanwhile, a stainless steel
integral sink countertop straddles one wall- yet, by inlaying glass tiles
into the backsplash and inserting a traditional plate holder in the
cabinetry, enough balance is achieved to avoid a conflict of styles.

Let’s take a turn-of-century
“Craftsman” style kitchen for a hypothetical example. The cabinets
would most likely be frame-and-panel with flush inlay doorframes. There
would be wood wainscoting in the dining area and perhaps tile around a
single porcelain sink. The lighting fixtures might have bevelled glass or
echoes of Tiffany lamps.

What concrete application
would be appropriate in this situation? 

I would look into one or
more of the following ideas in combination:

Choose an earth tone color
or natural gray. No bright colors.

Keep the front face, or
thickness, of the countertop at a minimum of 2- 1/2″ up to 5″.

Inset “panels” into the front face of
the countertop to reflect the cabinet doors.

decorative concrete finish

Courtesy of Cheng Design

These panels
would be no deeper than 3/8″ and would measure approximately 1/3″
to the height of the front face, or recess the appropriately sized or
proportioned ceramic tiles with some embossing on them into the face of the
countertop or into a cast backsplash. Allow the recess to be at least
1/4″ in depth.

Mosaic tiles in groups of four
separated by 1/8″-1/4″ spacing could be placed on the countertop
surface as inlaid “trivets” next to the stove burners. (In the
mold, they would be placed face down on the bottom of the form.) Line the
drain board into the sink with tile or marble.

concrete with mosaic design inlaid

Courtesy of Cheng Design

Now I wouldn’t want to use all
of the above accents – just enough to carry a complementary flavor to the
Craftsman look and feel. The concrete itself is earthy enough to carry that

It’s up to you as a homeowner or designer to add the touch that
personalizes and enhances the piece. In some cases, for instance, the
overwrought “traditional English manor” kitchen, usually full of
elaborate detailing, can use a touch of restraint – the
kitchen countertop

with a simple ogee edge detail and a complementary white porcelain farm sink
might just be perfect.

As they say, it’s all in the details.