Unless designers are specifying an industrial or ultra-modern aesthetic, concrete tends to get short shrift among materials due to its heavy weight, energy-intensive manufacturing process, and lackluster surface aesthetics. But the material doesn’t have to be hidden between floors and inside emergency stairwells. Here are six ways to work concrete into your next project.
1. DIY Design
Concrete wall tiles aren’t a novel concept, but this collection from Hungary-based tile maker Kaza adds a bespoke twist. For its Mystile series, the company collaborates with clients to determine the tile design and makeup based on considerations such as the project’s scope, lighting sources, program, and color scheme. Kaza offers 24 colors plus custom options. The company collaborates with independent designers worldwide to offer a collection of 13 patterns including vine (shown), by U.K.-based editorial illustrator Gillian Blease.
2. Mix Materials
U.K.–based furniture designer Leigh Cameron has crafted his practice on synthesizing unexpected material combinations, particularly those involving concrete. His latest creation, Weight of Space, pairs an unembellished timber frame and cast concrete table top in a desk designed to contrast concrete’s man-made uniformity with wood’s natural variation.
3. Carve a Niche
Forget using hand jigs and templates to etch logos or patterns into concrete surfaces. This portable CNC router is designed to engrave text and other decorative designs into the material, writes ARCHITECT’s sister magazineConcrete Construction. The multipurpose CP-8 Concrete Printer also can be used to cut or engrave wood, glass, acrylic, polycarbonate, metal, and ice.
4. Hack the Walls
Modular construction relies on materials such as concrete that can be fully or partially pre-fabricated as slabs and panels. But the heavier the material, the higher its transportation cost. Elemix, a precast-concrete additive from wall-systems maker Syntheon, incorporates lightweight synthetic particles that disseminate evenly throughout a mix to strengthen the material and allow for thinner slabs and smaller columns, resulting in more usable floor space.
5. Take it Outside
Concrete’s appeal is rooted in its heft. But designers who want to lighten interior structural loads should consider where they place the material. From furniture designer James DeWulf, the Ping Pong Dining Table can be used outdoors and is a resilient option for luxe multipurpose spaces. The 9’-long-by-5’-tall table is made of reinforced concrete and doubles as a dining surface.
6. Hang it Up
Rather than outfit an entire wall in decorative concrete, consider specifying the material in smaller doses. The concrete shade on Foscarini’s Aplomb luminaire has a 6½” diameter and a 14”-tall shade. Offered in white, brown, and gray colors, the LED pendant downlight weighs 5.95lbs.