Poured, brushed or polished, this contemporary Mexican home demonstrates why concrete is such a covetable material
Poured, brushed or polished, this Mexican abode demonstrates why concrete is the most covetable material for homes
Concrete has come a very long way since the imposing buildings of the Brutalist movement divided opinion in the 1960s. Current trends for textured finishes and diverse applications have conspired to bring the material back into the spotlight.
In addition to being consistently popular with architects – as this new-build Mexican house aptly demonstrates – it is now fully integrated into interiors, too. As a wall or floor finish, it has a raw, urban feel that’s the perfect foil for both refined and organic surfaces (think marble and wood).
There are also more concrete homewares available than ever before – brands doing interesting things include Kaza Concrete (for 3D tiles), Urbi et Orbi (for lighting), Havelock Studio ( for accessories) and Edinburgh designer Harry Morgan (for striking furniture). Versatility is a big part of concrete’s appeal: if you find the idea of an all-concrete space like this one a bit too austere, dip your toe into the trend and experiment with smaller pieces instead.
Built in 2015, Casa Zicatela overlooks the beach in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca. The owners – a young couple with two small children – asked architect Emmanuel Picault and his former colleagues, Ludwig Godefroy and Domingo Delaroière, to design them a three-bedroom holiday home on a tight budget. ‘They gave us carte blanche on the style,’ says Emmanuel, who loves to work with concrete and used it on a grand scale here. ‘It has a beautiful patina. We applied no protective treatment and there is no maintenance routine, because we wanted to show the way it weathers over time.’
The concrete was cast using timber boards to give it a rough, textured effect, leaving the natural impression of the wood’s grain behind. Style-wise, this unique home was inspired by 20th-century Brutalist buildings and ancient Mayan temples. ‘The latter are made of stone, but they make me think of concrete,’ adds Emmanuel.
Privacy was crucial: the house is enclosed within bunker-style walls, but completely open on the inside. Terraces and a pool frame the rooms, while concrete steps lead up to a large wooden deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There is no glass anywhere; instead, sliding timber doors allow the family to control light and shade. Furniture is stripped down to the essentials, so as not to distract from the dramatic architecture. chic-by-accident.com; ludwiggodefroy.com
TREND IN DETAIL: CONCRETE MATTERS
There are few limits to what you can do with concrete in the home, but any large-scale projects require careful preparation. ‘ With this material, there’s no space for errors,’ says architect Emmanuel. ‘If you make a mistake, you have to start again.’ The most complex installations are floors, which can be time consuming and tricky – the sub-layer beneath the poured concrete must be absolutely level to avoid cracking, and you need to factor in things like the removal of any floorboards, structural reinforcements and time for the concrete to cure (usually a few days). Benefits, however, are many: concrete floors are durable and heat-retaining.
You can also use concrete to create seamless built-in furniture, such as kitchen islands and shower enclosures. A sleek, polished finish is practical and hardwearing, but exposed aggregate styles – with the grit in the concrete visible for added texture – can look wonderful in less high-traffic areas. Concrete can be customised in various ways, by imprinting it with relief patterns, studding it with stones and glass or casting it in wood for an organic look. It doesn’t have to be grey, either: mixing pigment with liquid concrete produces surprisingly intense colours.
If you’re concerned about the cost or weight of concrete, look at the new Micro Concrete finish, which is laid thinly over tiles or wood and creates the same look at a fraction of the price. It’s also stain resistant – not always the case with conventional concrete, which needs to be sealed to protect it in wet or high-use areas and, like marble, is vulnerable to chips and damage from acids. Consult a specialist, such as Living Concrete, for projects in both materials. ➤
‘ WE APPLIED NO PROTECTIVE TREATMENT AND THERE’S NO MAINTENANCE ROUTINE, BECAUSE WE WANTED TO SHOW HOW CONCRETE WEATHERS OVER TIME’