Con­crete mat­ters

Poured, brushed or pol­ished, this con­tem­po­rary Mex­i­can home demon­strates why con­crete is such a cov­etable ma­te­rial

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Contents -

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-ac­ci­; lud­wig­gode­


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. ➤



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