Concrete Use Reimagined

Concrete sink and home decor

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Concrete is hard, heavy, drab and best suited for building structures, right?

Yes. And No.

The dependable and sturdy building material is surprisingly a great medium for home decor, jewelry and furniture, too. It’s all a matter of how you use your imagination when it comes to creative concrete use.

Concrete use that’s of this earth

Concrete is sustainable because it utilizes limestone, the most abundant mineral on earth. The reuse of waste with concrete is also impressive, too, as byproducts such as fly ash from mills and plants can be used to create concrete, utilizing those resources in a productive way, rather than putting them into the waste stream. Concrete will not rust or rot and lasts an extremely long time, but when it is time to dispose of a concrete product, it can be recycled into new concrete pavement or road base.

Which is why concrete has become a unique material for DIY projects, decor, and more.

“Yes, concrete is heavy, that’s why it is a durable and lasting product,” said Julie Loven, whose family business, Loven Ready Mix, has been producing ready mixed concrete since 1938 in Boone, NC. “But in small amounts, it’s workable. Concrete can be made into tons of shapes and sizes, even in different colors. If you have a good form and just enough water, then you’re all set. Concrete is so versatile these days and people are making really cool things from concrete.  It’s safe, environmentally friendly, and last forever so what’s not to like?”

Everything and the (concrete) kitchen sink

For all of these reasons, concrete is becoming more common in home decor, and not just as a tiny concrete bench tucked into a garden or on the front porch.

Concrete countertop

Consider adding honed black countertops like these pictured added to your kitchen design. Image Credit – ConcreteNetwork.

Countertops made from concrete are now just as viable a solution as picking a granite or laminate countertop. Poured in one solid sheet of concrete, the countertops are durable and strong.

Forget just the boring shade of gray that you are used to in concrete cinder blocks, though. Concrete can come in a variety of colors and shades, customized to your needs and décor.

That’s why concrete flooring is an up-and-coming material that’s highly durable and is being used more often inside the home, not just in the garage. With stains and surface treatments, a concrete floor harbors no dust mites or dirt, and is just as easy to clean as a hardwood floor or tile.

Sinks can be created from the building material, too, with options for bathrooms, kitchens and laundry areas. Utilizing the ability to pour concrete into any shape or form that you can imagine, many of these sinks take on steep angles, curved dividers, or unusual patterns that truly customize a product.

Furniture is another unusual product made from concrete. Tables are not too much of a stretch of the imagination, with large, flat surfaces made from the moldable material. Crafting your own concrete table can be an inexpensive solution if you’re willing and able to do some DIY projects.

Concrete couches, though, could take some getting used to. Whether straight edges and angular, or poured from molds that mimic the softness and look of fabric, sofas made from concrete might not be something that you want to curl up on with a blanket to watch a movie late at night, but they do make a statement, and are ideal for areas exposed to the elements.

KAST Concrete Knobs

Hazel concrete knobs by KAST Concrete Knobs. Image Credit – KAST Concrete Knobs.

When it comes to accessorizing the home, lighting goes a long way – and can be even more sustainable with concrete lights. Pendant lamps made from concrete are readily available, but can be pricey. It is easy to craft a DIY concrete pendant lamp with some plastic bottles and a little ingenuity, as shown in this tutorial video.

The list of items that can be crafted from concrete is surprising, from drawer pulls, candle holders and picture frames to bowls, clocks and tape dispensers.

Concrete design

Yet what is perhaps the most surprising item popularly made from concrete has got to be jewelry. Yes, that’s right, those delicate stud earrings worn on earlobes or pendants on necklace chains can be crafted from concrete. And you won’t feel like you’re being pulled down from wearing a rock.

Beau Sinchai, the owner and designer of Koonyai Studio, crafts concrete jewelry and architectural accessories. The Minneapolis native loves the way that concrete can be used for personal expression.

“I was trained as an architect, and so I quickly fell in love with the material and its challenge,” she said. “Concrete is a very strong material when being used in a big scale, like a building. However, once the size is reduced down, it is typically fragile and prone to breaking. What I love most is experimenting with my own concrete recipe and process to create a strong and light weight concrete jewelry.”

Sinchai creates stud earrings in state shapes, as well as more graphic and architectural lines for earrings, tie tacks, necklaces and cuff links. None of the products will have that heavy feeling that most people associate with the building material.

“Concrete jewelry is very lightweight. You will not be able to tell the difference between concrete earrings and other earrings of the same size,” said Sinchai.

Concrete Ring

Image Credit – KONZUK

Even wedding bands can be crafted from concrete (along with stainless steel), in the unique collection from KONZUK, a design studio utilizing concrete in modern jewelry. Chances are, no one is going to be able to tell that a sustainable building material was used in the classic design.

Concrete is a fun medium that is perfect for exploring on your own and designing a variety of products. Even though it is easy for beginners to utilize, there are still some guidelines that Loven suggests.

“Wear gloves. Concrete can actually burn your skin (the chemical reaction that causes it to set is called hydration) and make your hands dry and irritated. Make a plan for your project. Concrete can set quickly and your shape may not look like what you want it to if you are not paying attention. Check out how-to videos or ask the assistants at the store for tips,” she said.

Feature image courtesy of Rooky Yootz (Flickr

Kimberly Button

Kimberly Button is the author of The Everything Guide to a Healthy Home and the Editor-in-Chief of GetGreenBeWell , featuring modern, sane ideas for living a non-toxic life. A professional journalist for nearly two decades, Button has written for magazines such as Martha Stewart's Whole Living, American Airlines, AAA, Sierra, National Geographic Traveler, and Vegetarian Times. Visit KimButton.com for more information.

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