Over the years, the world of design has seen an unimaginable transformation in what we term as ‘trend’. The real estate segment, as we know it, has gone a long way from being purely utilitarian to now being a space that reflects the persona and ideals of the individual living in it. Today, every architect has the exciting challenge before him to craft out a space so unique that it stands out distinctly from the others, thereby leaving behind an ecstatic designer and client.
With that in mind, the palette with which designers played with has seen a significant transformation over the recent years.
From discovering new materials to reimagining old ones giving it a completely new outlook. For example, bamboo was once considered a cheap building material. However, research and technology have given this versatile material a whole new life by finding use for it in some of the most arduous projects. Mud or clay blocks have made a huge comeback owing to the whole sustainable outlook coupled with new and ingenious ways of laying them.
And for the day’s topic, this material has seen the light of day for over a century! The millennials absolutely love it, the generation before that have grown quite fond of it, while the grandparents find themselves bewildered along with everything else going on in this world. Yes, a short span of 3 generations has seen the same material being used so dissimilarly that it’s hard to fathom that it is even conceivable. A material seen, touched and experienced by almost every human on the planet – Concrete!
Now, I use the word concrete and not cement intentionally. Although the terms cement and concrete are often used interchangeably, cement is actually an ingredient in concrete. Concrete is essentially a mixture of aggregates and cement along with water. The fact that concrete is a liquid based raw mix and can attain any shape desired makes it immensely versatile. That and many more reasons make this material one that is here to stay. However, before we get to the magic concrete has done, I would like to go back a bit to the origin of this material.
Man has been using concrete since the rise of the earliest civilizations. The Romans refi ned its use for construction, laying a concrete foundation for the Colosseum. It saw a slump before being rediscovered in the 18th Century after which there was no turning back and it went to become the most commonly used man made material in the world.
Concrete was not always the pick of the material when it came to aesthetics. It was 20th century architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier who gave concrete the distinct character it is seen with today. Of course, by then, concrete was still used at a vary macro level, that is, for mainstream construction. However, it is the designers of today that have majorly brought concrete into the homes and interior spaces with concrete fl ooring, walls and last but not the least, exposed ceilings. And along with the architecture, came the new breed of product designers who gave this product a new lease of life. A trend that has just caught on in the last few years and is seen making headlines all over the world. From lampshades to random pieces of art, the line of works using concrete highlighted with other elements such as wood, brass, stainless steel, etc., are dotting the globe with new trendsetters emerging every other day.
So, coming back to what makes this material so ridiculously popular with this generation.
If used well, concrete brings in a subtle yet sophisticated edge to your interiors. It almost goes without saying, that concrete and the industrial vibe, go hand in hand. While the industrial style doing its round in terms of creating waves in the trend world, concrete is right up there alongside.
From concrete fl oors to exposed ceilings, the raw permeable nature of the industrial look is a winner among the millennials. Coupled with some posh furniture, artwork and a complementary paint palette, you get yourself a real classy joint, not forgetting to add all the authenticity that comes along with it.
EASY TO MAINTAIN
Besides being distinctively gorgeous, the material can be treated in a number of ways that makes it very easy to maintain. The headache mainly lies in the beginning. Ensure that the material is properly stained, sealed and polished, and you got yourself a no brainer. Cement fl ooring can be very easily polished to a mirror fi nish and maintaining it is as simple as maintaining a tile fl ooring. In fact, cement fl ooring in India dates back to decades ago. Old homes in the south of India have an array of cement fl oorings to showcase.
From gorgeous red oxide flooring to Jaisalmer marble lookalike yellow oxide flooring. By using distinct methods of curing like using coconut oil and jaggery, they managed to get great life to this application, some of which still stand today as a testament to its durability.
IT ADDS TEXTURE
Firstly, the term ‘texture’ itself is a new entrant into the world of trends, well, substantially new. Every material preferred today is required to have a third dimension. Well, not necessarily physically, but visually. From textured wall plasters, paints, wood finishes, etc.
The idea of a plain surface has gotten boring. With that in mind, Concrete addresses the issue perfectly. Now concrete does not necessarily have the texture as a rough surface, it can be a smooth surface for all you know, but it is the contrast it creates, both within the material itself and along with the elements around it that make a world of a difference. Texture brings an interest to the space, so including one of these items in your design fosters an instant connection with the viewer
A STRONG FOCAL POINT
Every room needs a focal point. A painted wall or a piece of art does the trick in most cases. However, nothing quite comes close to the effect a concrete wall brings to the table. Concrete being a heavy material visually, tends to draw the gaze strongly to the focal point envisioned by the designer. Complemented by its texture and base palette, it gels seamlessly with the rest of the interior décor. There are subtle ways of adding concrete to the focal point of the room. A concrete table or a partially exposed ceiling will add that instant interest to your home as well.
Owing to the fact that concrete in its raw state can be cast into virtually anything, the possibilities are endless. From lampshades to wall claddings, this material is seeing it all. By creating a cast, the same product is easily replicated for mass production, and quite effortlessly in fact. For slimmer, more delicate profiles, using a glass reinforced fibre sheet gives concrete the required strength to keep the form it is meant to have.
Having said that, we now come to the various uses of concrete. Like I said, the applications are endless, but I am going to sum up a few areas where the material has shown true grit.
From regular mirror finishes to pigmented surfaces, the concrete fl oor is done and loved. So much so that the industry is gone onto, make vitrifi ed and ceramic tiles to match the look of a cement fl oor. Easy to maintain and install, the raw nature of the fl oor is what the interiors of that space boasts of.
Another application in cement fl oors is stamped concrete. Once laid, the applicator uses a stencil to stamp a pattern onto the concrete thus giving it the desired texture and fi nish. A quick and easy way to get a variety of textures in a highly cost effective way.
From fl ooring to wall coverings, these tiles have it all. Infact, the cement tiles have been here for generations. The atangudi and Bharat fl ooring tiles use pigments in concrete to create vivid colour patterns using moulds that everyone loves so much. But I am not going to speak about that particular application right now. I am talking about the raw cement fi nished tiles custom made such that once applied, create that mesmerizing texture on a wall. From self-lit concrete tiles to bendable sheets of concrete, the property of concrete allows the wildest of designs.
Lighting designers have really taken advantage of the hardwearing utilitarian properties of concrete to create some stunning minimalistic pieces that compliment almost any space. Coupled with some contrasting materials such as metal, brass or wood, these are perfect as an add-on to virtually any décor.
FURNITURE PIECES AND ACCESSORIES
This department still has a long way to go, but until now, it has made some serious headway and is seeing a very bright future. From monolithic table tops to wash basins, it’s only a matter of time before we see an array of designs in this fi eld.
With that, I will leave you in awe of the wonder that concrete has brought into our lives. Notice the next cement fl oor or concrete wall and try imagining the space without it. I will assure you, the space would not feel the same without it. With time and advancement in techniques, the way we see and perceive this all rounded material is only going to get better, and it is only a matter of time before concrete becomes the single indispensable material for both architecture and interiors throughout the globe.