By Christian D. Lotte of CounterIntuitive, LLC in Greensboro, NC (CCI alumnus trained in Precast, January 2009, and GFRC, September 2009)
If the real estate fallout of the last few years has taught us anything, it is that the old saying ‘your home is your castle’ holds more true today than it ever has. Many of us have realized that the constant need for ‘moving up’ into larger quarters was a hype that had to come to an end, and that we are quite comfortable inside the four walls we currently live in. A little bit of personalization is all it takes to fall in love with your home all over again.
Remodeling your kitchen or bathroom are great ways to update your home’s look and functionality and add the personal touch it deserves. Today kitchens have become rooms where the majority of living occurs, and they are also rooms where money spent on remodeling yields the highest return on investment. Inevitably your quest to beautify your space will bring you to the coordination of cabinets with countertops, and if you are in the market for new countertops, chances are you have visited showrooms filled with granite, marble, engineered quartz, tile, or laminate choices. All those make great options for countertops, and they all have a couple of things in common: They are fabricated in slabs, and you can pick from the suppliers’ standard sample pallets.
If the idea of picking from a standard list of colors to perfectly compliment your selection of cabinets and wall colors sounds less than exciting to you, I would like to introduce you to another material: Concrete!
Concrete is fast gaining in popularity among countertop choices today. Among design options I will illustrate below, the reason for concrete’s gain in popularity is simple: You will not walk through a bone-yard of countertop slabs and pick from a standard list of colors. Concrete countertops are hand-made, custom, by a local craftsman/woman, just for you.
Here are a few ways that concrete countertop craftspeople can add an owner’s personal touch to their homes:
1. Use color
Concrete can be colored through integral pigmentation, surface staining, or dying. Sheer endless colorations and dramatic effects can be created. Whether it is your college team’s color or the perfect ocean blue from your last vacation spot, you may approach a fabricator with a picture, a paint swatch or a fabric sample. Efficient shops will create color samples matched to your swatch within seven to ten days. While white concrete, natural grays, charcoal, or black are always-popular choices, bold colors are possible, and often all it takes to create that ‘wow’-effect in your home.
Custom kitchen by Jeff Girard of The Concrete Countertop Institute
2. Customize with exposed aggregate or inlays
Terrazzo-look countertops have become popular over the last few years. These are often concrete countertops where glass or stone chips have been added to the mix to add interest. When you use locally fabricated concrete for your countertops you can select the chips you want added. Think river pebbles, recycled glass, stainless steel chips, even mirror glass. Inlays allow for even greater focal points. Those are much larger objects that can be placed inside the countertop form before concrete is poured. Here your fabricator can expose tile, gem stones, and even metal objects.
Seashell edge and inlayed conch shells by CounterIntuitive
Mirror glass chips in concrete shower bench by CounterIntuitive
3. Add drainboards and trivets
Add functional design right into your countertops through drainboards and trivets. Drainboards can be lowered sections of the countertop, or simply grooves that were cast into the counter. They are areas for fruits and vegetables, or even dishes, to sit and dry. Trivets are usually raised metal rails that are integrated into the concrete. These rails are ideal places to place hot pots. Frequently drainboard grooves or metal trivet rails are simple and straight, but with the versatility of concrete design choices are endless.
Grooved drainboard by Jeff Girard of The Concrete Countertop Institute
Custom drainboard with inlayed trivets by Jeff Girard of The Concrete Countertop Institute
4. Create depth and thickness
One of concrete’s greatest advantages is that you are not bound to a typical 1 ½” thick slab. Create the illusion of thickness by dropping the front edge 4” if you like. Because concrete is wet when it is cast, it will take on any shape you pour it into. Integral concrete sinks are popular choices and a welcome reprieve from your slab-producers standard undermount sink option. Intricate 3-dimensional design is among the favorite design techniques exclusive to concrete fabrication.
Integral concrete sinks by CounterIntuitive
5. Don’t be shy
Concrete is quickly and steadily evolving as a countertop material. Among the latest trends are integrated glow-stones, fiber-optics and glass pieces, as well as built-ins into your concrete, such as drawers or wine bottle holders. Your local concrete artisan is a skilled and competent source of information. If you can imagine it, he or she can more than likely fabricate it.
Stone vanity top by CounterIntuitive
Concrete is no longer the drab material that you walk on. Expert craftsmen have acquired unique talent that has elevated its positioning among high-end interior and exterior finishes while developing a look that remains all its own. When it comes to your remodel, doesn’t your kitchen deserve a personal choice?
Christian D. Lotte is founder and artisan of CounterIntuitive, LLC in Greensboro, NC. He can be reached by phone at (336) 430-4993 or via e-mail at email@example.com