Restaurant gets a kick out of a custom concrete bench and table top

Check out this one of a kind project by Concrete Countertop Institute student Thomas Lancaster of Lancaster Concrete Designs in Alpine, TX. It makes me want to kick up my heels and go line dancing, but I think that’s the point. 

Boot and table set

This project was actually inspired by Thomas’ wife. She had the idea one day while meditating and told Thomas they needed to make it happen. After a lot of planning and over a month of templating and designing, this project was ready for concrete. It was to be installed in a local restaurant, the Saddle Club, with a Western theme.

PreCast Tops

The tops are made from precast concrete.

The tops of the bench and table are made from precast concrete. The base of the boot is constructed using GFRC. It features two distinct pieces held together with magnets for easy moving. Since the entire project is made in pieces, future versions can easily be shipped out to ordering customers.

Creating the boot base was the most difficult part of the project. Here it is, almost complete.

Creating the boot base was the most difficult part of the project. Here it is, almost complete.

The boot top is made using precast concrete and sits on the base over rubber dowels. The idea was just a concept when this project started, but since the boot bench has been in place, it’s certainly been tested. Just last weekend the club had a long music festival with thousands of guests, and the boot held up beautifully.

The table base is an imported wine barrel with a precast concrete top. It features a decorative rope edging and steel inlays. The turquoise color is stunning.

Extras Matter

The versatility of concrete makes it easy to incorporate unique accents and special features. Adding these custom additions can make a piece more usable and more appreciated. In this special boot bench and table set, Thomas incorporated several special features for a truly unique project.

One-of-a-Kind Features:

  • Bottle Opener on Side of the Boot- this piece is in a club/restaurant and the bottle opener certainly comes in handy.
  • Decorative Horse Shoes in Table Top- Thomas used pony shoes as a decorative accent in the table top to complement the restaurant’s Western theme.
  • Multi-Part Construction- With over 40 square feet of concrete, the finished piece weighs about 400 pounds, a lot for any one person to lift. To make transport easier, the boot is constructed in multiple pieces and can be easily moved.
  • Company Branding- Anyone wanting to know who created this work of art won’t have to look far; Thomas included his name at the base of the boot for all to see.
The bottle opener and company name are just two of the custom features added to this project.

The bottle opener and company name are just two of the custom features added to this project.

Beautiful work Thomas! We’re sure the Saddle Club patrons get a kick out of this unique piece. I know I’d certainly love to enjoy a good meal on a bench like that.

Thomas attended The Ultimate Concrete Countertop Training in March 2011. View more of Thomas’s work at www.lancasterconcretedesigns.com or www.facebook.com/LancasterConcreteDesigns.

7 Fun Summer Concrete Projects

During the summer all I want to do is head outdoors and enjoy the sun, but that doesn’t mean I have to leave concrete behind. Check out these awesome projects people are creating with concrete and get inspired to make some one of a kind concrete creations of your own.

Modern Concrete Benches

Concrete Benches

Concrete is the perfect medium for modern design projects as illustrated by these stunning concrete benches made by Yves St. Hilaire of Sticks + Stones Furniture, a CCI alumnus. I would love to spend a summer night roasting marshmallows over this fire while visiting with friends.

Concrete Planters

Concrete Planters

Don’t buy planters for your garden this year; make them yourself using concrete. Simple garden planters like these ones could be constructed in an afternoon or you could put your concrete training and skills to use to embed stones, add color and create your own creative flair.

Concrete Sand Box

Dinosaur Sand Box

This dinosaur themed concrete sand box is nothing short of amazing, but the versatility of concrete doesn’t end with paleontology. Concrete could be used to create a variety of themed sand boxes from construction themed to ocean themed and more.

Concrete Chair

Concrete Chair

Sitting out by the pool on a comfortable concrete outdoor chair is the perfect way to spend a summer day. In our recent online training session entitled “3D GFRC Molds” we teach the skills you’ll need to make a modern outdoor chair like this one designed by Peter Bennett of Future Concrete Designs in Australia. Once the summer’s over this chair would look great by your desk.

Concrete Water Fountain

Concrete Water Fountain

Cool off on a hot summer’s day with a refreshing drink from a concrete water fountain like this one.

Concrete Fountain

Water Fire Feature

A water feature can instantly add movement and intrigue to a garden, front yard or large entryway. We had a lot of fun constructing this water and fire feature during in class, and I’ll show you how it’s done in the “3D GFRC Molds” online training.

Concrete Coasters

Cement Coasters

Concrete coasters are quick and easy to make and perfect for holding all of your frosty beverages this summer. You can make them with any kind of circular form such as pipe sections, and are a great way to use up extra concrete from your projects and as a client gift. Get creative with multiple colors and embedments too.

What fun summer concrete projects do you have planned? We’d love to see what you’ve made using the tools, training and techniques from The Concrete Countertop Institute.

Concrete Fire Pit

Fire Pit

Whether you want to roast marshmallows or sing campfire songs, this concrete fire pit is ready to go. Concrete is extremely versatile and perfect for the indoors and out. It can be rustic like the fire pit above or sleek and modern like the “Crater” and “Ridge” fire pits below, which are available as plans from our website.

crater300

 

 

ridge300

Concrete Countertops: It’s time to get personal!

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.

blue gears orange concrete

 

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.

CounterIntuitive Christian Lotte shell vanity

CounterIntuitive Christian Lotte shower bench

 

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.

Jeff Girard drain grooves

Jeff Girard custom drainboard

 

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.

CounterIntuitive Christian Lotte integral sinks

 

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.

CounterIntuitive Christian Lotte stone vanity

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?

Adding decorative aggregate to concrete countertops

Decorative aggregates, whether they are colored glass, crushed stone or other materials, can create interest and add pizzazz to a concrete countertop. This is one of the easiest and most fun ways to create an exciting custom look for your client. You can use recycled glass, elements of the room such as glass tile pieces, or even the client’s own mementos such as a broken vase.

There are two basic ways of getting the decorative aggregate into the concrete countertop:

  • Method 1: Mix all of the decorative aggregate in with the concrete
  • Method 2: “Seeding” or place the aggregate into the empty forms before the concrete is placed.

Both methods can be used together, and each has its pros and cons.

Mixing the aggregate into the concrete before casting is an easy way to achieve consistency, control and uniformity.

Since the decorative aggregate is mixed into the concrete, all surfaces will look the same. In addition, the average spacing of the aggregates is more uniform.

Because the total amount of ingredients is known, duplication of the concrete is easy. Varying degrees of exposure are controlled by altering the amounts (weights) of decorative aggregates used and the sizes of the aggregate particles. Larger aggregates have fewer particles per pound, so the overall coverage looks lower than with smaller aggregates.

The biggest disadvantage to this method lies in the amount of aggregate required. Only a small fraction of the decorative aggregate is actually exposed. Most of the aggregate never is seen, and this can significantly increase material costs.

Additionally, mix design adjustments may be necessary depending on the size and amount of decorative aggregate used. Large amounts of aggregate might call for substituting some of the other ordinary aggregate for some or all of the decorative aggregate, and it also might require a change in cement paste content or consistency.

However, if cost is not an issue and the client wants a random but uniform look, this is the easiest method.

To summarize, advantages are:

  • More uniform spacing
  • Easier to duplicate a random look
  • Easy to do

Disadvantages:

  • May be costly because more aggregate must be used
  • May require mix design adjustment

Pre-placing the decorative aggregate into the forms is an alternative method that uses much less material. This method is very useful when the decorative aggregate is very expensive, only a small amount is available or specific patterns or locations of aggregates are desired. Sometimes aggregate is glued to the forms to prevent shifting, although this works best with larger pieces that have a distinct flat gluing surface.

preplacing aggregate

Disadvantages include the tendency for scattered aggregates to shift, move or get lost during casting. Also, edges and vertical surfaces are difficult to seed so that they match the surface.

Replicating the look of random, scattered aggregates can be tricky too, since the effects of concrete placement and consistency can have a strong influence on the final appearance.

Advantages:

  • Uses less aggregate
  • Allows for specific patterns or locations of aggregate

Disadvantages:

  • Aggregate can shift or get lost during casting
  • Hard to match edges
  • Random look hard to replicate

Either method will require some degree of grinding to expose the embedded decorative aggregate. Larger, more rounded aggregates require the most grinding in order to expose some significant portion of their cross section. Small, angular particles take the least amount of grinding to expose.

Concrete countertops in Paradise – the Cayman Islands

Terry Wilson, originally from Tampa, and has lived in Grand Cayman for 24 years. His company, Wilson Construction, has built many homes and commercial buildings on the island, and over the years Terry has done a variety of decorative concrete projects, ranging from the floor of the Cracked Conch restaurant, to a cast in place bar top for his own home.

Cracked Conch Grand Cayman Cast in Place Bartop Grand

Terry started getting more requests for high end concrete countertops, and in October 2010 he attended The Concrete Countertop Institute’s 5-day class. In December, he brought me (Jeff Girard) down over Christmas to help him with his first big project. What a project, and what a setting!

The building is a new office for Thompson Shipping, who also owns a concrete batch plant and aggregate company. Thompson wanted to showcase their aggregate and logo in long, dramatic counters in the reception area of the building.

Thompson Shipping building Grand Cayman Thompson Shipping lobby Grand Cayman

Jeff Girard Terry Wilson Grand Cayman

There are many more photos of the entire creation process on the CCI Facebook page, as well as photos of the fun that Terry, my wife Lane and I had while not working on concrete. We snorkeled, swam with stingrays, sampled great food and Caymanian hospitality, and enjoyed gorgeous beaches.

Jeff Girard Pirate Grand Cayman Stingray Grand Cayman

This is what I love about the concrete countertop industry. So many people in all sorts of places around the world are creating amazing works of art that work in their setting. Whether it’s clean lines celebrating Scandanavian design in Finland or exposed aggregate celebrating local materials in the Cayman Islands, concrete countertops everywhere are bringing uniqueness, personalization and craftsmanship back to the building process.

If you have a “concrete countertops around the world” story, let me know. Where are all my readers from?

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