Concrete at Home

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Build artistic custom concrete floors, cabinets, countertops, sinks, dividers, fireplaces, mantlepieces and more. In this four-color book you'll learn how to custom design, pour, finish, and seal one-of-a-kind custom interior and exterior floors.


Includes information on admixtures, crack control, custom finishes, self-leveling compounds, and reinforcement techniques. Shows how to apply inlays, linework, and stamps and finishes to concrete floors.



Weight 2.0400
ISBN 1-56158-682-X
Page Count 216
Author Fu-Tung Chen, with Eric Olsen
Publisher Taunton Press
Dimensions 9 x 11

Build artistic custom concrete floors, cabinets, countertops, sinks, dividers, fireplaces, mantlepieces and more. In the pages of this 216-page, four-color book you'll find hundreds of ideas for ways to use concrete on the job.

You'll learn how to custom design, pour, finish, and seal one-of-a-kind custom interior and exterior floors. Includes information on admixtures, crack control, custom finishes, self-leveling compounds, and reinforcement techniques. Shows how to apply inlays, linework, and stamps and finishes to concrete floors. Explains how to create custom concrete countertops and sinks.

Illustrates the fundamentals of concrete wall design, including innovative uses for concrete block, applying color and texture on walls, using ties, rebar, and forms for walls. How to design, form and place mantlepieces and fireplace surrounds, and how to design, form and pour water pieces, columns, and more from concrete.

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CONTENTS

Preface, viii
Introduction, 2

Floors & Countertops
Chapter 1
The Fundamentals of Floor Design, 8

Chapter 2
Floor Essentials: Preparation, Execution & Pouring, 24

Chapter 3
Floor Transformations: Inlays, Linework, Stamps & Finishes, 48

Chapter 4
New Countertops: Classes, Products, Tools & Techniques, 76

Walls

Chapter 5
The Fundamentals of Wall Design: Character, Form & Expression, 98

Chapter 6
Wall Essentials: Fittings, Forms, Ties & Techniques, 122

Chapter 7
Beyond the Basic Wall: The Ultimate Kitchen, 144

Fireplaces, Columns, & Architectural Pieces

Chapter 8
Hearthscapes: Mantelpieces & Fireplace Surrounds, 162

Chapter 9
Architectural Elements: Water Pieces, Columns & More, 184

Resources, 208
Index, 213
Credits, 216

INTRODUCTION

The Ahwahnee Hotel sits in a meadow at the northeastern end of Yosemite Valley. Built in 1926, it is one of the crown jewels of the National Park system. Nearby, El Capitan, a 4,000 ft. granite carapace, rises straight off of the valley floor while Yosemite Falls, a white ribbon in slow motion, cascades down. In the distance, high over Half Dome, clouds return home. I first saw the Ahwahnee one late spring day in 1981. I had wandered onto a trail through a stand of Douglas firs, and came upon the entry to the hotel. Under a redwood timber canopy, cars pulled up, valets opened doors, and women and men in fancy clothes stepped out. Curious, I followed them into the lobby.

When I entered-first thing-the floors caught my eye. They were buffed and waxed to a worn-saddle finish. Broad
expanses of veined color were cut-in with beautiful incised patterns, as though etched with a tool. Stone? I wondered.
I bent down for a closer look, but couldn't figure out how they were made, or of what. Finally I was amazed to realize,
these floors are concrete.

When I stood to look around, I saw concrete everywhere, used as I had never seen it used before. I had to know more, so I signed on for the guided tour. We were told that the structure, to reduce the vulnerability to fire, contained little wood. Concrete had been cleverly adapted as finish material to the floors, fireplaces, walls, and beams.

But what really impressed me was how the concrete work merged with the artwork. In the foyer, bold geometric designs reminiscent of Native American baskets and Santa Clara burnished pottery, were inlaid into rust-colored acid-stained floors. In bands on the immense concrete beams, in the drapery, in the ironwork-native graphic designs resonated with the architecture. (Our guide, with some irony, reminded us that the native people who once roamed the valley and inspired these designs no longer made their home here.)

Each time I visit the Ahwahnee, I am refreshed. Strangers become community there, share the pleasures of great meals in a setting of great design, and enjoy the beauty of the public space and the common decency of good government. I am inspired by nature and the nature of human creativity. I head out, eager to pursue the elusive balance among art, architecture, and concrete at home.

A History of Innovation

Although concrete in some parts of the Ahwahnee was made to look like wood and stone, concrete's history has more to do with innovation than imitation. Architects, designers and builders have been experimenting with concrete's structural and sculptural qualities for more than a century. Today, you'll find countless examples of their work in any major city-cast columns, balustrades, and Art Deco facades and tableaus.

In California, where I live, we're fortunate to have concrete homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolf Schindler, and Bernard Maybeck -- three architects known for their innovative use of the material. Rather than mask concrete's natural tone and texture, these pioneers preferred to let the material speak for itself, retaining the marks of form boards, the modularity of cast blocks, and the obvious mass of solid walls. Having this heritage of well designed work in the neighborhood definitely made an impression on me that influenced the outcome of many projects throughout this book.

When I first traveled to Europe, I was surprised at how much I loved all the stuff on buildings that I was taught to detest in art school. Expecting much form and little function, I wasn't at all prepared for the beauty I encountered in Bernini's fountains or Gaudi's undulating concrete walls. I realized that centuries of culture could and should be crafted into buildings. I saw the ingenuity of masons and sculptors passing down a tradition of design through the building process. Art theories and learned concepts gain traction with hands-on experience: I discovered the design possibilities of concrete by mixing some up and playing with it. This is the best way I have of explaining the connection between what I saw at the Ahwahnee and in Europe with what I do today.

Understanding the Past to Create the Future

I've often wondered why so many look to the past for design inspiration. What vital ingredients are missing from today's houses? I think it's the soulful, the simple, the elegant; a quality of craftsmanship, design, and respect for materials that we associate with work from other eras. Today, we associate these qualities with the styles of the past, but rather than simply mimic the style of the past, we have an opportunity to invigorate our contemporary homes with expression and creativity on contemporary terms. Christopher Alexander's A Timeless Way of Building eloquently encourages us to rediscover the "pattern language of designing and building instinctively" and not allow ourselves to drift". . . in superficial trends and style, without a cultural guiding hand."

Thinking of style as an assortment of possibilities rather than as a prescription or recipe from the past is actually quite freeing, and it's suddenly much easier to understand how concrete might fit in just about anywhere.

In our own work, we try to take the time to find new ways to use this age-old material in the context of the architecture and find the way toward soulful, personalized, well crafted design that evokes the same feelings of comfort and value found in homes built hundreds of years ago.

COMMON MATERIALS
UNCOMMON RESULTS

"CONCRETE AT HOME is brimming with inspiration and practical wisdom. With the sure hand of a master craftsman and the eye of an artist, Fu-Tung Cheng shows his readers how to unleash the extraordinary potential of concrete, and transform this unassuming raw material into unique and sublime architectural forms."
-Joan Kohn, author of It's Your Kitchen and It's Your Bath

Praise for Concrete Countertops

"Fu-Tung Cheng has made concrete look and feel soft and warm, and because of his unique treatment, his simple and arresting designs, and his magical mixture of color, if my home were empty, it would still [be full] of art. Because that's what he has made for me."
-Terry McMillan, author


"Fu-Tung Cheng demonstrates that we can bring art and creativity back home in sustainable architecture that is both timeless and elegant."
-Alice Waters, celebrated chef, author, and owner of Chez Panisse