Concrete Ideas: 3 Designers Reimagine an Industrial Material

The utilitarian product is getting the high-design treatment.

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Ovid Vessel, Concrete Cat, $60; Wall.01, Iwan Pol; Armored Emptiness by Simon Anund, Artworks Photography by domino

Concrete—the industrial building material composed of gravel, sand, cement, and water—is being given a design-forward makeover in colorful, handcrafted works. 

In Living Color

Canadian duo Matt and Shawna Heide of Concrete Cat began experimenting with vibrant pigments—from electric mint to moody indigo—after growing bored of the black-and-white palette that had come to define their architectural details business.

“We felt like a lot of the things you can do with ceramics you could do with concrete,” says Matt, so the Edmonton-based couple branched out, casting side tables, catchalls, and even pipes in eye-popping patterns. All the pigments are applied to the concrete by hand, and the colors are stacked and mixed for a psychedelic effect. 

Delicate Touch

Inspired by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando, Dutch designer Iwan Pol sought to “create a fur for buildings” by casting concrete in tactile textures that highlight a “softer” side of the material.

“I looked for qualities that would surprise me,” says Pol of his Happy Concrete II series, in which the tiles resemble delicate eggs and water drops more than durable flooring and wall accents. After drawing the pieces in his software, a plastic model is 3-D printed and used to make a silicone mold, which Pol then fills with concrete in soft pastels and speckled patterns that look as cool as they feel.

Blank Canvas

“It’s difficult to know exactly how the castings will turn out,” says Simon Anund from his home in Stockholm. The artist’s concrete sculptures, seen in his recent solo show, “Post Amorfa,” began with a series of discarded vacuum molds. After placing a colorful blob of concrete in one, Anund poured white concrete around it for a minimalistic look.

“It’s not as direct as painting,” he says of casting heat-sensitive concrete (which takes more than a day), but he loves the “dramatic change of texture” between the misshapen splotch and the whiteness.

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Photography by domino

Shop the look:

Concrete Wallpaper by Piet Boon for NLXL, The Future Perfect, $299
02 Gem by Kelly Wearstler Field Tile, Ann Sacks 
03 Home Tile, Pettersen Hein 
04 Concrete Eau de Parfum, Comme des Garcons, $165
05 Concrete Tealight Candle Set, Novel Studios, $90 
06 Metamorphic Rock Bookend by Chen Chen & Kai Williams, The Future Perfect, $190
07 Ombré Coffee Table, West Elm, $499 
08 Azo Bench by François Bauchet, Galerie Kreo
09 Moon Collection Side Table, Bronsen, $525  
10 LMA Chair, Pettersen & Hein
11 Marbled Concrete Round Tray by Handcrafted by HH, Etsy, $52

This story originally appeared in the summer 2018 issue with the headline "Concrete Ideas."

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Published on July 04, 2018 - 5:05am EDT

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