If you hear “decorative concrete” and think of garden gnomes, bird baths and St. Francis statues, you’ve probably missed a few things lately.
Concrete has moved beyond the realm of figurines or hard-hat-and-trowel contractors and into the artist’s studio on its way to becoming one of the most widely used construction materials in the world.
It can enhance a project aesthetically while functioning as an integral part of a structure, whether that is a floor, wall, walkway, countertop or a patio.
These are not typically DIY projects. That helps to explain why at least 3,000 architects, interior designers and contractors have signed up for the fourth annual Concrete Décor Show. Those who attend can get hands-on training, inspiration and guidance from experts.The show will include seminars, exhibits by more than 115 vendors, as well as an off-site service project that will make improvements at Charlotte Rescue Mission, a local nonprofit organization.
Homeowners also can attend to learn more about the ever-expanding uses of decorative concrete, said Mary Browning, marketing director for Professional Trade Publication, the show organizer and publisher of Concrete Décor magazine.
“We hope to make people aware of the many applications and effects possible using these materials and techniques,” Browning said.
Here’s a sample of the workshop topics:
Metallics, staining and colors
Due to the many new products on the market, concrete can be made to resemble materials such as granite, marble, tile and wood. It can be given a high-gloss or matte finish, a three-dimensional effect or even variegation. Throw in some silver metallic powder, usually used for plaster, for a pearlescent finish. Add some color and sparkle. The result: Concrete surfaces can be transformed from dull into dazzling works of art.
Polished concrete is not considered a particularly economical option for flooring, according to a recent issue of Concrete Décor magazine. If done right, however, it can offer significant upsides over the long haul, due to ease of maintenance and durability. Unlike carpet and tile, concrete shouldn’t need to be replaced under normal conditions.
Aesthetically, there are bonuses, as well.
Artisans and savvy designers are catching on to the versatility of concrete for adding custom touches on horizontal and vertical surfaces both indoors and out. One strong trend is to add dyes to the mixture before it’s poured. Another is to cut a stencil that can be transferred onto a floor. A company or school logo might sound obvious, but for a residential project, what about creating a Persian rug pattern?
Concrete is becoming a popular substitute for slate, marble and granite fireplace surrounds due to the many colors, patterns and sheens it can take on. For example, add bits of charcoal and shards of glass for a shimmering effect. Tilt the mold and pour the concrete mixture gradually in waves to create a striated look.
Concrete fireplaces come into their own especially as the focal point in outdoor rooms. They also can function as windscreens. They’re also popular in combination with water features, for a sensational fire-water effect.