Concrete Ideas

Cool Creations for Minimal Interiors

February 2021
6 minute read
Zhu concrete pendant light by Bentu

This year, design’s all about the C word.
No, not coronavirus.
Concrete!

Now you might be pulling a face.
You’re thinking motorway flyovers, car parks, and factory floors.

Banish these thoughts.

Just as McQueen reinvented tartan, turning kilts into couture, concrete’s undergone a transformation.

You’ll now discover elegant furniture, lighting and homeware.
Light years away from industrial and functional.

So if you’re not already acquainted, take a front row seat for the concrete collection.

Concrete Cocktail

No chemistry degree required.
Concrete’s a simple mix of aggregate, cement and water.

Aggregate’s the base, either sand, gravel or stones. Cement and water are the mixers that glue it together.

It starts off runny, easy to pour into a mould.
Like liquid stone that can be formed into any shape.
Then a bit of science between the water and cement sets it rock hard.

sheets of concrete in sunlight
Sections used by concrete specialist Bentu to create their Ding coffee table

Concrete Revolution

With concrete on the scene, crazy new buildings became possible. Brutalism is a perfect example. Striking geometric or sweeping curved buildings, almost impossible to create in any other material.

Look at the modernist inspired work of Tadao Ando. The self-taught Pritzker Prize winning architect, famous for his dramatic spaces that flow together and use natural light to extraordinary effect. Floors, walls, ceilings - all in concrete.

Modernist concrete building interior
Concrete revolutionised buildings and led to Modernist architecture

Concrete Inside

You’ll be familiar with polished concrete floors and bare concrete walls. The Turbine Hall at Tate Modern in London is a great example.

Concrete’s ideal for creating these minimal spaces because it’s seamless. The subtle colour variations stop it looking flat. A perfect backdrop for carefully selected furniture.

But it’s not just walls and floors, concrete can be moulded into any shape. Taking advantage of this, a new wave of innovators are creating future design classics. Everything from furniture to lighting, sinks to plates.

Dice modular concrete storage system with record player
Dice modular storage system by Lyon Béton

Dice, a clever modular system by Lyon Béton, links cubes and rectangles with rubber connectors. The spacer sits in cast holes and keeps each module precisely aligned. A storage system with limitless configurations.

Relax, it’s Concrete!

Think concrete’s too hard and cold to be comfortable? Think again.

Like all 'stone' it can gently radiate heat. That’s why it’s great for underfloor heating. Once at room temperature it doesn’t feel cold. And by adding brown tones to the cocktail it looks warm too.

H chair by Bentu fuses concrete with wood to give extra warmth. Because concrete’s so strong the backrest and seat are delicate and thin. Angled gently to fit the body perfectly. Proving a concrete chair can be just as comfortable as a wooden one. It’s all in the design.

concrete and wood H chair by Bentu
H chair combines concrete with wood to give a feeling of warmth

Concrete’s strength also makes it ideal for tables.

Nian is a beautiful example. A smooth sheet of concrete held on a folded metal frame. Two industrial materials that look elegant in combination.

concrete and black metal Nian desk by Bentu
Nian desk by Bentu

Another clever design is Twist, a coffee table from Lyon Béton. Two tables in one, a circular metal disc rotates above a rectangular concrete slab. I love how the leg cradles the table top.

concrete and black metal coffee table in sunlight
Twist coffee table by Lyon Béton

Clean Concrete

When wood gets wet, it rots.
When steel gets wet, it rusts.
When concrete gets wet, it resists the water.

This makes it perfect for wet rooms and sinks.

Kast are concrete basin specialists in the UK. They’ve perfected the art of using local limestone to create strikingly contemporary sinks. Blending quality pigments, there’s 28 colours to choose from.

Sono has a sculptural curve that forms the silky smooth basin. It can be cast to work with either a wall or surface mounted tap.

concrete hand basin and black metal mixer tap
Sono hand basin in stone by concrete basin specialist Kast

Pushing this further, is Hui from Bentu which includes a series of bathroom accessories. Look closely to see the tiny bubbles called bug holes. Formed in the moulding process, these give the surface a distinctive texture.

concrete bathroom accessories
Hui bathroom series by Bentu

Light Concrete

Just like wood grain, the patination of each piece of concrete’s unique.
When the aggregate’s exposed on the surface, it creates a mottled texture. Even when it isn’t visible the surface is never monotone. There are always variations in colour and texture due to flow lines and crazing.

Patination makes concrete a design option for decorative objects like lighting.

This stunning pendant by Bentu floats on delicate wires. An unusual contrast to the weight of the concrete. Bug holes add decorative interest to the minimal rectangular shape.

concrete pendant strip light on fine wires
Yi  floats on almost invisible wires

The iconic Borne Béton by Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier was decades ahead of it’s time. Cast in one flowing curve to create an elegant downlight. Designed in 1952 it still looks contemporary and is produced by Nemo Lighting.

Borne Béton concrete floor lamp in modern interior
Borne Béton available as an outdoor floor version or a smaller indoor|outdoor side lamp

Bentu took the classic hat shaped lamp and put their spin on it. Da is a perfectly proportioned geometric piece of concrete with no ornamentation. A confident centrepiece for a minimal interior.

minimal concrete pendant light above sage green metal table and chair
The strikingly simple Da pendant by Bentu

Cool Concepts

At Studio Hazeldean, we use plants as living art. But it can be tricky to find the perfect planter.
The Yuan series is an elegant example of restrained design. Subtly chamfered edges and a stepped lip. Just enough interest without distracting from the foliage.

minimal round concrete planters with plants
Yuan planters available in four sizes, by Bentu

Bentu constantly innovate and push the boundaries. Leaders in design, their collection of conceptual homeware is impressive. And with so many beautiful designs it’s almost impossible to choose. So here’s my edit of their best.

Want storage with a minimal look? The Hui collection includes a series of sleek bamboo topped boxes, trays and pallets. Endless options for versatile storage.

minimal concrete storage boxes with bamboo lids
Hui box series with minimal bamboo lids by Bentu

Working from home’s likely part of your life. But you don’t do generic!
Instead you want a home work zone that perfectly suits your style. Cool and minimal.
Inspired by brutalism, two bold options are Jing and Men - a pen holder, and a bookend. Graphic accessories for a clutter free desk.

brutalist concrete pen holder and bookend
Jing card and pen holder and Men bookend.
Both from Bentu they show how concrete can create almost anything.

And new for this year is X20, a concrete wireless charger.
Lay your iPhone on it while you work and it’s always ready to go.

integrated concrete wireless charging pad with iPhone
X20 integrated concrete wireless charging pad by Bentu

Grey Goes Green

To make one ton of cement generates one ton of CO2. It's why concrete’s often criticised for not being green.

Advancing technology's addressing this. New cements can reduce CO2 emissions by 70%. And adding a resin polymer to the cocktail gets rid of harmful cement altogether.

The Chinese company Bentu, featured in this article, recycle construction waste and ceramics to make all their products. An effective way to reuse concrete and create something beautiful.

minimal round concrete wash basin
Bentu use ceramic waste to create the ultra high performance concrete used in their Hui wash basin.
A surface coating makes the concrete waterproof and stain resistant.

Concrete’s come a long way from the burnt lime and volcanic ash used by Romans.

First it revolutionised architecture, now it’s doing the same for interiors.

It combines the beauty of natural stone, with the versatility to form any shape. Unleashing a world of creative possibilities.

So push the design boundaries.
Choose concrete for your cool, confident, minimal interior.

Dan
Fitness Nut, Bookworm and Minimalist
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