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