I suppose concrete could be considered a divisive material. I might even go so far as to put it in the "Marmite" category (i.e. you either love it or hate it, for those outside the UK).
In my younger days (by which I mean the late 1980s / early 1990s when I was growing up), I remember thinking of concrete as nothing but an eye-sore. A material I associated with unfriendly industrial facades, run-down shopping centres and monolithic multi-storey car parks. This gem was in good old Southend-on-Sea:
I don't know whether it's my aesthetic sensibilities that have changed, or the way concrete is used, or just the wider design dialogue (or realistically, a combination of these, and other factors besides), but now I adore concrete. The look of it, the feel of it, the different finishes.
So I thought it would be fun to put together a blog post with various ideas for using concrete in your interior design schemes. I've been scouring Instagram, Pinterest, and my personal "self-build scrapbook" folder for hours (don't say I don't treat you). Here's what I've come up with...
Found via BuildIt Magazine:
This project by Patalab, "The Gables" (also known as my dream home) is a converted mechanic's garage in North-West London. The ground floor is almost entirely open-plan, around an enclosed staircase, and the floor is polished concrete.
The feature pillar I believe is original, and just so striking, don't you think? I actually gasped out loud the first time I saw it. The sunken seating area is right up my street too. I adore this place.
Found via archiscene.net:
This extraordinary property can be found in Swiss Alps, where it was originally a shelter for local farmers. Architects Georg Nickish and Selina Walder really have used concrete at every opportunity and still managed to create a cosy bolt-hole.
I love the way the texture of the concrete echoes the rockface outside the windows. I find the bath an especially beautiful feature. I would say the bedroom feels slightly too austere and cell-like for my taste, but I still love how striking the look of the overall home is.
Assuming you don't live in a minimal cottage in the Swiss Alps, this much concrete is probably a bit unrealistic for most people's homes. Taking it down a notch, how about a concrete floor? I found this via MCK Architects in Sydney:
And this one via Trijntje Visser on Instagram (always great to have a colour coordinated kitty):
If you're not quite ready to commit to great swathes of concrete in the form of walls or floors, you could consider a concrete fixture, such as a bath, sink, bench or fireplace? All of these images came via UP Interiors:
That view in the last image - be still my beating heart!!
If you're looking to experiment with concrete in just one room of your home, I'd say the bathroom is the place to do it. If you prefer a slightly more rustic vibe, check out Maison Kamari by React Architects:
Or this super modern option (via Meir Australia):
The amazing bath tub below can be found in a penthouse apartment in Antwerp, designed by Vincent van Duysen. Concrete is used throughout, so well worth checking it out (here).
I hope you've enjoyed my little inspo round up. And please, if there are any images you don't feel I have credited appropriately (more copyright info at the end of the post), do drop me a line.
If you love the idea of bringing some concrete into your home, but renovation work is off the cards, why not take a look at our collection of concrete interior accessories. I'm sure you'll find something you like...
Now I suppose I must come to the large grey elephant in the room, and that is that concrete as a material is not particularly environmentally friendly. Obviously, sustainability and 'green' materials are something I care deeply about, and in this way I would say my love of concrete is rather... conflicted.
The main issue is the high level of CO2 emissions associated with the manufacture of Portland cement (a major component of concrete, along with water and aggregate). Though my understanding is there are definitely conversations and research occurring around reducing these emissions and making the manufacturing process more sustainable.
Another issue with concrete's external use is it can prevent drainage and therefore contribute to flooding, though of course that's less of a worry if we're talking interiors. In other good news, recycling of concrete is now much more common these days, so it is less likely to end up in landfill once it has fulfilled its current purpose. I suppose as with everything in life, in the process of choosing concrete as a material, one would need to bear these environmental factors in mind, and make your decisions accordingly.
Also, speak to your builder or supplier about more sustainable alternatives... they might know something you don't, and if not, the more voices there are expressing a demand, the more attention the industry will be likely to pay.
Lastly I would say, as with any interiors project, try and think for the long term, rather than following fads. The longer you keep something for, the less its overall impact is. So take your time and invest in something you can cherish for years to come.