Concrete is an extraordinary material that is practical, expressive, and aesthetic all at once. From a primal and formless slurry, you can transform concrete into virtually any shape that becomes a solid mass. The possibilities for creative expression are endless. You can grind, polish, stamp, or stain it. You can embed meaningful objects within it.
Concrete is an ideal medium to express relationships between art and craft, between architecture and contracting. There is something powerful—something emotional—about projects that evolve from actual hands-on experience with the material, coupled with an understanding of the pattern language of design principles.Fu-Tung Cheng
Concrete has substance and mass, permanence and warmth. It feels earthy, and is at home in both traditional and modern settings. It assumes forms that irrevocably touch our daily lives: bridges, highways, floors, walls… even countertops. Concrete is also surprisingly tactile. Cast and shaped, it can feel like stone rounded by the sea. Textured and colored, it can echo the patina of timeworn tile.
It first occurred to me to make a countertop out of concrete in 1985, when a friend and I were hired to design and renovate a professor’s house in the Berkeley Hills. He gave us a modest budget and announced, “This is all I can afford to spend; do whatever you want.” Armed with this rare creative license (and plenty of youthful exuberance) we aimed to be as innovative as possible.
This invitation to imagine, play, and explore inevitably led me to experiment in my own kitchen, where concrete and I began what is now our nearly two-decade dance. My first concrete countertop was a single piece containing 11 cubic feet of concrete. It weighed nearly 1500 pounds and took 10 people—and 2 engine hoists—to turn it over once it had cured. We barely managed it, but the piece came out beautifully and is still being put to good use today.
Armed with a fine arts background and lots of design energy, I channel my creativity through my firm,Cheng Design, and our custom residential design work. Our portfolio includes kitchen and bath design,interior remodels, and complete custom homes. We also happen to be licensed contractors, which means we balance design principles with an understanding and appreciation of craftsmanship. Concrete is our material of choice because its utility and durability are matched by its sculptural sensitivity. Hands-on experience has taught me and my team how to simplify the process and control the variables that affect the finished product. The malleability of this material, and the techniques Cheng Design has developed for manipulating it, make it a perfect choice for any countertop.
Because of its adaptability, concrete finds itself welcome in all areas of the home, especially in the kitchen and bath, but also in fireplaces, patios, garden paths, or water features. Concrete can also be used as a floor material with enormous creative advantages whether seeded, stained, stamped, broomed or diamond-finished. It can be a sole performer or play the supporting role to tile, mosaics, decorative aggregates, stone, wood, or metal. It is inexpensive, durable, noncombustible, impervious to decay, and also very effective for passive solar gain in the right application.
With vertical treatments, concrete gives us an opportunity to recapture some of the feeling of the monolithic wall — the feeling of substance, of protection. Walls are also a great place to explore form. A wall doesn’t have to be flat or straight, but can curve and undulate. It can be textured to be rough as stone or smooth as glass.
It’s my hope that Concrete Exchange will inspire more homeowners, artists, designers, architects, and concrete professionals to get their hands dirty and play.
I invite you to use the ideas, techniques, resources, and products presented here as a springboard to explore the creative possibilities of this age-old material. We are pleased to share our extensive knowledge, built on years of concrete design exploration and technical experimentation, and to offer our proprietary line of CHENG Concrete Countertop Products—plus all the accessories, tools and instructional products you’ll need to make beautiful, long-lasting professional or DIY concrete projects.
You can make a countertop that is unique, beautiful, and strong—a countertop that expresses your creativity and the pride you take in your work or in your home.
Surrender to the impulse… carve your initials in concrete.