Concrete Custom Home 6 by Fu-Tung Cheng | Concrete Exchange

House 6: Innovation in Concrete

Cheng Design Completes Its First Concrete Home

MENLO PARK, CA—Nestled at the end of a Northern California suburban cul-de-sac, Cheng Design’s first completed concrete home stately sits. The award-winning design firm has designed several homes from the ground up, but House 6 is the first finished project to uniquely use a concrete casting system that creates both structure and special finish simultaneously.

The project was originally intended as a remodel of an existing ranch-style house. Several schemes for the remodel were completed, but, given the limitations of the existing structure and the site planning restrictions, the client agreed to a completely new design, ultimately liking the new scheme the best. The only element remaining from the original house is the kidney-shaped pool, refinished to harmonize with the house.

The new 4,000 square foot house is a hybrid structure comprised of a monolithic core of concrete and traditional wood framing, traditional rough, board-formed concrete walls and hyper-smooth, seemingly polished concrete walls, articulated with bands of exposed aggregate. Family communal life occurs in the concrete structure of the main living core while private life occurs in the wood framed wings.

Concrete Technique

House 6 was an opportunity to apply Cheng’s small scale, hands-on work with concrete as a finish material to the larger scale of a house. The concept was to create a building that, while minimalist, would convey integral tactile design and craft throughout by “playing” with and controlling the mix design of the concrete walls as they were being poured.

The concrete walls were poured using a formwork-reducing slip-cast technique. The 4′ x 8′ panels comprised of plastic laminate and plywood were ganged together in single-height 4′ “lifts.” With each lift came the ability to control how the concrete was performing, reaching into the forms to add subtle bands of color and to prevent any marring of the glossy smooth forms. This cannot be accomplished if the walls are created in a single pour from the top of 20′ high forms. With these tall forms, the wet mix splatters against the narrow form walls as it fills the form, producing the uniform color of a typical cast concrete wall.

Going Green

In addition to the slip-cast technique providing aesthetically beautiful finished concrete, there are environmental benefits as well. Casting in “lifts,” one pour on top of another, reuses and thus reduces formwork material. Concrete remains cool during warm days and releases heat during chilly evenings. As a result, there is no need for air conditioning.

In addition, large window walls open up to extend the living space and provide natural light and cross ventilation. Solar tubes and skylights increase natural lighting and further reduce the amount of energy needed to light the house.

“Cheng Design is acutely aware of the positive effect each investment made toward the use of new green products benefits the environment and strives to use sustainable materials: natural plasters, bamboo and cork flooring, twig and paper light fixtures, printed wood veneer instead of rainforest hardwood for kitchen cabinets” says principal Fu-Tung Cheng. “We reduced on interior finish materials because the cast walls are the story.” As with any remodel, there was also the question of what to do with the materials from the original house. Fortunately, the pool was saved and most of the interior fixtures were sold or given away for re-use.

Company Information

Based in Berkeley, California, Cheng Design is a creative team of architects, artists, and designers, providing complete residential design services nationwide.

Fu-Tung Cheng, principal of Cheng Design, is an award-winning designer and author of the best-selling Concrete Countertops and Concrete at Home. He was recently recognized by the Kitchen and Bath Business (K+BB) magazine as one of the Top 50 industry leaders to influence the kitchen and bath industry over the past 50 years.

For information on Cheng Design services or products, please call (510) 849-3272 or visit