DON'T GIVE CONCRETE THE COLD SHOULDER

Concrete has been making a solid name for itself in interior design circles in recent years and there’s no sign of this super cool material subsiding from our creative conscious any time soon.

It’s historical application and long association of being a hard, grey, matte material means it can often appear cold, but it actually offers more warmth than you may think!

The high performing thermal properties of concrete means that its mass can protect the space it resides in from extreme cold and extreme heat. It can absorb heat from sunlight, store it and release it slowly back into the space, the way that timber and carpet simply can’t.

As we head into the cooler months don’t give concrete the cold shoulder just yet! Here are six ways to visually soften one of the coolest decorating materials available, many of which can be adapted to the home.

RUGS
Rugs are an important and welcome addition to any space, whether delineating zones, providing a plush, toe-tickling sensation underfoot, or to create warmth and coziness, especially when layered over concrete flooring. Blush tones are very on trend and create a beautifully harmonious pairing with concrete’s cooler colouring. 

New Market showroom in Amsterdam by Framework

New Market showroom in Amsterdam by Framework

Valentino Concept Store in Milan by David Chipperfield

Valentino Concept Store in Milan by David Chipperfield

TEXTURE
Adding layers of texture will soften the hard edges and hard surfaces of concrete. Introducing natural fibres and fabrics such as cotton, linen, flax, timber and leather in the form of cushions, throws and furniture add variation to visually soften concrete, often making it appear organic in itself.

Balwyn House by Fiona Lynch

Balwyn House by Fiona Lynch

Wolseley Residence in Melbourne’s Brighton by Mckimm

Wolseley Residence in Melbourne’s Brighton by Mckimm

WOOD
The addition of a natural timber inlay (as seen in David Chipperfield’s Valentino concept store), timber joinery and details such as cabinetry, doors, ceilings or stairs, provide a naturally warm marriage when paired with concrete.

Valentino Concept Store in Milan by David Chipperfield

Valentino Concept Store in Milan by David Chipperfield

Invisible House by Peter Stutchbury in Sydney’s Blue Mountains

Invisible House by Peter Stutchbury in Sydney’s Blue Mountains

LIGHTING
Soft warm lighting adds ambience and mood to any room as a whole, but in a space where concrete is the hero, clever lighting styles and plans are even more important. Achieving a balance where emitted light can be reflected and absorbed by concrete creates interesting plays of light, adding depth to the flat surfaces and enabling them to really glow in all the right places.

2 Verandas by Gus Wüstemann in Zürich Switzerland

2 Verandas by Gus Wüstemann in Zürich Switzerland

2 Verandas by Gus Wüstemann in Zürich Switzerland

WINDOW TREATMENTS
Drapes and curtains have a distinct softening effect in a concrete space with their veil-like presence adding lightness via rippling, organic movements and soft texture. Varying degrees of opacity filter incoming light, blurring the juxtaposing hard surface we have come to expect from concrete.

Balwyn House by Fiona Lynch

Balwyn House by Fiona Lynch

Wolseley Residence in Melbourne’s Brighton by Mckimm

Wolseley Residence in Melbourne’s Brighton by Mckimm

HEATING
If you are lucky enough to plan a renovation or build from the ground up, you can allow for under floor heating to be installed with minimal fuss. This is the ultimate luxury in creating a comfortable concrete experience all year round.

Arbutus Street residence (under construction) by Alexandra Kidd Design

Arbutus Street residence (under construction) by Alexandra Kidd Design

Summerhouse Lagnö in Sweden by Tham & Videgård Arkitekter

Summerhouse Lagnö in Sweden by Tham & Videgård Arkitekter

Image 1 via Yellowtrace / Image 2 via David Chipperfield  / Image 3 via Fiona Lynch  / Image 4 via Yellowtrace / Image 5 via David Chipperfield  / Image 6 via Yellowtrace / Image 7 & 8 via Dezeen / Image 9 via Fiona Lynch / Image 10 via  Yellowtrace / Image 11 via Alexandra Kidd Design / Image 12 via Yellowtrace

ALEX TALKS . . . HEATING

If you're finding that your Wooly Hobes and knitted layers aren't quite taking the winter edge off anymore, it's the perfect time to light the fire or dust off the heaters to make your home extra warm and comfortable for the season ahead. House & Garden approached Alex about her design techniques on how to warm a home for their latest July issue. 

What is the best thing about a fireplace, aside from keeping warm in winter? 
A statement fireplace can add drama, style, decoration, warmth and romance to a room. It can help to set a tone for particular style or era. A beautiful fireplace is almost like an artwork. They can be framed beautifully and symmetrically on a feature wall and become the focus of a room. 

What are some fireplace styles that you are loving this season? 
We are involved in a very diverse range of projects at the moment, so I am loving a number of classic and contemporary styles. I love the way a fireplace can add atmosphere to any room. For a more traditional look, I will always love the beautiful carved French surrounds and collars with traditional braziers.

In a classic/contemporary setting, the stone surrounds of the fireplace can be the hero, where full marble boxes take centre stage and the fireplace element is secondary to the dramatic feature. 

For a modern/contemporary look, fireplaces can become statement furniture pieces that add a sculptural element to the room, such as a stand-alone fireplace that is suspended from the ceiling. 

When we think of a fireplace, we often think of the traditional chopped firewood and naked flames. What does a modern version look like? 
Bioethanol Burners have really set the scene for modern fireplaces, allowing us for the first time to easily retro-fit fireplaces into spaces that do not require fluing. This style of fireplace is small so a whole new world has opened up allowing installation into furniture pieces, joinery and in fact almost anywhere else the imagination can take you (with a few restrictions in regards to combustible materials!). For example, we recently installed an EcoSmart Fire Burner on a kitchen bench top. Whilst the generated heat is perfect for an intimate area or room, Bioethanol Burners are more about mood and ambience rather than a source to heat a whole house. 

What is the most effective way to decorate a fireplace? 
Decorating fireplaces can easily be done. For existing fireplaces that have a chimney breast, that being a wall that protrudes, these walls can be painted in a feature colour or texture or clad in a beautiful wallpaper, tile or metal finish.

Mantel pieces offer a more traditional look and are really only required for an open flame. Mantels can be charming and allow space for photographs, artwork, vases or l’objet d’art.

A more contemporary look for a fireplace is to remove the mantels all together and hang artwork or mirrors on the wall above. In modern homes we often allow for a television to be mounted above a fireplace.

Artwork and mirrors hung over fireplaces create focal points and allow for symmetry in a room. Placing sofas on either side of the rooms creates balance and draws your eye to the fireplace feature.

I try to allow for flexible seating in the spaces I design. Obviously you will only need to use a fireplace in colder months and there are many sunny months where the room also needs to work well. Flexible seating allows for spaces that are comfortable whether you are lounging by the open flame, taking advantage of a view or simply watching television.   

How do you disguise less charming heaters? 
For less visually appealing heaters, such as wall heaters or panel heaters we would usually make them as inconspicuous as possible. Making them the same colour or similar to the wall colour means they will fade away and be less of a feature. 

Are there any other forms of heating you would recommend? 
I’m a big fan of underfloor heating. It’s a real luxury to get out of bed or walk into the bathroom and have warmth under foot. It’s also an effective way to stay warm, from your toes up!

Ducted heating is also a great option, but both ducted heating and underfloor heating require some level of building works and are not easy to retrofit. For anyone considering a renovation, I would definitely recommend looking into these options.

We are also currently designing many outdoor fireplaces and fire pits, which are perfect for Australian living and continuing our love affair with outdoor entertaining even in the cooler months.  

Image 1 via © Alexandra Kidd Design / Image 2 via Claesson Koivisto Rune / Image 3 via Pinterest / Image 4 via Decoist / Image 5 via Lovter / Image 6 via © Alexandra Kidd Design / Image 7 via © Alexandra Kidd Design / Image 8 via © Alexandra Kidd Design