The case for concrete is on a firm footing

Oh no, I hear you scream. No more tangerine and asphalt emulsion. Concrete and turquoise graphic nineteen fifties cushions? Tender cement eggshell?

The case for concrete is on a firm footing

Sorry, but judging by the word of the professors of chic at Pantone and every major design house across the decorating world, the devotion to grey is a heavy addiction to shift.

If all this sophisticated aggregate is aggravating you, it’s time to take a closer look at why those putty colours of no-colour-at- all married to a simple industrial aesthetic, have set hard in the market for coming up to a decade.

No Colour at All

In a great interior, it’s never about one colour or texture. Pale grey in a number of nuanced shades paired with white in walls and flooring provides a cool box that is nothing short of ethereal.

That confident, cool, cement of bright scudding clouds is a superbly supportive backdrop for the play of both gentle and saturated colours.

Little else can be served with the hysteric retro greens and citrus we picked juicy and ripe from the 1950s palette which turn to an acid curdle against creams and magnolia.

I painted up some 1980s larder cabinets in an undercoat of mid-grey and instead of entombing them ruby red, ended up waxing them over to preserve the relaxed presence of the boulder shade. Grey has that ability to surprise.

Warmer than white, yet still reflective and clean to the eye, grey can play rugged and ready, or glide into any room with the iridescent glitter of a raw oyster.

Don’t dismiss it from a mood-board for even a conservative room-scheme, studded with mahogany furniture and velvet drop-end sofas.

In wallpapers and heritage shades, (take a look at Farrow & Balls iconic Cornforth White and Little Green French Grey), grey covers subtle shadowings of white and flashes of silver. Slightly overcast, or dark and slightly stormy grey, will push richer colours and textures in wood, antique metals and indulgent inky dark velvet into high relief.

Grey is not merely a slop of black with white. With a mild pink/brown undertone, grey becomes warmer and the juxtaposition of charcoals against downy greys will give dimension and interest without over-powering.

Heavy going material?

As a material concrete has long been a classic choice for legions of modernist architects and interior stylists. Poured, shaped, moulded into floors, barrel vaulted ceilings, sleek counters and monumental furniture, it has the weight of stone with the malleable nature of a viscous liquid while setting up.

In its early revelation on untouched commercial loft floors for the Boho bohemians, concrete said permanence and aesthetic bravado.The very fact it appears unfinished produces a pleasing tension — is the room complete yet?

Carrying its industrial credentials, this mortar heavyweight is not for everyone, but concrete is a man-made product of natural materials and can prove to be one versatile worker.

Cold? Rough?

Concrete flooring can be polished to the texture of satin, can coloured, set with inclusions of semi-precious stones and fossils and can include the older, but still fabulous terrazzo flooring.

Concrete flows across the most celebrated interiors as counters, sinks, benches, tables and architectural detail with all the traditional thump of mined stone.

With under-floor heating, concrete (like tile), is delightfully warm and acts as a masonry store — gently radiating heat back to the room in a manner impossible with timber planks.

It is a tough customer, unforgiving of dropped dishes and infant foreheads. Bevelled edges can go some way to mitigating the chance of chips to counters and rugs will serve as vital landing strips on the major runways of the family home.

Taking things to the wall, reclaimed panels of rough building wood, in particular plywood, are emerging as the latest darling for up-market rough-lux.

The golder shades of reclaimed veneers or even finer timbers, play a wonderful counterpoint to the smooth notes of well skimmed render walls.

Concrete in blocks, panels, renders and faked up in tile, can slide a clean curve like Steve McQueen on a 650cc Triumph — heroic imagination in walls, framed in features and fabulous stairways.

If you want to take a delicate step into concrete as a material, bring it indoors in a well supported concrete pendant with a strong focused beam, a sculptural piece, (yes, they can rumble in from the garden) or look out for more refined polished concrete and conglomerate ornaments.

Hint: Try the new range of concrete planters by Ali+ El, €23 for small, €30 for tall email www.ailandel.com  (Ireland).

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