Few can resist the lure of smooth, wet concrete calling out for carved initials or a quick hand imprint while no one's looking. Designer, artist, and concrete fabricator Fu-Tung Cheng of Berkeley, Calif.–based Cheng Design has been yielding to such temptation since the early 1980s — and perfecting its artful application ever since. “Concrete is fundamentally earthier than granite or other stone,” Cheng says.
In this 24-by-18-foot kitchen, Cheng enhanced and softened the naturally rugged appearance of concrete with polished surfaces, integrated color, embedded gemstones, and his signature ammonite fossil imprints. The homeowner, says Cheng, is an artist who “wanted to live with art rather than display it.”
The elliptical island holds a six-burner gas cook-top with slide-out storage for cookware below. Its sides slope gently inward to eliminate the need for a toekick, accentuating the material's monolithic character. Because concrete can stain, Cheng tucked a perforated stainless steel shelf into the corner curve to serve as a receptacle for hot pots and cold drinks.
The floors of the informal eating area are also poured-in-place concrete, as is the half-wall that supports one end of the dining table and delineates the adjacent vaulted living room. The nearby floating stairs are cast concrete bolstered by steel ziggurats tied into floor joists. Although delicately rendered, all this concrete is quite weighty and requires careful attention to structural engineering. The accommodation is worth it, Cheng says, because substance and mass are a solid part of concrete's appeal.
General Contractor: Tom Heyenga Construction, San Jose, Calif.
Designer: Cheng Design, Berkeley, Calif.
Cabinetmaker: Guba & Associates, Oakland, Calif.
Resources: ceramic tile: Gary Holt Design; light fixtures: Halo; plumbing fixtures: KWC; range: Russell; range hood: Cheng Design; refrigerator: Sub-Zero; oven: Gaggenau
—Shelley D. Hutchins is associate editor of Residential Architect and Custom Home, sister publications of Remodeling. This article appeared first in those magazines.
See Bath: Gray's Concrete Anatomy for more upscale uses of concrete.