"Concrete is an exciting, creativity-inspiring design material," says Fu-Tung Cheng, a pioneer in the integration of concrete into exterior and interior design applications, from outdoor water features to sculptural countertops. "Hobbyists and do-it-yourself decorators, however, may not realize the full potential of concrete."
Cheng, president of CHENG Concrete, partnered with concrete products maker Sakrete to create a new type of concrete that puts the full creative power of the material in the hands of virtually any DIYer. "Sure, concrete responds to any form you pour it into, but we wanted to create a material that can do that and respond to how you shape it with your hands, tooling or even found objects," Cheng says of the new product, ShapeCrete, which can be poured, rolled, pushed or molded to create custom concrete designs.
"We like to say ShapeCrete 'plays like clay and works like concrete'," says Eric Peterson, president of Sakrete of North America. ShapeCrete won Best Design Material honors during Dwell on Design 2015, an annual exhibit of current and future trends in architecture, interior design and landscaping.
If you're thinking about trying your hand at concrete design, here are five projects to liven up the interior and exterior of your home:
* Create a doorstop that will make visitors stop and stare. A 3/4-inch piece of Melamine-coated particle board, 2-inch thick piece of insulating foam or Styrofoam, some spray adhesive, a cutting tool and ShapeCrete are all you need to create an eye-catching, one-of-a-kind doorstop. Simply print out or draw the word "STOP" in large, bold letters, transfer to the foam, cut it out to create a mold, and pour the ShapeCrete into the mold.
* Concrete planters can be expensive if you buy them from a home and garden store. Making your own not only saves you money, but allows you to unleash your creativity and make planters in a variety of sizes, shapes and even colors. All you need to start are some plastic planters in the size of your choice. Add water to the concrete powder to achieve a clay-like consistency and press the concrete into the container to create the form. Or, you can create a unique draped planter by rolling out the concrete on a piece of round fabric and then draping the fabric inside a bowl, plastic planter or other container.
* Turn a large, fresh leaf into a one-of-a-kind dish. Simply create a bed of sand on a piece of cardboard or sheet of plastic, cover the sand with a plastic bag to keep the grains from sticking to the leaf, and lay the leaf on top of the plastic with the vein side up. Mix the concrete to a clay-like consistency and begin packing it onto the leaf, starting at the center and working your way out.
During the mixing process, you can add color to the concrete. You'll have 30 to 60 minutes of working time before the concrete begins to harden, and it will cure completely after 24 hours. You can find detailed instructions for these concrete projects and many more online at www.shapecrete.com.
"You don't have to have a shop or garage, or be a concrete expert to work with this product," Cheng says. "You can work off your kitchen table, depending on the project size. The grand reveal of what you're able to create after about a day or so is exhilarating. It doesn't matter what your skill set is, you'll surprise yourself every time, and that's really the best part."