Concrete Wall Texture: Transforming Your Walls from Ugly to Beautiful
Concrete wall textures have been in trend long before contemporary architects and designers invoked it in their concrete musings. The versatility of concrete is a well-known fact, and its poetic folds and molds have given depth and an inimitable rawness to the most inane structures. What began as an economical step after World War 1 soon developed into a language that had builders and architects scripting prose after prose in the medium across the world.
In fact, famous French architect Le Corbusier, who designed the modern city of Chandigarh, among other pet projects, is known to have found his calling through concrete — he even made products such as lighting accessories out of it!
Concrete wall textures, consequently, became an inevitable offshoot of design sensibilities and went on to take various shapes and forms through a diverse range of mixtures that involve gravel, sand, crushed stone and so on. Historically, one can trace the medium back to ancient Rome and their fascination for mixing pozzolana (volcanic ash) and putty. This trend went through the middle ages in Spain and Africa — the ingenious Spaniards even went as far as introducing the “New World” to what they called a tapia or tabby, a special mix of concrete that brings together sand, shell and lime, along with stone components, all mixed with water. It was then placed between wooden panels and maintained in multiple layers.
Concrete’s economic advantages have been so impressive that concepts such as gravel wall or lime-grout structures became a norm, especially in the United States. In fact, in the US, one saw an architect called ST Fowler, who, in 1860, got the first patent for reinforced concrete wall.
Concrete wall textures are credited for creating a dramatic effect on the interiors, resulting in a richly imbued architectural detail that brings together the benefits of cost-effectiveness and aesthetics. Structures such as the Berkeley City Club in California is a stunning example of the excesses of concrete textures. At the same time, concrete has been the muse for minimalistic design aesthetics, such as Brutalism, or Norwegian or Scandinavian minimalism. Architects and designers such as Vincent van Duysen have made the form their own, by creating visually remarkable residential projects that bring together the raw aesthetic of concrete with the cultural minimalism of their society.
Let’s look at the different ways that concrete wall textures can bring beauty into your spaces:
Plaster Your Concrete Walls in White
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One rule of minimalism that is reminiscent of Scandinavian aesthetics is to coat your concrete walls in white plaster, which not only accentuates the space, by liberating it from excesses of all kinds, but also allows the beauty of reinforced concrete walls to come through. Take, for example, the Nonhyun 101-1 in Gangnam, South Korea. Designed by Stocker Lee Architetti, the structure is a lesson in concrete, wherein the red brick facade is a direct contrast to its sparse innards, creating a visually stunning appeal with its contrasting colors of the same material. Add some grey tiles on the floor, or consider wooden planks for a dramatic appeal.
Board up Your Concrete Wall
A remarkable innovation involves creating a concrete texture with wooden boards. The idea of what’s called decking brings with it a certain depth, one that lends the warmth of the wood and at the same time, retains the rawness of the concrete texture. The innovation also makes the flooring and the walls a seamless integration of interiors, an experience that is bound to make a statement for the visitors. Accentuate the look with some metallic furnishing accessories, or fill the space with a lot of green. The look also allows a certain meditative atmosphere to it — a true retreat, especially in the growing urban jungles we live in!
There’s No Such Thing as Too Many Textures
Concrete holds such power that it can bring unity in the most disparate of finishes. Which is why Warm Architects’ Garcia House is an excellent example of incorporating as many wall textures as possible — right from the stuccoed exterior facade to the concrete polished interior floorings. The monolithic look can bring a certain charm even to the dullest of houses, with the industrial vibe adding on to the ultra-modernism. The hint of a grunge look thrown in with some contemporary design, if done correctly, can look very appealing.
Add a Bit of Distress
The ‘distressed’ look is all the rage, especially in the modern penthouse format, wherein this textured concrete adds to the American Psycho-man-cave minimalism. Not only is the distressed concrete wall super contemporary, but it also merges with a truly urban setting in which we all live in. The moment the concrete is poured into the wooden panels, make sure that you use tools such as plaster blades and rags in order to bring out the Venetian plaster, commonly known as the stucco. And if you decide to add some splatters and drips, all the better! Let the walls breath and form on its own.
You can also create the distress out of a darker shade of grey, although white concrete does add to the abstract expressionism.
Watch out for Some Bunker Drama
Modern architecture is filled with marvels, which is why we have bunker walls, which literally takes off from the idea of bunkers. But modernist architecture has made it its own and one can play with this rather than the intimidating concept with reinforced concrete. The best way to add drama to your walls is to pour the reinforced concrete into a mold, and then allowing it to be used on the walls. The idea was explored by master architect Le Corbusier, and was one of the offshoots of the kind of architecture that emerged at the time of post-War industrialization.
The bunker textured walls are truly an experimentation of the form and create a language that ushers in a new meaning for the material. This product of industrial design is a perfect solution to get away from the excesses of the present.
A traditional, even if prefabricated, concrete texture is to use them in the form of blocks — stacked up and combined with the help of mortar. The beauty of concrete walls is that it adds texture and depth to the interiors, while allowing you to play with dimensions and sizes. Concrete blocks are also pretty utilitarian in its aesthetics, in that it helps maintain waterproofing, while also allowing the construction to be a low-cost solution.
Let the concrete blocks be completely exposed and you can lend the space a natural rawness which is reminiscent of Brutalism. You can add a dash of drama with some vegetation. Even if you load up on the interiors with accessories and furniture, the sparseness of the walls will balance it out.
In case you are feeling way too adventurous, add a screen made of perforated concrete blocks in the middle of your space. The jaali is a traditional concept, but can add brevity to the soul of your room.
Crush Some Stone in Concrete
Call it the Santorini effect, but crushed stone mixed with concrete is perhaps the most romantic concrete texture one can put on a wall. Not only is the method a truly vernacular use of the materials, but it also brings out the concrete’s potential in maintaining insulation within the space.
The crushed stone is usually an element many architects and designers take from the site, which allows them to fuse into their work a certain kind of localism. The wall, then, becomes a conspicuous element in the house, and is viewed as an accessory rather than just a banal part of the structure.
Perhaps the best part of this texture is the way it plays with light and shadow. From the moment the sun goes up, the textures play on the wall, while at night, the artificial lights do their magic in invoking a kind of magical realism into the space.
Give Special Effects to Your Concrete
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Concrete doesn’t necessarily have to have the raw, undefined look all the time. As Mexican architecture firm Cadaval & Sola-Morales has shown, concrete wall textures can take any form. Concrete’s ability to be a material chameleon means that it can imitate any other form of medium. For his one particular residential project, Cadaval & Sola-Morales cleverly used concrete to look exactly like charred wooden panels. The context the space was set in was apt, too — surrounded by jungle.
The power of such an effect is that it adapts to the setting it is placed in, while keeping in mind concrete’s sturdiness to withstand most of the natural wear and tear that comes with time.
Try pairing this look with stone floors and minimalistic furniture, and your lookbook will be complete.