Friday, 24 September 2010

Concrete Furnishing

Above: Willy Guhl's Loop Chair, 1954.

I make no apology for loving concrete, a material which has frequently been cast as aesthetic enemy no. 1 in recent decades. While most people recoil from the uncomprimising concrete expanses of buildings like Chamberlin, Powell & Bon's Barbican Centre in London or Kallmann McKinnell & Wood's Boston City Hall, I am inexplicably drawn to them.

There is another realm where the use of concrete attracts me, and that is in interior design and home furnishings. Relatively few furniture designers have worked with concrete, partly I suspect because of practical issues (a thin concrete table top can easily weigh in excess of 100kg), but moreover probably because of concrete's bad rap. In this post, I look at some of the concrete furniture and home accessories available. The use of concrete in interiors more generally (as a floor covering, or exposed on walls and ceilings) is a whole other story, worthy of another post another time.

Weight issue aside, concrete is a versatile, practical material, which can be finished in various different ways, and aesthetically I think it is fantastic. It has this raw and elemental quality to it, and concrete furniture can be incredibly elegant if executed correctly (and that would typically be in moderation, with plenty of softer elements to balance it out).

Loop chair by Willy Guhl, 1954:

The chair originally contained asbestos with the cement, but these days is manufactured with a non-toxic fibre. There is something fascinating about the great strength of the material coupled with the aesthetic lightness of the design.

Stefan Zwicky's 1980 tribute to Le Corbusier's Grand Confort chair, 'Grand Confort Sans Confort' has become iconic in its own right:

Concrete table and lamps by Swiss design group Strala. Interestingly, both Willy Guhl and Stefan Zwicky are Swiss too.

Concrete bowls by Tel Aviv based design group Umamy:

There is something very satisfying about the shape of the second one. It is like a hard boiled egg without the yolk.

Flickr user "hawktrainer" made this amazing concrete chair:

It was when I was in Sweden this summer that I really got into the idea of concrete furniture when I visited Stina Lindholm's amazing studio. I'm considering getting one of the stepped concrete bowls, but I should have bought it when I was in Gotland, because the €90 shipping cost is getting me down..

Metrofarm's concrete rocking chairs, and house shaped paperweights/ornaments:

Concrete butterfly chair:

Table and bowls by Concrete Cat:

I love this is so monumental and's almost like an altar. And the little cat face is the perfect finishing touch somehow! I think it might actually be my dream desk/dining table. Great bowls too:

Last but by no means least, these incredible concrete planters are by artist and designer Kathy Dalwood. She is a friend of my mum's, and you should check out her website because she does really amazing things with concrete and plaster. I love the unexpectedness of ornate damask and swag detailing as an impression in concrete. It looks fantastic and, a bit like Rachel Whiteread's work, it makes you consider at objects, spaces and details in a different way.


  1. You should come to Colombia sometime. In here, the 80% is made of concrete, so this is a heavy country. I'm not sure if it's aesthetically good as the pieces you just showed but we have some good stuff here.
    Btw, I just opened a blog, please do check it out:

  2. I think living in Sheffield made me warm to concrete. There's the most amazing sub station near the town centre that's just so brutal it's beautiful.