Concrete Ideas

Anna Shelswell-white
September 4 2017 2:30 AM

Giving the impression that you’ve abandoned your renovation project halfway through is all the rage as we head into autumn, with exposed raw materials taking precedence in many homes.
Exposed brickwork and bulbs, rough wood finishes and dark metals all contribute to an industrial vibe. It may be a brave step when matched with Ireland’s chilly climate, but this doesn’t mean it should be avoided.

Harking back to the Brutalist movement of the 1950s, concrete is one of the prime materials for creating an industrial atmosphere that’s aggressive, overpowering and in your face. So much for the downside, but the positives make it a material worth considering.

First, this hard-wearing material is much more versatile than you might think. Easily manipulated for use in the busiest rooms, the finishes and colours available can turn it from aggressive to warm and inviting, for a look that’s more New York loft-style modern than derelict building site.
“Polished concrete is completely customisable, so it allows for many different options,” says Marie Hally of Concrete Fair ( “A counter, for example, can be made in any colour. We find the most popular colours are concrete grey, black or white. Finishes can be paste (normal off-form finish), salt and pepper or exposed aggregate,” Marie continues.

Exposed aggregate is achieved by removing the surface paste and showing off the beauty of the stones that are underneath – a beauty that’s comparable to marble or granite, yet with a much more affordable price tag.
“Concrete, for polishing, is not difficult to lay,” says Seamus Redmond, CEO of Renobuild ( However, for big projects, like polished concrete floors, it’s worth asking your contractor if they’d be comfortable laying it.

“Some contractors are quite happy to lay the concrete and they have the skill set, but other contractors absolutely will not,” advises Seamus.
In the latter situation, his team will get involved – from laying the floor to polishing it.

Big projects, such as floors and walls, may be the ultimate goal, but experimenting with concrete furniture is a clever step when starting out.
“Polished concrete furniture is more and more on-trend,” says Marie.

“Especially in the area of urban furniture. We mostly get requests for coffee tables and dining tables,” she says, having recently completed a project in Cork’s Facebook offices.
While concrete is very well suited to commercial spaces, there’s no reason why you can’t introduce it to your home – a quick Google search will reveal all of the fun and creative ways you can experiment with the material. From DIY planters and vases to products found on the high street, more of us are cottoning on to the long-lasting versatility connected to this tough addition to the home.

Anna Shelswell-White is editor of House and Home magazine