Secret world of concrete
In the end, it doesn't matter what it's made of, but rather what it appears to be. At least that's the idea behind concrete designing trends.
Not only can concrete be made to look like many other materials, but its ability to adhere to a variety of surfaces increases its potential.
Concrete can also be textured and stained in different ways, giving it an artistic edge.
What seems to be a marble countertop, for example, may actually be a stained concrete with a special glossy seal.
And that decorative artwork above the fireplace? Entirely made of concrete.
Because of its great looks, versatility and reasonable cost, concrete is a growing trend for residential use in entryways, decks, patios and bathrooms.
At a home just outside of New York Mills, a traditional gray concrete slab, once covered with rock pits and giant cracks, has recently been redesigned to look like flagstone.
Central Concrete Construction owner, Kris Koll, and employee, Mike Roberts, added more cracks, some stain and caulking to an otherwise sound cement structo improve the aesthetics of the slab.
Projects like these are becoming commonplace for Koll and another local concrete artist, Cindee Lundin. In separate interviews, Koll, of NY Mills, and Lundin, of Perham, explained the expanding roll of concrete in the home.
"Concrete is pretty versatile," Linden explained. It can be stamped, carved, stained, and textured to resemble rock, cobblestone, brick, granite, marble and wood, among other elements.
Lundin began experimenting in cement design a decade ago and has since become internationally known for her custom concrete pieces.
Her project calendar is currently booked out for a year, in places all around the world. Her business is two-part: She completes intricate concrete projects herself, and she also trains other concrete contractors through the company Ezchem.
It was through Ezchem that Lundin met up with self-taught concrete artist Koll. Koll said he started looking into design elements eight years ago after a customer asked him to replicate a magazine photo. He turned to Lundin for products, as well as a few tips.
Jobs for both contractors vary from small revamp work - like applying a topcoat to make a concrete slab look new again - to replacing a wood deck with an intricate concrete piece.
Most recently, Lundin was near Fargo texturing and staining a wildlife scene into cement in front of a fireplace. In the past, she has made concrete look like fossils for a dinosaur theme park.
All the texturing effects in the concrete are carefully added while the concrete is still wet. Using mostly hand tools, the contractor has a six to eight hour window to add all the design and texture.
The next step is staining, which contractors use a variety of methods for, including acid wash, water-based or alcohol-based.
Both Lundin and Koll agree that concrete projects will last for years if maintained properly, which means resealing with a special sealer whenever necessary.
To learn more about the newest trends in concrete decorating, the Lumber Depot in NY Mills will offer classes in cement designing this fall and winter, with Lundin as the teacher.
More information can also be found on Lumber Depot's facebook page, or by contacting Koll or Lundin.
(Connie Vandermay writes for the East Otter tail Focus of Perham)