In a recent remodeling of his northern Virginia home, industry consultant Scott Hammersley former executive vice president of (pre-Florida Rock/Vulcan)
In a recent remodeling of his northern Virginia home, industry consultant Scott Hammersley Û former executive vice president of (pre-Florida Rock/Vulcan) Newington Concrete Corp./NewRock Materials Û incorporated extensive concrete kitchen and family-room countertops, as well as fireplace hearth and surround elements. This project and its subsequent awards are testimony to the versatility of concrete as a major factor in interior design and renovation, he affirms, adding that 35 years in the industry drove a decision to highlight concrete in interior applications.
Cementing that choice was the availability of a skilled countertop and furnishing specialist, Chris Jarman of Concrete Connexion. Trained by Cheng Exchange founder Fu-Tung Cheng, Jarman took Best of Show on behalf of Concrete Connexion with the Hammersley farmhouse hearth entry in a 2008 design competition sponsored by Cheng’s Berkeley, Calif., studio.
Jarman notes that the 14-ft.-long, 22-in.-high, 22-in.-deep (approximately 50-sq.-ft.) hearth provides a supporting base for the mantle/fireplace surround. In preparation for an on-site pour, forms were prefabricated in Concrete Connexion’s Silver Spring, Md., workshop, including voids for a hand-cut marble mosaic inlay. A continuous monolithic pour to produce the hearth was completed after installation of forms at the home. Pouring was followed by grinding and polishing of the concrete surface.
Bearing upon the hearth is the full weight of a 7-ft.-wide mantle/fireplace surround, rising about 45 inches above the horizontal structure. Templates of the surround, created on site after installation of the hearth and firebox, provided a pattern for mold fabrication at the shop. Constructed initially as one large piece, the surround mold subsequently was partitioned to form individual building blocks, whose shapes are evident in seams on the face of the finished fireplace. Thus, pieces manageable for transport and installation were produced; and, building blocks of several classic geometric shapes were able to link securely, either resting upon or leaning against each other Û just as nature would have it, Jarman asserts.
Following placement of semi-precious gem inlays, surround components were cast at the workshop. Two weeks were allotted for curing before assembled sections were delivered and installed. Jarman emphasizes that stone workers since ancient times have used natural forces, like weight and gravity, to great advantage in placing block to create structures both durable and pleasing to the eye.
Complementing the home’s hearth and fireplace treatments is a counter extending into the expansive family room. That installation matches kitchen counters running along one main and two side sets of base cabinets. A contrasting unit bridges the main countertop to a large island, topped with a matching slab. The Hammersley kitchen is featured in Cheng’s most recent volume, Concrete Countertops Made Simple (separate report, page 68).
The project’s concrete countertops and island, totaling about 130 sq. ft., were fabricated in the Concrete Connexion studio prior to installation. Two-inch-thick concrete tops at the sink and between all major kitchen appliances feature recycled Mexican blue glass inlays, slightly recessed in the counter’s edges as color accents. The tint of the glass is a dead-on match for the deep blueberry-colored cast-iron farm sink, Jarman observes, as well as for the blue Vulcan range, dishwasher panel, and refrigerator door panels.
The 2-in.-thick island is composed of a three-quarter section of a 60-in.-diameter circle, plus a linked ÎLÌ-shaped section measuring approximately 9 ft. _ 4 ft. 6 in. The straight part of the island’s linked sections is seamed with an arc echoing that described by the 60-in. circular piece. Inviting a look into the core of the concrete slab are square inlays of light-green translucent glass recessed in the edge of the island’s circular component.
For all project castings, Concrete Connexion’s dry mix was supplemented with Cheng’s (dry) ÎPro-FormulaÌ additives. Additionally, Cheng pigments were used to color all pieces, including (a) ÎStoneÌ for kitchen counters over base cabinets and all fireplace elements; and, (b) ÎÎIndigoÌ for the island, except for (c) ÎAmberÌ at the short end of the ÎLÌ section.
An arsenal of basic tools helped Concrete Connexion craftsmen complete the job: a three-phase Imer 220V concrete mixer was used in the shop, plus Vibco vibrators (under-mounted to custom-made pour and vibrate tables), as well as Alpha water-fed grinders and polishers. For wood mold fabrication, key shop tools included a three-phase, 12-in., 5-hp 220V Delta table saw; industrial-grade Delta band saw; DeWalt 12-in. compound miter saws; Porter cable routers; Ridgid oscillating edge/belt sander; Ridgid 13-in. thickness planer; and, variable-speed, battery-operated Dewalt and Makita 18V drills.
Jarman credits Scott Hammersley as well for the project’s success. Some months after we completed the farmhouse installation, I returned for a photo shoot of the finished job and was stunned and delighted to see the warm parchment-colored, faux-finish walls that surrounded our work, he reports. The Hammersleys had chosen the perfect wall texture and color to frame our concrete fireplace Û transforming good work into great art.