Fu Tung Cheng
is one of today's leading designers in
concrete and has been widely published. His award-winning work in kitchens, product design, and whole houses, has a distinctive sculptural "geologic" quality, and shows off concrete's immense potential in color, shape, and texture. We asked him for some basic advice on using concrete.What do homeowners need
to know if they are thinking about using concrete?
Concrete offers the opportunity to create a sculptural quality that
other materials do not. The key is in
the form building. The form determines
the shape. Another thing about concrete
is the tactile quality… the touch and feel.
In the kitchen I like to use concrete in places that
take advantage of its sculptural qualities. In other areas, such as around the stove, I
prefer to use stainless steel as it can handle the sauces, wine and other food
that can stain
concrete. Used in walls concrete has a sense of mass and gives the
homeowners a feeling of permanence. Used in floors, concrete can be finished in a range of
textures that is very natural looking.What
about drawbacks such as cracking and staining?
Concrete has drawbacks that you must work around. Cracks are controlled by way of control
joints. These functional lines can
become design elements by adding brass or copper strips and creating patterns
that add to the design. Concrete is also porous and has a high pH. It can be quickly degraded by foods such as
citrus fruits and tomatoes and must be sealed to protect the surface.What kind
of sealer do you recommend?
years and years I worked on finding just the right sealer. Sealers are a compromise between a product
that totally seals and one that has a natural finish. I like to use an acrylic penetrating sealer. This is softer and has a more natural look.
waxes. I understand that many people use
waxes in addition to a sealer?
Yes, the wax protects the sealer from scratches and
abrasions and other degradations.What
other maintenance does concrete require?
One should keep an eye on the concrete
finish. If the sealer gets scratched
and there is a significant amount of dirt or damage to the concrete, it is time to
reseal the surface. This is very much
dependent on how much ware the surface experiences. Also on a daily basis you should not leave
acidic food items for long periods on the surface. If you leave a cut orange on a concrete
countertop, it is necessary to remove it and wipe down the counter as soon as
the floors you design incorporate a hydronic radiant floor system. Can you share the
advantages these floors offer?
Hydronic heating is widely used in concrete floors as
concrete tends to be cool to the touch. This
is perfect during summer months but during winter months radiant heat makes the
floors much more comfortable. Concrete
acts as a heat sink and radiates the heat slowly throughout the day.What is
FGRC (fiber reinforced concrete?
reinforced concrete is used when weight is an issue. Concrete with reinforced fibers is stronger allowing
for a thinner and lighter countertop.What
about color? Do you prefer integral
color to acid washes?
Most of my projects involve integral color. Integral color is available in a wide range
of hues depending on whether you are using white or grey concrete. The grey concrete tends to yield more natural
colors while white concrete tends to yield a brighter colors as well as
pastels. You can also
add decorative stones, glass and other objects to the mix to yield a decorative
finish that is revealed after polishing.
would you say is your design philosophy?
Every good project begins and ends with good design.
Color form and texture add up to the overall
composition. I like to use a wide variety of textures…
just like in nature. I also like to contrast forms and colors to avoid
a monolithic feeling.What do your clients like about incorporating concrete into their designs?
the solidity and sense of permanence that concrete evokes.
They love the timeless quality.
The projects shown here are courtesy Cheng Design
. For more information on concrete products as well as design inspiration from both DIYers and professionals, visit the Cheng Concrete Exchange