Concrete’s Sexy Side
(a.k.a. The Rise of the Fashionable Concrete Home)
by Amy Gamerman
Step inside Sudnya Shroff’s cast-concrete home in Los Altos Hills, Calif., and you will find glossy kitchen countertops, also made of concrete, sculptural bathroom sinks and staircases—concrete—and floors with fossils and tiny semiprecious stones embedded in, yes, concrete.
“There’s a very strong emotional draw for me toward concrete—it’s the one material that accepts imperfections,” said Ms. Shroff, a 44-year-old painter and fashion designer whose 7,000-square-foot home, completed in 2013, cost over $5 million to create. Her husband, Nickhil Jakatdar, a 46-year-old Silicon Valley entrepreneur, had his doubts during the 4½ years it took to design and build the house. “He said, ‘Is it going to look like one of those homes in India, where they run out of money and don’t paint?’” she recalled.
Unfazed by associations with cellblocks and parking garages, more homeowners are discovering that concrete is the chameleon of construction. It can take on the texture of wood or glass, an artist’s palette of color beyond drab gray and, with the addition of structural fibers and plasticizers, is less prone to cracking.
“It’s pretty much the standard concrete that’s always been used, but upgraded with new additives,” said Fu-Tung Cheng, whose Berkeley, Calif.-based firm Cheng Design created Ms. Shroff’s home. “Most people’s immediate response about concrete is to think of freeways and parking lots—but if you use it properly, it’s like stone was in the old days, sculptural with a real feeling of timelessness.”