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House 6 Displays the Artistic Beauty of Structural ConcreteA home designed by award-winning concrete artisan Fu-Tung Cheng showcases unique ways to build with concrete
In building House 6, designer Fu-Tung Cheng says his concept was to make a home out of concrete that would not only have an enduring feel, but also a sense of place -- still have warmth, but also be on the cutting edge.
As you approach the entryway to House 6, you see a streak of amber color in the concrete walls that Cheng created by putting in a cold joint and filling it with color and pebbles during the pour.
Sheltering the entryway is a carbonite roof with twigs inserted so that it filters the sunlight. To create a change of elevation, Cheng installed two steps up as you walk toward the house and then two steps down as you enter, to prepare you for the experience of one big open space.
This Feng Shui concrete water feature and Koi pond at the entrance to House 6 has a glass partition so the fish can swim in and out of the home.
This large Russian ammonite fossil is one of the various decorative inlays Cheng used in the concrete floors and walkways of the home to add a bit of the unexpected.
Inside the entryway of House 6, leading to the great room.
The cantilevered concrete fireplace hearth in the great room appears to be suspended in midair. It was formed using a tapered armature and integrally colored in olive to add warmth in contrast to the gray concrete walls. It also has inlays of Russian dolomite along with bits of blue and turquoise aggregate.
In the great room is a floating ceiling that doesn't touch the walls. “This is to create this sensation of lightness within this rather heavy medium of concrete,” says Cheng.
The focal point of the House 6 kitchen is a charcoal-colored, oval-shaped center island, with a working counter and a concrete sink. “It adds a kind of sculptural element into what would normally be just an ordinary rectilinear island,” says Cheng. Because the homeowners wanted the hearth to be near the kitchen area, the fireplace is in full view of the dining area.
The kitchen also features one long concrete countertop, colored celadon green, with a sliding cutting board and built-in drainboard.
Concrete floors seeded with mother of pearl and other aggregates, a cast concrete sink with mosaic tiles and a stainless steel bathtub complete the master bathroom design.
The kidney-shaped pool is the only element remaining from the original ranch house and was resurfaced to harmonize with the new home. To balance the gray of the exterior concrete walls, Cheng used yellow and purple shades of stucco to bring in some color.
A broad expanse of folding glass walls merges the indoors and the outdoors, with the interior concrete floors leading straight out to the pool deck. The blue streak in the exterior concrete walls was deliberately added by Cheng as the walls were cast, almost like a brush stroke.
As a unique decorative touch, the street address of House 6 was formed into the exterior concrete wall.
Located at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac in a Northern California suburb, House 6 is not at all what you would expect to see in this quiet neighborhood of traditional homes bordered by redwood trees. What was originally intended as a remodel of an existing ranch-style house ultimately became a work of modern art in the form of 4,000-square-foot structure composed primarily of concrete. House 6 is the first concrete home built by award-winning designer Fu-Tung Cheng of Cheng Design using a concrete wall casting system that creates both structure and aesthetic finishes simultaneously.
Although Cheng is widely recognized for his extraordinary concrete countertop work, House 6 gave him the opportunity to apply his hands-on skill with concrete on a much larger scale. Cheng employed many of his signature techniques during the construction of House 6, while also venturing into uncharted territory by experimenting with some unique, innovative methods.
“This is one of my proudest achievements up to this point because it's an accumulation of so much experience based on smaller projects,” says Cheng. “Actually, a lot of what you see here in this house is informed by my experiences of making and working on countertops and taking those opportunities and applying them on a bigger scale.”
House 6 is Cheng’s first hybrid structure, featuring a core of concrete and traditional wood framing. It mixes both rough, board-formed concrete walls on the exterior with super-smooth concrete walls on the interior, articulated with bands of exposed aggregate. Many of the floors in House 6 are also exposed concrete, which were poured as part of the home’s 18-inch-thick mat foundation. And, of course, Cheng’s specialties -- concrete countertops, vanities, and fireplaces -- were custom-built for the home as well.
For aesthetic balance, Cheng didn’t build House 6 entirely of concrete. On the exterior, he balanced out the concrete using materials with warm colors, such as yellow stucco, reclaimed redwood, and even recycled pickling barrels. Indoors, he integrated concrete with glass tile, stainless steel, bamboo and Japanese plaster.
“Like in a lot of my work, both interior and exterior, I like to blend an array of textures together to create an ambience or create a sensation or a feeling that you have an emotional connection with. I never use concrete solely on its own. I try to mix it with other materials and textures,” Cheng explains.
Placing walls, 4 feet at a timeThe concrete walls were poured in 4-foot lifts using a slip-casting technique employing 4x8-foot panels of plastic laminate and plywood ganged together, resulting in the combination of smooth and rough finishes. Working in lifts gave Cheng greater control over the pour and allowed him to introduce subtle bands of color and exposed aggregate before the concrete set. It also allowed him to reuse the same plastic laminate and plywood forms for much of the project, thus conserving construction materials.
Other concrete highlights
- A concrete fireplace and cantilevered hearth in the great room, along with a radiant-heated polished concrete floor enhanced by decorative brass strips and fossil inlays.
- A sculptural kitchen island and a concrete countertop in the kitchen, featuring built-in elements such as a cutting board, drain board and sink.
- A concrete countertop and sink in the master bathroom, with mosaic tiles placed in the base of the sink to take the brunt force of the water. Also in the bathroom is a terrazzo-look concrete floor, which Cheng colored with green pigment and enhanced with bits of turquoise and sodalite.
- An entry walk with hand-tooled lines to add texture and traction and bits of blue glass to add decorative interest.
“I was able to almost model the walls, if you will, and in a very painterly way, use pigments themselves -- raw iron oxides and metallic oxides -- and put them in the walls and play with it almost as if you would play with a clay-fired disc and put fired pigments on them. And, in that way, this house transformed itself from the ordinary to the extraordinary,” says Cheng.
Even the form tie holes in the walls became decorative elements, with small decorative caps inserted inside each one. “Because we use custom threaded form ties rod instead of using the standard form ties, each one left a little hole and we embedded little pieces of copper,” says Cheng.