Concrete Countertops Become an Artist’s Canvas

Project submitted by Barbara Sunderlin of SunWorks etc., Annville, Pa.
By Anne Balogh,

Only using concrete can you create kitchen countertops that double as artwork. These exquisite custom countertops, on display in a home in Ellicott City, Md., are the result of a close collaboration among an architect, artist, and concrete precaster. The architect, Craig Stewart, designed the home over 20 years ago and was recently hired by the homeowners to remodel the kitchen. It was his idea to involve a local artist in the project.

“The clients and Craig have enjoyed a close relationship over the years, as they are all passionate art enthusiasts. Craig wanted something artistic, unique and interesting and introduced them to Pennsylvania artist Robert Stadnycki 's work,” says Barbara Sunderlin of SunWorks etc., which specializes in precast concrete countertops, fireplace surrounds, furniture, and other architectural elements. “When he sent us an inspiration photo of Robert's work, we scheduled a meeting with Craig and the homeowners. He brought a piece of Robert's art that he had purchased some years prior. That was the starting point of the countertop design, which also called for incorporating some glass, metal shavings and other embeds.”

Sunderlin and her partner David Leas cast the countertop slabs using glass-fiber-reinforced concrete. To allow the art to flow without interruption, the slabs were cast in three large angular pieces without seams. All the embedments were laid into the mold and exposed during processing. “The architect suggested circles containing glass, steel or copper. We decided the best way to incorporate them into the countertop was to cast them in discs of different-colored concrete, and then place the discs into the mold,” says Sunderlin.

The countertops also include integral drain grooves and a recessed cutting board. “Initially, the architect was going to have another artisan create a custom cutting board, but the homeowners were so happy with the way Robert finished the recess for the cutting board that they ultimately chose a glass insert so they could see all of Robert's work,” says Sunderlin.

Stadnycki has worked with a number of different artistic mediums, but this was his first experience using concrete as a canvas. Yet aside from a bit of technical assistance from SunWorks, he did all of the staining work himself. “Once we processed the countertops to the point where it was time for Robert to work his magic, we stepped back. He had carte blanche,” Sunderlin says. “We explained how stains work with concrete, and he developed his own technique. Instead of layering the colors one on top of another, building colors, he actually put color on and then all but removed it. By doing that, multiple colors could be achieved without creating oversaturation of stain, which may have caused issues when we moved to the sealing phase.”

This was SunWorks’ first experience collaborating so closely with an artist and architect on a project, and they found the experience to be quite rewarding. “It was a real opportunity to do something out of the box. Every square inch of this project is interesting because every square inch looks different. You can stand in any location and admire the work,” says Sunderlin.

Countertop contractor
Barbara Sunderlin and David Leas
SunWorks etc., Annville, Pa.

Read about another project completed by SunWorks:
Floating Concrete Hearth and Mantle Become Works of Artist

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