Concrete Countertops Balance Natural Beauty with Functional Design

Concrete's Natural Look and Feel Are a Perfect Match for an Ocean-View Home in Encinitas, CA
By Khara Dizmon, Managing Editor

Concrete Kitchen Countertops
Time: 01:55
Watch this overview about natural looking, modern and functional concrete countertops designed for a home in Encinitas, CA.

In a beautiful home with views of the Pacific Ocean, it's only natural that the countertop materials and surfaces in the home would be made of organic materials in stunning design. In a large, open kitchen, with exposed I-beams and red steel rafters, DC Custom Concrete from San Diego, Calif., was hired to create the natural look of modern yet functional concrete countertops in the home. Specified by the homeowner's architect, concrete elements were incorporated throughout the house in the bathroom countertops, the laundry room, kitchen counters, and the fireplace.

Partners Chris Frazer and Daryn Barnes of DC Custom Concrete have been fabricating concrete for over 5 years. "We specialize in interior concrete work," says Frazer, "such as walls, fireplaces, sinks, countertops, and concrete furniture. When homeowner, Justin Gooding, came to our shop, we discussed the project, he saw our showroom, and he chose us for the job."

According to Frazer, the house is phenomenal. "To step into that kitchen is really awesome," he says which is what made the job that much more challenging and exciting to work on. "You see the I-beams and the red steel in that kitchen, and behind the island, you have a panoramic view of the ocean."

Concrete Kitchen Island

In this phenomenal setting, the homeowner wanted to keep the concrete design very simple and clean with a modern feel. The kitchen island, one of the largest concrete pieces in the home, was the centerpiece of the job. "It was massive," explains Frazer. "It was 3-feet wide by 17-feet long. Plus it had two vertical walls which were cast with the tops. It gives you the feeling of a very massive island."

The island was precast in DC Custom's shop. "We made that decision," says Frazer, "because when you're dealing with massive pieces, it can be tricky getting them up and inside a house." The end cap pieces of the island weighed over 300 pounds each and there were no stairs to get into the house. "It was an adventure getting them in," recalls Frazer.

The biggest challenge for Frazer was casting the L-shaped pieces because of the sheer weight and design. "The architect wanted a massive look so they were very big," Frazer says. The island was cast in three pieces at 2-inches thick. Two monolithic walls were poured in an L-shape for either end of the island with steel reinforcement. The moldmaking is the most interesting and exciting part of building, according to Frazer. "You have to make sure that once you're ready to pour that your molds are going to be sufficient enough to take on that weight." To build strong forms, Frazer uses melamine, and MDF. "When we're supporting those main pieces of form, we use steel, angle iron, wood bracing, and heavy duty fasteners."

In the center of the island was a countertop with an integral chop block butted up against an undermount stainless steel sink. "There's a recess in the concrete where the chop block sits in nice and tight," says Frazer. "They had given us a template for that and we incorporated it in the mold." There were also two rectangular concrete countertops fitted into the counter space behind the island with a glass tile backsplash.

"The homeowner decided to go with two colors for the concrete throughout the house," says Frazer. "One was a light gray. The other was a dark gray." The majority of the house, including the entire kitchen, was done in the light gray. The light gray mix design was a custom mix created by DC. It consisted of cement, aggregates, admixtures, and a specific pigment ratio."

Every piece was precast upside down, then flipped over and polished. "There's not much aggregate exposed. We polished the pieces to enhance the concrete without making it a high-gloss finish," says Frazer. The walls of the island were left unpolished to add to the natural, organic look of concrete.

Concrete Fireplace

Another interesting element was the concrete fireplace. With a simple design of just a rectangular slab, the fireplace was given a unique feature. "We built a little concrete wall that raises the fireplace up, so it appears to hover about ¾ inch off the ground. It gives it a floating effect." The small detail adds just the right effect to an otherwise simplistic design.

Educating Clients about Decorative Concrete

DC Custom Concrete occupies 2800 square feet of warehouse space for fabricating their concrete elements. They decided years ago to allocate 500 square feet of that space to a showroom designed to educate, awe and inspire potential clients. After taking time to design the showroom to include a full-range kitchen, sinks, tables, and concrete furniture, DC Custom Concrete has reaped the rewards of their efforts.

"A showroom is a must-have," says Frazer. "People can't get the full grasp of concrete without seeing it in person. On the Internet, it isn't always what it looks like in real life." Frazer explains that the benefits of having this showroom have helped to educate clients and lets them see firsthand all the different options, colors, and finishes available with concrete. "It gives people the exact idea of what the product is like," says Frazer. "They can touch it, feel it and experience concrete. We've found that it also inspires clients to be creative, to see more of what can be done."

Frazer and business partner Daryn Barnes wanted their showroom to incorporate creative ideas, to make it stand out and be functional yet artistic. "We did as many sinks as we could so we could show people their options and show them our ability to sculpt anything." With 10 sinks on display, customers can see various finishes, from a high polish to a dry matte look. They can also get ideas from the glass and inlays in the concrete, the water feature in a drain board, chop blocks, and edge details and profiles.

Although building the showroom took a few years, Frazer says it's been worth it. "We replace some of the displays with our newer stuff to keep it updated and show what we can do," he says. Frazer encourages clients to come to the showroom with the biggest reason being that it helps educate them. "It gets everyone on the same page about what can be done and what is expected," he says.

About DC Custom Concrete

After getting their general contractor license five years ago, Frazer and Barnes had a customer that wanted some concrete countertops. "They allowed us to do our first countertop in their home," recalls Frazer. "They were the guinea pig, and it turned out great!" Enjoying the process and figuring they could narrow their focus and run a business fabricating custom concrete elements, DC Custom Concrete was created.

"Daryn studied at Woodberry Architecture, so he has a strong background in design. He's our head designer," says Frazer. DC Custom Concrete also trained with concrete countertop guru Fu-Tung Cheng, and took his advanced seminars. "We adopted some of his concepts and techniques and then developed our own," says Frazer. "This year we won one of Cheng's design awards for best integral sink."

Frazer says the best focus that has helped their business thrive is their choice of marketing. Although most of their work comes from word of mouth and referrals, they also advertise on Fu-Tung Cheng's Concrete Exchange website, and with The Concrete Network. "We used to do home shows but found they were too expensive and time-consuming," says Frazer. "People looking for concrete countertops are a niche group. There are too many uninterested buyers at a home show. We're better off to advertise directly to this niche group of buyers where we can."

And continuing to get the word out and producing quality work is what DC Custom Concrete plans to do. In addition to concrete countertops and sinks, DC Custom Concrete offers a full design service for patios including bars, grills, BBQ pits, outdoor fireplaces, and seating, and for bathrooms including showers, tubs, and tile work, and much more for both residential and commercial clients.

DC Custom Concrete
4901 Morena Blvd. #1108
San Diego, CA 92117
Office: 619-742-0230

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