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Fiber-Optic Wine Bottles Light Up Concrete Countertop
Scott Cohen, president of The Green Scene, Northridge, Calif., no longer refers to the traditional outdoor grill as the "barbeque." "We create outdoor rooms, specifically outdoor kitchens for clients. It's no longer the chef outside on his own," says Cohen. "When you entertain, guests always congregate by the food prep area," whether that's inside the house, or out in the backyard.
To create festive and functional gathering places, The Green Scene's outdoor kitchens include much more than just the barbeque grill. They have serving countertops, bar counters, cocktail and beverage centers, cutting boards, warming drawers, built-in refrigerators, and other amenities. "There are so many more accessories available now than there were just five years ago," says Cohen.
Cohen, who specializes in whimsical, fun, themed outdoor rooms, calls some of his unique outdoor kitchen creations "libation sensations." One of his most spectacular projects is an outdoor kitchen that incorporates fiber-optic lighting and wine bottles. This project was followed from start to finish on the HGTV show "Property Buzz," in a segment about the latest trends in outdoor room design.
The client specifically requested the wine bottle countertop after seeing pictures of similar counters Cohen had created. However, this particular countertop is the first to incorporate melted, fiber-optic-lit wine bottles inlaid, like tiles, in the countertop surface. A wall of illuminated wine bottles also lights up the countertop base.
To create this wine connoisseur's delight, Cohen incorporated a total of 250 bottles, some of which were provided by the client. The project included two separate countertops—the cooking center (10 feet wide by 3 feet deep) and the serving counter (12 feet wide by 3 feet deep). The sidewalls for the countertop bases were created out of cinderblock reinforced with rebar and completely filled with concrete. The corbels on the front of the base are cast concrete, with cast porcelain tiles along the base below the countertop cantilever. The sidewall finish is stucco in a color that matches the finish on the house exterior.
For the serving counter, Cohen melted 14 wine and Scotch bottles at 1,500 degrees F in his kiln. The bottles were then prewired with over 700 fiber-optic cables and hand placed flat side up in the countertop before casting. The fiber-optic cables were backset in the bottles using two illuminators.
The counters were cast in place in Styrofoam forms, and then hand packed with an integrally colored concrete mix. Davis Colors' Sandstone was the chosen color. The concrete was vibrated into the molds, "which put the concrete compressive strength at 6500 psi," explains Cohen. "The top is so compressed that water won't penetrate through once it's polished. We don't have any issues with stains, there's no grout to chip, no problems. You can hit it with a garden hose to clean it off."
While the concrete mix was still wet, Cohen hand set large chunks of recycled glass and bottles and hand seeded the top with smaller pieces of crushed recycled glass, which were then tamped down lightly. The countertop was left to cure for 28 days.
Using granite polishing tools, Cohen then honed and polished the countertops using eight grit levels of diamond-tipped pads to give the countertop a smooth-as-glass feel. Finally, the surface was protected with a penetrating sealer followed by application of another sealer coat.
One of the challenges Cohen encountered was feeding fiber-optic cables to the bottles emerging, bottoms exposed, from the front of the countertop base. "There were 400 cables feeding just the back of the bottles. To keep them in place, we used wine corks," says Cohen. To get the corks to hold the cables in place and stay in the bottles, Cohen used an adhesive called LoctiteÒPower GrabÒ that lubricates the corks and then locks them in place.
The Green Scene