Concrete is growing in popularity for commercial and residential interiors.
Today, I’m sharing the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of concrete with you thanks to two local guys in the trade.
As my boyfriend and I finesse the vision and concept for our home that we start building this year, there’s one feature we have both agreed on: we’ve got to have a solid kitchen bench!
So it’s out of my own interest that I want to know more about concrete as a material and how it works in a home. And who better to share these insights with us than two young Melbournians who joined forces to set up ‘Concrete Collective‘ and deliver their passion for concrete and design.
Scott and Michael have known each other since they were 15 years old. They became best friends after ‘bunking together’ on a service trip to Cambodia, where they taught English, built houses and helped those less fortunate than themselves.
Let’s find out more about Scott and Michael’s work and how we (slash I!) can use concrete in our own projects…
How did you get into what you’re doing now?
With Scott’s past work in architectural construction, he encountered many builds that involved architectural concrete products. He was asked to form and pour an in situ off-form timber feature fireplace. This is where he fell in love with the product and its limitless nature. From this, Scott realised its potential and chose to pursue it further.
A simple phone call to myself (Michael), was all he needed to gain my interest, and before we knew it, we had delved into the realms of the concrete jungle.
Why do you think concrete is so popular now?
There is no doubt that the minimal and industrial design movement and peoples’ love for beautiful simplicity is a key driver in popularity of architectural concrete.
This, along with the versatility of our glass fibre reinforced concrete, means that people can now apply concretes unique character to a vast range of products that was never thought possible. Curved kitchen benchtops, personalised café counters, integrated vanity basins, handcrafted tiles, baths, wall panelling and everything in between… who wouldn’t love a product that transforms from a liquid state, into a solid form. Endless possibilities.
What are the most popular concrete looks you’re being asked for?
‘Raw/Real Concrete’ without doubt is the most popular request from our customers.
People love the genuine concrete look with a refined texture to suit everyday usage on items within their home – easy to clean, good for the kids, yet remaining practical and hygienic.
What does a ‘typical’ day look like for you both?
Typical definitely doesn’t exist in what we do – the concrete decides! Given the product we work with; so many variables keep us on our toes and our days are rarely consistent. From pouring and batching concrete, fibreglass mould-making, through to CAD designs and routine site meetings, we rarely have a standard day. This is what keeps us coming back.
The most consistent element to our business, shamefully enough, would have to be our choice in music and our morning coffees.
What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
It’s cliché, but seeing a customer’s reaction when the piece is installed. Knowing your sweat, elbow grease and passion for their design brief can now be fully appreciated from all parties. You can’t help but feel a great deal of pride in what you have created. Our arms and minds are the machines of our business. But then again, if you asked Scott, he would more than likely say “Getting the damn thing (concrete product) in!!!”
What about the most challenging aspect?
The unpredictable nature of concrete. No matter how much experience you have or how well you understand the raw materials, some days it just fights back.
Concrete is largely science, so understanding this element and respecting it will make for a happy relationship. We’ve had our long nights, our broken pieces, and our ruined clothes, but it’s the unpredictability that keeps it so exciting.
Gone, are the days of “its just concrete mate!”. But like any small business owner, our most challenging aspect is time. Where does it all go? Can I get some more or could you slow it down a little for me?
Tell us about the Lower Plenty project (pictured below) you worked on. Where did the inspiration for this bench come from?
We were approached by our client when he was told by others that having concrete was not possible. Size, weight, engineering and structural requirements all pointed to in situ concrete not being a viable option.
We were his last roll of the dice. Given our ability to cast concrete at 20mm thick, we were able to sit with the client and devise a lightweight wrap-around system which would allow him to create the illusion of a bulk filled benchtop at a fraction of the weight, mitigating any need for further structural support.
This particular client was a dream to work for, allowing us to tweak the design & finish to what we thought would be represent what he was after and this was the end result! The hand-packed finish that was used was new to us at the time and allowed us to venture into something we were yet to explore, which was a challenge in itself!
Walk us through the process of the client coming to you with an idea through to the final product.
Upon receiving an enquiry to develop an idea, meeting the client face to face is our first move & really allows us to get an up close and personal feel for exactly what they are after.
By doing so, in a single meeting, we are able to walk through the design feasibility, design development, finishes selections and manufacturing process, whilst being able to connect on a personal level with the client. Once all of the nitty gritty is finalised, the manufacturing process takes place over a period of approximately three weeks.
Once cured and polished, the piece is then installed on site, squeezing through doors, gates, stairs, cubby houses, walking on Lego and all the landscapes residential homes throw at you.
What other local creatives inspire you?
Being youthful, we believe is one of our greatest strengths. Our ability to reach out, appreciate the finer crafts of others, connect and communicate in todays online socials makes running our business seem like you are not alone. Others also understand the highs and lows, the sleepless nights and the “I knew that was going to happen” moments.
The likes of furniture designer Christopher Blank, Polymath fabrications and other concrete artisans such as Jared Evans from Set In Steel, or Duncan Mcnally of Concrete Bespoke all offering insights into the wrongs and rights and do’s and don’ts of their businesses.
What is your biggest hope for your business?
We hope to create a business that is a true reflection of us as people, our personalities, our brand. Something we are proud to call our own. From these pillars, we are strong believers that greater things will come! Work hard, meet new architects and take them out for coffee, and enjoy the fruits of your labour.
Is there anything else exciting that you can share with us?
The construction of our industry-leading showroom, right on top of our new factory, thanks to Daniel from Rachcoff Vella Architecture. Fantastic design scope and has us super excited to get started!
This year is the year of collaborations for Concrete Collective Melbourne. We have teamed up with a number of local creatives for projects both locally and internationally for a few exciting pieces – namely a bathware range in collaboration with Meek Bathware. Stay tuned!
We can’t wait to continue the year. We have some incredibly exciting projects coming up with some designs that really utilise the capabilities of our lightweight concrete.