Words of late artist Frank Howell...I totally relate!

"There are few days off and no retirement from this entanglement of knowledge, passion and vision that will be molded and converted into creative expression. There are no guarantees of acceptance, understanding or reward, but...the noise inside the mind never ceases. I will paint today, tonight and for as many tomorrows as I am given..." Words of the late artist Frank Howell...

Monday, March 31, 2014

Using Stained Concrete Floors and Other Elements to "Age" a Space

When we were designing our new house fourteen years ago, I knew I wanted a space that would speak to who we are...This would not be your traditional house or home. ;)   I have always been a free spirit when it comes to decorating, and my John is always happy with what I do in the house, so I sat down with pen and paper, in a motel room in Chicago, and started drawing. I knew I wanted an open floor plan, and I wanted to mix it all up...new materials with found, recycled, vintage elements added here and there for a feeling of age.  We had been traveling for about five years with John's job, and I had purchased many things from Ebay auctions, and antiques shops all over the country.  I was always sending packages home to my parents to put in storage for me, knowing that all of these treasures would find their place in our new home whenever we decided to settle down again. It was during our time in Texas (I believe it was in the Grapevine Mall) that I first saw stained concrete floors.  I knew right then and there that we would have stained concrete. It gives a warmth to a space, adds an instant dose of patina and age, and is so easy to keep clean.  

      We wanted it to feel as though we had taken an existing, old building and turned it
into a home.

Once I had finished the drawings, we took it to an architect and had blueprints drawn. We now have a one-of-a-kind home, and I am happy to say that it is a reflection of us!

Before the slab was poured, we installed a heating system, consisting of pipes and pumps connected to our water heater.  It is a zoned system, so we can use it to warm designated floors during the winter months.  We tend to use the master bedroom one frequently, and the living area is set to come on whenever we do not have a fire heating the space in the woodstove/fireplace.

Construction of the concrete floors..

You do have to take special care during construction of the slab to make sure it is "polished", and not left too rough.  Concrete contractors know how to do this now as it has become a popular floor finish in the years since 2000.  I actually had to describe everything in detail to our contractor fourteen years ago.  

Once the concrete slab was finished, I did the staining myself.  It was so easy, but you do have to be careful...You are working with acid.  Wearing skin and eye protection, I used a garden sprayer with stainless steel nozzle and began spraying...You then wash it off and spray again.  It is so exciting to see what looks like when you wash away the white powder that's left behind. You then have to make the decision on how to topcoat or finish the floor.  

At this point, you can also score the concrete to add that "something extra" if you wish.  We did 3 1/2 foot squares on the diagonal, with a 1 foot border around the outside of the space. It makes people think that we hauled in really big square rocks and put it down like tiles! The cuts are only 1/16" deep, and were done with a circular saw and straight edge, after marking with chalk.  I stood on the straight edge to hold it steady, while John made the cuts...right by my toes.  I'm happy to report that we finished the job with all of my toes intact!

You can use a poly finish that is harder, and more permanent and shiny, but it also shows scratches.  I went with the wax finish.  Scratches can simply be buffed out when you want to touch it up.  I've actually done that once during the last fourteen years, and it probably should be done again.  The wax imparts a silky softness and glow to the floors.  And...we were lucky enough to be able to purchase an industrial floor wax polishing machine from a rental business that closed.  So, I have everything I need to maintain the floor, when I so desire.


A really cool thing happened when the contractor was polishing our slab...It was September and leaves were falling.  I walked out to find him really stressed and worried that we were going to be very unhappy with the leaves that were finding their way into our floors, and making little "fossils".  Oh my!  I LOVED it.  He was so relieved. He had been struggling trying to keep the leaves off, and working in just the short window of time before the concrete hardens was really doing a number on him.  I'm glad I showed up when I did!

Now, here are pictures of our  funky, industrial, artsy, boho, country home in the woods, featuring found architectural details and stained concrete floors.  

Stainless steel restaurant work tables add an industrial feel.

Netting curtains simply
tied in knots add a casual boho feel.

A crack in the concrete, next to a scored line.  You can
see that they have been filled with wax which makes
them show up more...I love it!

One of the leaves that drove the contractor crazy...

A leaf fragment...Notice the variation of colors in the stain.

The base of the spiral staircase...you can see that the paint
is worn away and I never painted the bolts holding it in
place.  That's okay with me...sort of that casual, boho
thing again.  You can also see the primer showing through
the scratches.
The spiral staircase helps add the industrial
feeling to the space.  It is simple black metal
that I spray painted.  The stairs lead up to
my studio, a bedroom and bath.
These vintage fragments were found on Ebay...I added them
to the top corners of all windows in the downstairs open
space.  It adds instant character, and tricks the mind into
thinking the windows are old.
The library ladder that leads up to...guess..
That's right.  The library.  John designed and
built the ladder with the help of a friend who
welds.  The wood came from our place in
Virginia.  John cut the tree, then cut the
wood on a sawmill, and then finished
it for this project.  Also, adds
an industrial feel.
The "railing" is actually antique hand wrought iron fencing
from Eastern Europe.
I found four of these vintage industrial
light shades in Chicago.  After a complete
re-work and upgrade, two of them now
hang over my kitchen island.

Well, that's all I have for today.  I hope you've picked up some tips about how to add character to a newly built space and make it feel older than it is.  

Let me close by saying that the ultimate compliment came when a visitor asked me, "What was here before it was your home?"...I did a little happy dance when she left!

Thanks for visiting!

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