Heavy, gray and dull – isn’t that how most of us think of concrete? Yet in the hands of the right person, concrete is anything but boring.
The showroom at Mark Concrete in Moss Landing, California, demonstrates that this substance can be one of the more creative and intriguing media for home décor. The colorful sinks, art plaques and fireplace mantels there don’t resemble most people’s idea of this material.
“When you think of concrete, you usually think of a sidewalk or a driveway,” said Nan Lesnick, co-owner of Mark Concrete with her husband, Mark Lesnick. “But it’s actually a very adaptable product. It can be molded into any shape.”
Mark Lesnick has been working with concrete since 1971 and in that time has developed a number of cutting-edge recipes to make it an interior designer’s dream, such as his Iguanacrete, composed of recycled granite dust, fly ash and glass.
Not only can he cast items in any shape desired, but also color, finish and polish them in myriad ways. The chameleon-like concrete can look like granite, slate, or even finely grained wood if desired. It can be customized with the addition of glass, metal, and stones, and the texture, shape and thickness altered to suit the customer.
And right now, what’s making it near and dear to the hearts of the green and sustainable movement is that concrete, depending on its composition, is an environmentally friendly substance. If made with mostly recycled materials, concrete keeps waste out of landfills as well as becoming a thing of beauty that is highly durable.
In the past decade, designers and homeowners have discovered concrete in a big way. Nan recalls that when they started their company more than 30 years ago, “It was quite a new concept,” she said. “Designers would say, ‘I don’t really know anything about concrete … but I’d like to.'”
Because concrete can be molded to any shape and it withstands a lot of abuse, it’s perfect for outdoor features like planters, fountains and firepits.
But with the proper handling, it also can be made into lovely items for interiors – sinks, countertops, fireplaces, tabletops, architectural details, sconces and tiles.
“Designers like (cast concrete) because they can get exactly what they want,” said Nan.
The company’s products have attracted the attention of Sunset Magazine, which chose Mark Concrete to provide items for two Sunset Idea Houses, and also to build a firepit and outdoor countertops for the “Ultimate Outdoor Kitchen” last year at its corporate headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
Precast concrete pieces go through a number of steps in their manufacture. When a custom order is placed, a mold is built for the item; then the concrete is poured into the mold and left to cure.
After the piece is removed, it is polished, finished and, depending on how it’s to be used, may be sealed as well. Food preparation areas get a urethane-acrylic resin coating to protect the surface.
Objects can be integrated into the cast concrete piece, including stones, fossils, glass or wood. One sink, for instance, is embellished with ammonites, a lovely fossil shell.
Interviews with Mark and Nan Lesnick, November 2010