Tag Archives: concrete

Modern Flooring

Although not meant to detail every modernist floor system, this article will examine a few that I have personal experience with.

One of the most admirable features of modernist interiors, in my opinion, is the flooring pervasive during the period of the mid-century.

Terrazzo Flooring. (Photo from Atomic Ranch.)
Terrazzo Flooring. (Photo from Atomic Ranch.)

Although one would suppose by many of the current ideas about mid-century styling that the period was dominated by bright whites and pastel or bright colors, stained wood became an important part of the mid-century interior. Tongue and groove ceilings, wood wall paneling, and wood floors were very important in many interiors. Today, the rustic or variable tones of wood would not have been of influence back then. Instead, mid-century architects and interior designers preferred a more even, consistent look. Of course, one must also realize that even back then there was a difference in style between what is called “organic”, International design and other trends. As far as the bulk of American residential styles, those of large-scale developers such as Eichler and Haver, the surfaces tended to conform to a consistent standard that favored the use of manufactured or engineered surfaces not much different from the International style but in terms of wood flooring laminates and composite materials had not yet held sway.

One must remember that materials today considered on the higher end of price were more readily available on a mass scale. For instance, cabinets made of composite materials today might have been made then with joined woods or a fine grade of plywood maybe even covered with a veneer of high quality.

mid-century-modern-wood-floor-after-glowing-hardwood-floors-original-tongue-and-groove-ceiling-1

Some of the types of wood favored during the mid-century include teak in various colors, rosewood, mahogany, walnut, beech, and oak. Naturally, teak was mainly used for furniture but could be emulated for paneling or other wood details. Rosewood also was mainly used for furniture even though it could be found in cabinets and other specialty applications.

In an attempt to maintain the integrity of a modernist home, some trends of today would not be suitable such as bamboo. However, this does not mean engineered surfaces such as laminates might not be too out of place, especially if one considers the current price of materials.

This is a question I get all the time which is really a conundrum. In maintaining a building from a particular period, how far does one go in staying with original materials when something cannot be restored or repaired? The problem with the modernists is their philosophy, creativity, and love of the new would certainly suggest that they not only would accept contemporary materials but also advocate for them. What I think they would object to is the current inclination for conformity and uniformity, especially in residential interiors. The overuse of neutrals such as white and blacks and various shades of grey would have been entirely too restrictive.

Contemporary Modern Living Room Design contemporary-living-room

It goes without saying that these rustic grayish stained laminates would not work very well. In fact, if one wishes to play it safe, keeping with a range of color from medium to light is better. Another thing to remember, for small spaces, dark colors tend to shrink the look of the size of the room, light colors can open things up because they reflect more light in a broader spectrum.

Cork Flooring. (Photo from https://www.homestratosphere.com/cork-flooring-pro.)
Cork Flooring. (Photo from https://www.homestratosphere.com/cork-flooring-pro.)

One of my favorites and the one I grew up with is stained and polished concrete. Growing up in the southwestern US, most houses had foundations of a concrete slab with no need for basements or elevations above the ground. So the use of the concrete as the floor certainly made cost savings and a beautiful modern surface. Generally, the concrete was stained in a rusty red or a yellowish brown, at least in my neighborhood. Unfortunately, as time passed and tastes changed, many of the floors were covered up with carpeting, or linoleum.

Concrete Floor. (Photo from Dickoatts.com.)
Concrete Floor. (Photo from Dickoatts.com.)

Obviously, concrete flooring has many advantages, in particular with the resins and epoxies that can be applied at this time. The actual staining of concrete today produces some incredible effects and is remarkably inexpensive, relatively speaking. It is also something a DIYer can do with a little education in the matter.

Umber Stained Concrete. (Photo from http://mvlconcrete.com/blog/tag/stained-concrete/.)
Umber Stained Concrete. (Photo from http://mvlconcrete.com/blog/tag/stained-concrete/.)

Photo by Marc Mueller on Pexels.com.
Photo by Marc Mueller on Pexels.com.

Concrete floors can be stained with remarkable patterns and intense colors such as deep blues and reds.

One of my true favorites is Linoleum. Not only does it come in an unending amount of patterns but it can be applied in such a way as to create amazing designs. Indeed, from residential to commercial applications Linoleum was laid down with contrasting borders and elaborately carved graphics.

Linoleum Pattern Using Tiles. (Photo from https://www.armstrongflooring.com/commercial/en-us
Linoleum Pattern Using Tiles. (Photo from https://www.armstrongflooring.com.)
Congoleum Gold Seal Linoleum Flooring, Life Magazine, 14 Feb 1955.
Congoleum Gold Seal Linoleum Flooring, Life Magazine, 14 Feb 1955.
Marmoleum in a Pattern.
Marmoleum in a Pattern.
Tile and Sheet Linoleum. (Photo from https://www.armstrongflooring.com/commercial/en-us/products/linoleum/linoart-colorette-sheet.html).
Tile and Sheet Linoleum. (Photo from https://www.armstrongflooring.com/commercial/en-us/products/linoleum/linoart-colorette-sheet.html.)

I have in my own house an elaborate Linoleum pattern from tiles installed in my living room.

Laying down Linoleum tiles in a pattern is remarkably easy and surprisingly inexpensive. Perfect for the DIYer, the tiles do not require arcane tools or any sort of fancy equipment to install. Also, once you get the idea of how to apply inlays, even that sort of application seems rather easy.

The last floor that I will mention and which is probably my favorite of them all is terrazzo.

Terrazzo is an ancient flooring going back to the Egyptians. It consists of a cement or binder with chips of material thrown in for the pattern. Due to the frequency of cracking in large sheets, the practice of separating sections by brass or metal strips came about and if anyone has been in an old bank building with terrazzo on the floor, he or she probably remembers the shiny brass lines separating areas of a pattern or sections of the floor.

As one can see from above, terrazzo floors stretch one’s energy and time to create such beautiful surfaces. However, forsaking the traditional methods epoxy can make the job a lot easier, simpler, and much less expensive.

These are a few of the types of floors prevalent in the mid-century with terrazzo and Linoleum some of the most common materials used in commercial buildings. Linoleum probably dominated all the others and even, to the shock of people restoring buildings,  came to cover up all sorts of floors including hardwood surfaces.

HBosler

Self-Portrait in Red.
Self-Portrait in Red.

Alternative Building Methods

Although you might not find use for the information below, you might at least be interested in the creative ways people come up with to construct houses. In a previous post, I examined so-called 3D printing techniques. In the below videos we will see all sorts of sundry methods. Since a video might be better than the written word in this case, I have embedded videos that explain the various methods. If for some reason a link is missing–videos appear and disappear so frequently–let us know and we will try to fix it.

It should be mentioned that expense is not the only reason for using alternative methods. Instead, someone might consider the ongoing use of energy or other resources as well as pure aesthetics. Nevertheless, any method must be stacked up against others based on its inherent cost, time and labor expenditures.

Aircrete structures:

 

 

 

Lightweight Insulated Concrete Panels:

 

 

Foam Concrete:

 

 

Polystyrene:

 

 

 

Shipping Containers:

 

 

 

 

Earth Bag:

 

 

 

Rammed Earth:

 

 

 

Adobe:

I grew up in Yuma, Arizona and remember a few of the adobe houses still remaining. They were made in the same way the old west icon, Yuma Territorial Prison, was made, from the clay and sand from the banks of the Colorado River. Yuma is true desert. There were no trees for wood construction and lumber was expensive coming from northern Arizona in high country.

My mother had a friend who we occasionally visited and what I remember of her adobe house was even in the scorching heat of the Arizona summer day, the house was amazingly cool. She had no air conditioning, nor needed any.

 

 

 

Cob House:

 

 

Straw Bale:

 

 

These are just a few of the different methods for putting a house together. Some of these methods probably lend themselves well to tiny houses, but regardless, for me, I will always prefer a modern style.

 

HBosler

Self-Portrait in Red.
Self-Portrait in Red.

Just Print That Tiny House

I have read interesting articles and reports, watched videos of “printed” structures, mostly as experiments as part of research at universities. The material used in producing these is usually a specialized concrete mixture that flows easily, yet has body and gains reasonable strength when cured.

I originally saw the video below on curbed.com at this link. I’ve included the video from YouTube due to its interesting nature, with the realization that this is a corporate film produced to promote a product, and therefore, may have a bit of puffery. Obviously, most people would not be able to rush out and order one of their own, but maybe sometime in the future such technology might be available.

As for now, I can imagine that the technologies displayed below would be a useful hybridization of current building techniques. For example, suppose the foundation or basement of a house were “printed” instead of laid out in block or poured with concrete forms. For that matter, anything that could be produced with this technique such as steps or a porch would save tremendous amounts of time and labor.

This is just a preliminary. I plan on a couple of articles on alternative building techniques such as these for the near future, along with another article on unusual prefab buildings.

Here is the video:

 

And some more videos:

 

 

HBosler

Self-Portrait, Oil on Canvas.
Self-Portrait, Oil on Canvas.