Terrazzo’s New Age

Terrazzo’s New Age

400 535 Velvet

Terrazzo!

One of the oldest composite materials ever is on the comeback with a modern take. It is one of the newest trends in the design industry. Most of us are quite familiar with this building material that reigned in the 50’s and 60’s in so many floors as an affordable, durable flooring solution. I have childhood recollections of striking dark green or peach terrazzo floors. Some of you may also recollect similar floors in office and/or commercial buildings. I admit that terrazzo was not one of my favorite materials. So I got curious about why is it trendy again?

 

Partial view a lounge area in a renovated building in China, where terrazzo has been applied to the counters and floors, forming geometrical patterns in different pale colors of green, pink and blue
The Weiahai Lu co-working space in Shangai, China designed by Linehouse.
Image via linehousedesign

Partial view of the cafeteria area of a renovated building in China, where terrazzo has been applied to the counters and floors, forming geometrical patterns in different pale colors of green, pink and blue
The Weiahai Lu co-working space in Shangai, China designed by Linehouse.
Image source

Background

Terrazzo is a very old material (early neolithic times) and according to wikipedia it predates fired pottery by a thousand years! Terrazzo is made of exposed aggregates, such as marble, glass, or stone in varying sizes, bonded together in concrete or resin. After the application and grinding process, the result is a polished finish with a very textured like appearance depending on the size of the aggregates. The most commonly used aggregate is marble. Hence, the combination of terrazzo with marble in a space makes such an unbeatable duo. They compliment each other, while marble upgrades the whole composition.

View of the flagship shop of Valentino where the walls and floors are made of terrazzo
Valentino new flagship store in Rome. Designed by David Chipperfield Architects.
Image via davidchipperfield

Present

A few decades back, the cement terrazzo was by far most common. Now, most indoor applications are with epoxy terrazzo. One of the main reasons is its extreme versatility in producing countless color combinations as opposed to its concrete mate. Moreover, by inserting metal strips during the application as borders, you can also make any shape or design you want in any other color of your choosing. However, epoxy terrazzo has one main drawback. It should not be used outdoors. Epoxy resin doesn’t behave well under direct sunlight. It loses its strength, its color becomes distorted and eventually it flakes off. Aside from that, when used indoors its durability is one of the kind. It won’t be easy to “undo” it should you decide that you want another material instead. That is why during renovations I’d rather coat it with epoxy concrete rather than “demolish” it!

 

View of the bar section of the coffee house where the counters have been treated with grey terrazzo

 

A circular section of a floor of a coffee house treated with grey terrazzo

 

A hallway (corridor) where grey terrazzo has been used half-height of the walls as a statement
Victor Bozar Cafe in Brussels designed by Robbrecht and Daem.
Images Source

This is partly why it is an ideal flooring especially for areas of high traffic. It is also partly the reason why it is so popular in commercial spaces. Furthermore, it is almost completely impermeable to water mainly because it doesn’t crack easily. If you do happen to see cracks in an old terrazzo floor that is because the concrete slab underneath has actually cracked and needs retrofitting. (Trust me on this, I have retrofitted a great deal of structures due to all that seismic activity we have in Greece so I’m positive about this). Anyway, terrazzo’s impermeability plus its low maintenance attributes make it such a great option for kitchens and bathrooms. Another bonus is that it is also practically stain-proof, while cleaning terrazzo surfaces is a piece of cake.

Black kitchen cabinetry with an island and a pale grey terrazzo floor
Grey terrazzo floor in a kitchen. Design of North London house extension by Bureau de Change Architects.
Image Source

 

A small kitchen with pale pink cabinetry, an open shelf that turns into a backsplash and the countertop all made of terrazzo

 

A bathroom with terrazzo wall tiles and terrazzo floor
A “refined” industrial chic style bathroom with terrazzo
Image Source

 

A bathroom where half-height of the walls, including the basin and exterior side of the bathtub have been treated with light peach terrazzo
A bathroom with coordinated terrazzo as wall treatment and washbasin
Image Source

The great thing about the comeback of this material is that its use is not limited to just flooring. Instead, designers are using it as wall treatments, counters, washbasins, light fixtures, bookends and tables. That way, you may introduce an element of surprise in your space without actually having to redo everything. That’s the part that appeals to me, that I find exciting – the new possibilities because of new ways you can use it thanks to the epoxy. For instance I would love to try out this material as a chopping board. Seriously, have they made any yet? Why not? Can you imagine a staple like that in your kitchen for everyday use? I would go nuts over it.

Side table, candleholders, and bowls all made of marble terrazzo designed by Alberto Bellamoli
Green marble terrazzo decor designed by Alberto Bellamoli
Image Source

 

A pale blue sofa in the background, a distressed wooden floor and two round side tables made of terrazzo
Side tables made of terrazzo
Image Source

Should you give it a go? Well, it’s definitely an interesting material and has been around for ages. Therefore, you can easily argue that it is a timeless classic. But I don’t know much about its cost these days. That requires a little asking about. Personally, I prefer the idea of including it in a living space as a decor object, like those side tables in the picture above or as a backsplash in a kitchen. I don’t like the idea of using only terrazzo on its own in a bathroom. I would prefer to combine it with marble basins and countertops in order to create contrasts. In any case, I have to admit that it adds an edge to a minimal styled space and it has a much more refined appeal to it than ever before. Moreover, with some proper planning it can become an awesome design “ingredient” that can and will restore its former glory and well-earned reputation over the centuries. I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to give it a go! I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this…

Truly yours,