One of the oldest composite materials ever is on the comeback with a modern take – terrazzo. 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?
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.
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 microcement rather than “demolish” it!
Terrazzo’s endurance 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.
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. Its cost varies, depending mainly if it’s poured or tiled. A terrazzo tile may cost about 40Euros/sq.m. but if it’s poured that price tag can easily go up to 90Euros/sq.m. Also, I strongly recommend that you don’t skip applying a primer before the actual installation for it improves significantly the bond between the concrete slab and the two-component epoxy resin.
Terrazzo Home Decor and Design Element
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, tables, and cutting boards. 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.
Personally, I prefer the idea of including it in a living space as a decor object or a backsplash in a kitchen. I have also used terrazzo tiling, in client bathroom projects, in combination with white sanitary ware and countertops in order to create contrasts, otherwise it could be quite overwhelming.
Moreover, I prefer a terrazzo with small size aggregates as opposed to large ones, because it tends to look more refined. If on the other hand, you like large size aggregates, then keep in mind that will result in a more “rustic” effect by default. Thus, I recommend you keep a uniform color in the mix with the aggregates for a more sophisticated flair to it.
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…