“Fantastic or terrible?”, asked the interior inspiration magazine last January Dwell on his Instagram profile. “Terrazzo continues to appear in new and unexpected places. But is his comeback (and excuse us for this) fantastic or terrible? Next, he invited his followers to comment on their position regarding the trend that is reviving this classic construction material as an interior design resource with potential today, thus sparking a curious conversation.
In a context in which some stony materials such as pink marble or onyx are once again on the radar of interior designers, it is also surprising and relieving to find more accessible alternatives, such as terrazzo, emerging again among the current textures. A good example of the possibilities of him taken to the current aesthetic terrain is the 55-square-meter apartment in which he lives, together with his partner and his pet, the architect Anthony Authie, founder of Zyva Studio, in Bagnolet, near Paris. In this apartment, the gray terrazzo conquers the floor and even expands on some of the walls to crystallize a desired effect: to create a neutral backdrop against which powerful but measured brushstrokes of color stand out in the form of special furniture and pieces of art. loaded with character.
When opening the doors to the magazine Architectural Digest, Authie spoke of the planning behind this design in which the selected pieces and the details in primary colors shine on this grayish canvas, constituted expressly for it. It is a very particular use under a clearly defined aesthetic goal, but the truth is that the terrazzo is not anything new, but is, in fact, quite an old acquaintance. Its mottled surface makes it extremely recognizable. A material from yesterday and today whose low cost made it ubiquitous, among other places, in the context of working-class neighborhoods and publicly protected buildings in Spain.
Of recycled origin and part of the history of social urbanism
Terms such as sustainable or eco friendlyThis is due to its quality of being a product of a mixture of many recycled materials. Waste or surpluses that can go from “marble remains to recycled glass and cement chips”, reports the terrazzo manufacturer Klein & Co. on its website. “It is made with the waste materials resulting from other projects. These tiny particles combine to create the unique terrazzo designs we see, leaving no waste.”
David García-Asenjo Llana is an architect, teacher and author of step by step architectural manifesto, an essay published by Libros.com that gives a patient look at Madrid’s architecture, in a walk that stops neighborhood by neighborhood in the verticality of its churches. “(Terrazzo) has been in fashion lately because with modern resins and manufacturing media you can get a wide range of colors,” he says. He tells EL PAÍS that this can be seen in countertops made of artificial stones such as those made by Silestone, “a type of terrazzo with a tiny grain.” The return of a material that the architect also attributes to the cyclical condition of trends. “For a while we could get fed up with hydraulic tiles and their imitations, tiles or ceramic tiles that imitate wood, and now terrazzo is in. They have also begun to manufacture imitation ceramic terrazzo, with which almost any finish can be replicated”.
García-Asenjo explains the technical advantages that gave popularity to a material composed of remains of stone and elements agglomerated with cement or resins: “It has the advantage that it does not need a very extensive treatment as other materials may need, it is the case of ceramics . You don’t need an oven to make it, and thus you save energy, although you do need space for the pieces to dry well.” The architect highlights his versatility, “with the same technique we can have very basic and cheap finishes. If the terrazzo is intended for interiors, it is polished. But if it goes outdoors, it leaves some texture so that it is not slippery. Made with more or less large remains, it is cheap and for this reason it has been in official protection apartments or in social housing for a long time”.
But this usual suspect that is the terrazzo does bring some novelties under his arm in this new life that has given him the focus of trends. It may be the opportunity to notice all the advantages that it presents and that previously went unnoticed. Low-cost quality is one of the most attractive, as is the customization possibilities it contains. “Terrazzo can become a high-quality product,” says García-Asenjo. “If you do it with very small remains of marble in which you can control the color of the pieces and their finish well, it is a high-quality material for homes and other spaces. When doing it on tiles it is convenient to be very careful so that the joints look good. But it can be done on site. Although it is more expensive, and requires more skilled labor, the finish is very good and durable. At the Madrid School of Architecture there is a wonderful terrace in the halls that has been there for more than 80 years.”
It turns out that its low maintenance is another of the great assets of the terrazzo. It is very resistant, difficult to wear out and, when the case arises, it is easy to repair. “If it deteriorates, it can be polished again,” says the architect. “In addition, since it is irregular, if a piece breaks you can change it for another more or less similar one. It is not like other ceramic or stoneware floors that have a more uniform finish between pieces or that follow a pattern”.
Going back to its condition as a relatively sustainable material, beyond its recycled origin, it presents other qualities that make it interesting in terms of ecological footprint. For example, it is a material that can help maintain the temperature of a room, mitigating the need to resort to turning on the air conditioning. “Like almost all stone materials, it is fresh and retains a cold touch that makes it comfortable in summer,” says the architect. “It has good thermal inertia, which means it takes time to cool down or heat up. This is good for some types of heating or air conditioning, because it can withstand heat or cold well. If you combine it with underfloor heating, both with hot water for heating and cold water for air conditioning, it will maintain the temperature and reduce energy costs.”
This may be one of those occasions in which the trend loop surprises, placing the accent and returning attention to a material that was always there, and in which perhaps not enough attention had been paid.