Why we love raw concrete in interiors

Ready or not, concrete is here to stay.

It entered our homes like a big-shot, covering our floors to help us create beloved „industrial lofts“. Some of us immediately fell in love, some of us didn’t. It was too cold. It looked like the interior wasn’t finished. It was maybe just a trend – nothing we’d love to live with for years to come.

Then little concrete products happened. The coasters, the knobs, the vases and bowls. And we started to think: “Hey, this is nice!” Product design is sneaky that way. It familiarizes us with things and ideas we would otherwise never consider.

Yet there is something special about concrete. When you think about it, it doesn’t really look good.

Now, you can take a block of exotic timber, coat it with high gloss lacquer, and call it a side table. And it would be a pretty side table, no doubt about that.

Just like putting a slice of fancy smoked salmon on a piece of toast would be a delicious snack.

Concrete doesn’t work that way. Concrete works only when you have an amazing idea and an amazing execution of that idea. You know, like a hamburger with brie instead of standard cheese and arugula instead of lettuce. Oh, and maybe a pinch of truffles mixed with mayo. Hungry much?

Us comparing cooking with interior design isn’t new, but here’s what’s new – this week’s breathtaking interiors featuring concrete finishes, furniture pieces and few of the most beautifully designed details we’ve ever seen.

So even if you don’t like visible concrete in home interiors, you still might like this post. Because really, it’s not about concrete surfaces – it’s about ideas and executions. 

act_romegialliSan Giobbe +160

apartment in Venice, Italy

act_romegialli - San Giobbe +160 apartment in Venice, Italy concrete aqua alta
act_romegialliSan Giobbe +160 // photo: © Marcello Mariana

Just like this restoration of a small residential space (only 40 sqm) on the ground floor at San Giobbe Fondamenta – a canal-side street in the Cannaregio district in Venice. As you probably know, Venice is known for periodic flooding or high tides (aqua alta). And the concrete element was designed to protect the apartment from flooding.

The architects from act_romegialli decided to design a waterproof tank in reinforced concrete that is +160 cm above the usual sea level and incorporate it into all the spaces. “Considering the average level of the tides surveyed between 1870 to 2000 it was revealed that a level of +160 cm would be sufficient to protect the space from centennial maximum high tides.


The apartment is accessed with few steps up the street, and then irregular shaped steps down to the living room. A floor of the living room is placed at a level of +122 cm, just between the street level (+84 cm) and entrance level (+160 cm), which is the top level of the tank. All-around that room the concrete surface of the tank is visible and used: as a step, a shelf, a furniture support.

act_romegialli - San Giobbe +160 apartment in Venice, Italy concrete aqua alta kitchen
act_romegialliSan Giobbe +160 // photo: © Marcello Mariana

Floors of the rest of the rooms – bedroom, kitchen and bathroom, are set at a highest +160cm level.

The partition that separates the bedroom from the living room is made as a wooden shelf with glass doors. The upper part of this shelf is see-through so it allows natural light to come into the bedroom. All of the walls above the tank, fitted furniture and partitions were made of neutral white painted wood and glass, making space feel bigger.

act_romegialli - San Giobbe +160 apartment in Venice, Italy concrete aqua alta living room

act_romegialliSan Giobbe +160 // photos: © Marcello Mariana

But it’s not just that we love the look of this apartment, but the psychology behind it. The elements made of concrete, as strong and durable as they are, create an actual barrier for the water. “In consideration of the tides levels and the level of San Giobbe ‘fondamenta’, a design decision was made to avoid the insertion of temporary and removable steel sheet bayonet against high water as used in the majority of Venetian ground floor spaces. This decision was made to create visual continuity to the vertical tank walls.

But the gesture is also symbolic.  It helps the owners to feel safe. And isn’t that the most important feeling you’d want to achieve in your home?

act_romegialli - San Giobbe +160 apartment in Venice, Italy aqua alta

act_romegialli - San Giobbe +160 apartment in Venice, Italy concrete aqua alta
act_romegialliSan Giobbe +160 // photos: © Marcello Mariana

Studio: act_romegialli
Colaboration: Luigi Guzzardi and Roberto Pescarollo
Location: Venice, Utaly
Area: 40 m²
Completed: 2015.
Photographer: © Marcello Mariana


We can’t help but notice that despite the concrete floors and skirting, the apartment couldn’t be described as “industrial”.  On the contrary: it’s elegant and chic and timeless.

We actually believe those are the advantages of concrete finishes. And the reason we fell in love with an artist studio we’re about to show you.

Urban agency / Architecture RepublicFormwork

artist studio in Dublin

Urban agency / Architecture Republic - Formwork artist studio Dublin concrete interior
Urban agency / Architecture RepublicFormwork // photo: © Paul Tierney

The studio consists of a 5x5m (internally) singular room adhering to planning exemption and economic restriction. The finish floor level is sunken 750mm below ground level, registering the working datum of the desks on which the client lays large canvas. The work in progress, formerly assessed by standing up on a chair and /or a laying down the work on the floor, can now be viewed standing on the “ground level”.


Urban agency / Architecture Republic - Formwork artist studio Dublin concrete interior


Urban agency / Architecture RepublicFormwork // photos: © Paul Tierney

Board-marked concrete was poured to walls, floor and roof, to form a textured cube. A folding polished concrete ribbon runs around the room, up and down, making sometimes stairs, sometimes desks, sometimes a day bed – before coming back into position.

The visual connection to the external surrounding is limited and occurs only when seated. When in working position, the long low strip windows pour light and surrounding landscape inside while, above, offering a continuous wall space for hanging large artwork and exhibiting.


Urban agency / Architecture Republic - Formwork artist studio Dublin concrete interior

Urban agency / Architecture RepublicFormwork // photos: © Paul Tierney

Simplicity allows focused work. Space is introverted, quiet and peaceful. It offers everything the owner needs – no more, no less.

Studio: Architecture Republic
Design team: Maxim Laroussi, Mark Carter,  John Casey and John Graham
Consultants:  Consulting structural and civil engineers: Casey ‘O Rourke Associates
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Area: 25 m²
Completed: 2011.
Photographer: © Paul Tierney


Those concrete surfaces and elements in both apartments are perfect because they are reasonable. They are carefully designed solutions to studied problems.

They aren’t made of concrete just for the sake of using concrete but because of the advantages of the material. Because no other material could do that job.

Yes, concrete is here to stay. Because, when you think about it – it looks really good, doesn’t it?

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