Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Needing, Wanting, Loving: Terrazzo Floors

I've been working on gathering some flooring ideas for various projects at work, and in my research I've rediscovered the beauty of terrazzo.  "Terrazzo" is the Italian word for terrace, and the material was originally invented in the 15th century by workers in Venetia, Italy, who were using discarded pieces of marble to decorate the floors in their own homes.  To smooth out the finish they would rub over them with hand stones, buffing them down to a beautiful, walkable surface.

{photo of Italian stone workers laying out a terrazzo floor}

These days, the terrazzo often used is composed of chips of marble, quartz, granite, and glass that is then poured and mixed with a concrete or resin binder.   Variations of acrylics, latex, polyester, and epoxies are added to create different looks and applications.  Once sealed properly, it is impervious to liquids and doesn't chip away like other stones can- and can last up to 100 years if cared for properly.  Because of the material's durability, it has often been used in commercial, high-traffic areas like schools, airports, hospitals, bars, and restaurants:

Terrazzo seating at the Toki Cafe in Amsterdam:

ASH NYC's creative director, Will Cooper, discovered original terrazzo floors inside the Detroit building the firm was designing that would ultimately become The Siren Hotel.  This inspired him to create his own pattern of terrazzo for the hotel's bathrooms:


Will's line of terrazzo, fittingly dubbed "The Siren" collection, is available for purchase through Balineum UK here:

I am happy to see terrazzo becoming more and more popular as a surface used in residential design projects.  I also noticed while browsing through some of my favorite stone and tile sources online that many offer a range of terrazzo styles and colors, making this a fun element to design with and incorporate.  And who doesn't love something not only beautiful but also durable?

Terrazzo officially got the kiss of celebrity approval after Mandy Moore used it in the renovation of her Pasadena home, featured in Architectural Digest.   Moore worked with architect Emily Farnham and interior designer Sarah Sherman Samuel to redesign the 1950s home with views of the San Gabriel mountains and valley. Mandy gushes, "Terrazzo is a dying art, costly and laborious, but so worth it."  Her guest bathroom floor features custom triangulated brass inlay set in terrazzo:

"Like most aspects of the renovation, the terrazzo treatments were a group effort: Samuel designed the jaunty pattern of triangulated brass inlays in the floor of a guest bathroom, while Farnham obsessed over the specific stone aggregate for the hefty fireplace ledge in the family room" (Architectural Digest):

Terrazzo took the NY design world by storm in 2016 when Sawyer Berson featured a floor of terrazzo in their petit salon at the Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse:

And it officially got the designer kiss of approval when Bunny Williams used terrazzo in her own Manhattan apartment kitchen.  Williams was inspired by the terrazzo floor used by Sawyer Berson above:

Bunny worked with Durite to custom design her terrazzo floor.  Here is an image of it laid out at their facility before it was installed in her kitchen:

Here are a few more terrazzo floors I found that are absolute works of art:

White onyx, brass inlay, and terrazzo floor by Mosaique Surface:

Although technically not terrazzo,  I had to share this floor installed by artist Michele Oka Doner at the United States General Administration Center in Laredo, Texas.  Featuring embedded green glass and mother of pearl, the floor is meant to resemble the nearby Rio Grande River and the geography of the area:

Lastly, I will leave you with links to the terrazzo offerings from some of my favorite stone and tile sources:



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