Monday 16 September 2019

Rock star good looks

A mid-century classic with an unfortunate rap is having a revival - and we're loving it

Not just for floors, Caesarstone’s Frozen Terra surface mixes translucent aggregate and basalt for a smart, long-lasting look; from €480 psqm,
Not just for floors, Caesarstone’s Frozen Terra surface mixes translucent aggregate and basalt for a smart, long-lasting look; from €480 psqm,
Rug, €132,
Lamp, €85,
Planter, €57,
Towel, from €9.50,
Soap dispenser, €5, penneys

Kirstie McDermott

It can strike terror into your heart, terrazzo, and there's a very particular reason why. Nuns. Stay with me here: if you were convent-educated in Ireland at any point in the recent past, there's fairly good odds you spent many uniformed hours traipsing across terrazzo floors.

As a result, terrazzo, with its signature speckled appearance, has become conflated in the minds of many as something to run screaming in terror from, along with a life-long aversion to maths, Sr Mary's lectures on the evils of teenage boys and the unusual colour pairing of mint green and maroon. Oh, just my school uniform, then?

They loved a bit of terrazzo, did the nuns, but there's actually a good reason why. If you can unpick your long-held teenage prejudices around it as a material, it is actually a brilliant choice for all sorts of purposes - yes, including floors. Before Ireland's religious orders got hold of it in the middle of the 20th Century, terrazzo's heritage actually dated back to 18th Century Venice, where it was used as a paving material.

An aggregate of chips of marble, granite, quartz and even glass suspended in a binding material, terrazzo has come a long way since the last time some of us made plimsolled acquaintance with it, and on this turn of the wheel, it is now seriously slick.

"Concrete floors have been popular for a number of years now and terrazzo has grown in popularity off the back of this trend," says architect Denise O'Connor of Optimise Design ( of its rise in popularity. According to Pinterest, saves of 'terrazzo' in 2017 were up 316pc. But while concrete only fits certain aesthetics, "terrazzo offers more choice of colours and ways to customise the finish, in that you can add in your own mix of coloured aggregates to achieve a specific look", she says.

It's flexible, too. You can buy it pre-cast in tiles - a more affordable option - or get it poured on-site. "Having a continuous floor finish with no grout joints is very appealing for many people, and with underfloor heating becoming more affordable, something like terrazzo is the ideal finish to partner with this kind of heating system," O'Connor points out.

And don't just think floors: nowadays it can be used to form seating plinths and worktops too. From the school of hard knocks, terrazzo is tough and will last a lifetime - with minimal maintenance. But it's not cheap. "It is an expensive choice," O'Connor agrees. "The price varies depending on what kind of aggregate you select. Simple stone aggregates are the least expensive option, with quartz being more expensive."

A wise place to invest would be high traffic areas. Terrazzo can be used in bathrooms but requires special installation. "It works really well in open-plan kitchen living and dining areas and can also be used outdoors, so is fantastic for creating a seamless finish between inside and out," says O'Connor.

And here's the clincher: "Many manufacturers use recycled materials to make the aggregate, making it an environmentally friendly choice," she reveals, meaning terrazzo is a do-good, look-good solution that's a win-win all round.

Kirstie McDermott is editorial director of 'House and Home' magazine

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