It's a whole new option for updating color, texture and decorative finishes
by: Gail Park Beaverton resident James Burnett’s concrete work is simple but can have a dramatic effect. Here, he shows some of the color choices in a West Linn garage.

Perhaps you've seen it but didn't recognize it. Stylish concrete is appearing everywhere these days.

Concrete is adding noticeable improvements to Portland-area homes and landscapes. The sophisticated look is handmade and one-of-a-kind. Finishes include stones, stain, geometric patterns and forms that curve around unique spaces, such as a rounded deck or tight bathroom. Modern concrete is being used to enhance both outdoor and indoor living spaces.

Lake Oswego concrete artist Benjamin Cunin custom designs and fabricates concrete. His projects are created at his showroom, Coulee Concrete Designs, on Upper Boones Ferry Road. He and his staff construct functional works of art from templates composed at his client's homes or businesses.

'No wall is real straight,' says the 42-year-old business owner and former computer programmer. 'To get things to fit properly we have to build a perfect template before we can begin pouring any concrete.'

Pre-cast concrete can be as bold as one's fancy.

'We start with our clients' ideas, input the functional needs and use that as a springboard for a creative collaboration with unique and personal results.' says Cunin.

Fully trained in Fu-Tung Cheng's work, (an award-winning concrete innovator) Cunin currently is turning a Lake Oswego deck at a Southshore residence into an outside living room. The homeowners installed a Viking kitchen center on their custom terrace with built in supports to accommodate a tailored countertop. Cunin and his team crafted, hauled and installed a hollow swirl-shaped long concrete table. Its sleek, black/bronze finish resembles smooth obsidian. It can be used as a workspace or place to dine.

By installing a customized fire table, the outdoors and lake views can be enjoyed on chilly days. To add to the outdoor experience, a matching slide-out dining table is being constructed. It will draw people lakeside near a sky blue hot tub. The concrete sculptural elements are warm and inviting. Though weighty, the additions are durable and as unique as the homeowner's inventiveness.

'We can do it,' Cunin says of pioneering his company's creative possibilities. 'Only the imagination is the limit.'

Cunin can help with a variety of home improvements and design solutions. For instance, bar tops and bistro tables can have an antique look with staining. An orange wash basin with a continuous sand top counter can make a bold statement. A potting shed with an honed drain board and sink can simpify a hobby. These are concrete projects that Cunin crafts at his showroom/workshop.

For more information about Coulee Concrete Designs, visit or call 503-895-2621.

A concrete facelift

Rooms, garages and outdoor environments can benefit from a concrete facelift.

Beaverton resident and Portland Design Concrete owner James Burnett uses a special concrete mixture to create a lasting impression. He updates floors and countertops.

Burnett prepares polymer modified cementitious epoxy in a variety of ways to achieve colorful and textural concrete overlays. The cement-based compound can be colored with stains or embellished with a logo or momento. His concrete can resemble stone tiles or be formed with natural stone.

The overlays are troweled on by hand over prepared concrete. Overlays can have natural-looking stone texture or glossy smooth polish. Pool decks, tile and formica can be covered. 'Existing seams are preserved,' he says. 'Grout lines can be added to replicate stone, tile or slate.'

Transforming old cracked patios and garages into assets with the strength of natural stone is only part of Burnett's flooring talent. Kitchen counters are coated to resemble elegant stonework. Patterns update a dingy driveway. A restored driveway and stairway match the resident's decor. Durable high-gloss finishes resembling two-toned tile replace a dirty carpet.

'A lot of people are staying in their homes and asking 'how can we get increased living space,'' Burnett says. 'One way is to improve your garage and make better use of your daylight basement. Improved flooring solutions can increase the square footage of your home.'

Concrete can be colored to match an existing color palette or create a new backdrop for a whole new look. High-gloss, marbelized, and terra cotta floor styles are possible with the flexibility of concrete. 'Bring an idea to life. Resurface,' says the father-to-be. 'It's easy and quick to add color, design and texture.'

An average 10-foot-by-10-foot mildly cracked patio can be smoothed and colored in a couple of days. 'The change is beautiful. The detail is clean and nice.'

For more information about Portland Design Concrete, visit or call 503-608-2829.


Benjamin Cunin, owner of Coulee Concrete Designs, cites the following advantages of using concrete for home improvements.

* Durability -- 'The concrete is fairly porous and air-permeable. It breathes and seals.'

* Colors won't fade. With resealing (now and then), color will continue to look fresh even outdoors.

* The concrete is formed, so it can be shaped in as many ways as can be imagined. If need be, a bench can wrap around a tree.

* Decorative inlays can include cherished family keepsakes or items such as lucky coins cast into the work. Sinks and vanities are custom sculpted and colored to bring sophistication to a room.

* The products are sustainable and made in Lake Oswego.

* Concrete is heat-resistant. 'A soaking tub might be nice.'

* Sinks can be constructed to about a half-inch thick, and countertops to three-quarters of an inch. Some designs can be fabricated in one slick piece.

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