Weighty design solutions pour from the creative minds of furniture designers Steve Thompson and Rob Weber—heavyweight ideas that revolve around the use of concrete, a humble building material that’s known more for its functionality than its decorative flair.
The pair started Fossil Creations in Concrete last fall to test their theory that concrete can be functional and beautiful. They are creating custom-made concrete tables, breakfast bars, sinks, countertops, fire pits and fireplace hearths in a wealth of colors and designs.
Thompson is owner of Abode Furniture, the ultra-trendy contemporary furniture gallery located in an old converted Scotty’s Lumber showroom on Manatee Avenue East, where a couple of leafy blocks of historic buildings are now known as the Bradenton Antiques District. Its neighbors are shabby-chic antique and knick-knack shops, other upscale home furnishings boutiques and the popular Central Cafe.
Thompson moved to Sarasota from the U.K. with his wife, Jane Bennett, seven years ago and worked in home renovation and design before opening Abode in 2004. In the past, he’d also been a carpenter who’d built dining room and coffee tables and built-in entertainment centers. "I just needed a change, and it seemed like a natural progression from making it to selling it," he says.
The idea of making furniture from concrete was born last year. "I was having a chat with my next-door neighbor one day about concrete—how it’s a product that’s more reliable and on par with granite in strength, and why it isn’t used more in furniture," Thompson recalls.
That neighbor was Weber, a landscape designer who had much experience working with concrete in a different environment. "He’d designed benches and brick paver terraces within the landscape, for example," Thompson exapins. "We found a huge gap in the market for this kind of thing. So we both put our heads together and developed some furniture designs."
Thompson and Weber recently completed an outdoor fireplace hearth for a north Sarasota County couple. The wife, who comes from Italy, had her Sicilian family send her 480 coins, which were imbedded into the concrete hearth. When the fireplace is lit, the coins sparkle in reflected firelight.
Another was a dining room table they designed for a designer showhouse on Longboat Key. A long rectangle of smooth, polished concrete in a terra-cotta stain, the table has rough-hewn edges and a rectangular glass inset down the middle that balances the substantive look of the two-inch-thick concrete. ("It’s bloody heavy," Thompson says in his British accent.) The table retails for $2,500.
A typical piece takes three to four weeks to complete. After the concrete is poured in hand-made molds, they dry between four and six days, depending on the outdoor temperature. Then they’re ground, sealed and polished. Pieces run about $50 per square foot. "The materials themselves aren’t that expensive," says Thompson, "but it takes an enormous amount of time to produce them."
To commission a piece by Fossil Creations in Concrete, visit the Abode Furniture showroom at 816 Manatee Ave. E. in Bradenton, or visit www.fossilconcrete.com.