Decorative Finishes

Decorative Finishes

You can dress it up with patio furniture, surround it with a killer Kyoto garden and goldfish pond, and keep it swept and gleaming from a fresh hose-off. But concrete is still unattractive, or at the very least, boring. “People are realizing all of a sudden that they have all of this ugly, gray concrete and there are a multitude of solutions,” says Guido Bernstein of Bernstein Decorative Finishes, LLC.

To minimize the hard, industrial-feel of homeowners’ concrete yards and interiors, Bernstein has noticed an increased interest among Southern Illinoisans for concrete staining and stenciling.

Local businesses and homeowners are joining in an international demand for the technique that has been around for almost 100 years, but which has become popular only recently. Over the last five years, periodicals such as Concrete Décor Magazine have popped up to help designers like Bernstein get in the game.

“It’s really unbelievable,” Bernstein said of the way the art has taken off.

Bernstein’s business specializes in decorative finishes for interiors and exteriors including stenciling, wall glazing, clouds, Venetian plaster, luster stone, and Old World European textures. But he knew little about concrete staining until a customer expressed interest in the service.

Bernstein’s business specializes in decorative finishes for interiors and exteriors including stenciling, wall glazing, clouds, Venetian plaster, luster stone, and Old World European textures.

Soon he and his crew were off to learn the process. About four years ago, they enrolled in professional training courses in acid-staining. This is a process in which the acid in chemical stains opens the top surface of the concrete, allowing metallic salts to react with the concrete’s hydrated lime to change the color. The stain penetrates and reacts so that it is “in” rather than “on” the surface, and the coloring becomes a permanent part of the concrete.

The reason the technique has become so popular – popping up in offices, restaurants and residences worldwide – is because of its versatility. “You can do just about anything,” says Bernstein, who stenciled a red compass into his own office’s floor.

On a recent project, Bernstein turned the dull concrete around a Murphysboro family’s pool into the look of taupe cobblestone using stenciling and staining. Customers can choose the pattern and color for their floor designs: herringbone, brick, basket weave, Mediterranean tile, European fan, rosettes, tortoise shell.

They can replicate the polished look of quarried stone, such as marble or the earthy texture of a weathered terra cotta. Any artistic design they can imagine can be added to their flooring or any concrete surface in their home “exterior, interior and even the kitchen counter,” Bernstein said.

Homeowners are increasingly seeking alternatives to carpet indoors and are finding concrete-stained floors a low-cost alternative. Outdoors, the material is weed-proof. Additionally, with a professional job that is sealed, the look lasts and lasts without chipping, fading or peeling off the surface.

Copyright, 2008, Southern Illinoisan