Sometimes called “old fashioned concrete” because of its old-school construction method, board-formed concrete remains very popular today. Clients, designers, and architects use this technique to inject personality, depth, warmth, and texture into their projects. We’ve gathered together some of our favorite homes that utilize and celebrate this striking material below—take a look and be ready to feel inspired!
Aranzazu House in Buenos Aires, Argentina
At a home in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Besonías Almeida Arquitectos were asked by the client to design a home built with exposed concrete that also incorporated wood to “break the monochromatic expression.” The resulting design not only incorporated the two materials together, but also inextricably linked them by using board-formed concrete that expresses the texture and grain of the wood boards from the mold, but in a horizontal orientation in contrast to the verticals of the wood panels.
Inside Out Architecture renovated an apartment in the Clerkenwell section of central London, removing interior walls to create an open, loft-like living space. The architects were taken in by the “dramatic geometry” of the existing board-formed concrete ceiling, and their design maintained and emphasized its dynamic criss-crosses and texture.
At the family home Israeli architect Pitsou Kedem, modern and light-filled interiors enliven a brutalist, raw concrete structure in the city of Ramat HaSharon near Tel Aviv. Kedem took inspiration from the brutalist buildings commonly found in the neighborhood, which was established by army veterans in the 1950s. The house comprises two concrete squares—one stacked on top of the other—on a sloping 7,750-square-foot plot. The concrete on the exterior as well as the interior was designed so that it left the marks of the wood boards that formed the concrete mold, emphasizing the building’s long and low form.
Set on the edge of Puertos de Beceite national park in Aragon, Spain, and available for vacation rentals, Casa Solo Pezo is a striking concrete square structure set on top of a smaller concrete square bass. Designed by award-winning and MoMA-exhibited Chilean architects at Pezo Von Ellrichshausen, this thoroughly modern residence has proportions and an interior layout that follows those of traditional Mediterranean homes with a strong indoor/outdoor connection. Its board-formed concrete exterior gives the building a texture and pattern that lend an almost organic, natural feel despite its very rectilinear form.
An Italian architecture studio took advantage of an ideal setting for a getaway: rolling hills dotted with villages and castles in Italy’s Oltre Po Pavese region. A young Milanese couple wanted a small vacation home on their 3000-square-meter lot there—and 35a Studio delivered, by way of this 120-square-meter cabin decked out in textural concrete and strategically accented with wood. While its exterior offers a smoother, stuccoed appearance, its interiors give way to a juxtaposition of two different concrete applications, opting for a rougher, board-formed treatment on the walls and a quartz paste polish on the floors. Wood accents, by way of the trimwork, doors, and cabinetry, provide rich, striking counterpoints.
Nestled in an apple grove in Sebastopol, California, the Orchard House is a rural idyll. And with the voracious design appetites of a family of gastronomically inclined clients, this concrete prefab construction is quite literally a moveable feast of a home. To create the board-formed concrete exterior and interior elements like the kitchen island, a system of four-by-four-foot concrete modules was created from a reusable formwork of 2-by-12-foot boards that could be easily moved around the site.
Located in Austin’s historic Hyde Park in the company of 1920s-era bungalows, the Concrete Casita by Ravel Architecture is distinct with its contemporary, low-lying profile, yet feels at home with the neighborhood. Designs to become in-law’s quarters or serve as a versatile, indoor/outdoor space for an active Austin family, the 600-square-foot structure has a rugged makeup of board-formed concrete, rusted steel, and glass. Ravel Architecture partners Alex Finnell and Devin Keyes chose board-formed concrete for the exterior, scoring the vertical boards to “get a really nice texture and interesting dynamics,” says Finnell.
Whereas others might look at a board-formed cement wall in a basement and see, well, a concrete wall, Jess and Jonathan Taylor, the design duo behind the L.A.-based firm Taylor + Taylor, were inspired. The couple had purchased a virtually untouched 1952 house in east L.A. and that concrete wall became the backdrop for a new guest kitchen in the basement. “It was really the starting point of the whole design,” says Jess Taylor. “As designers, our goal is to always try to incorporate the existing surroundings whenever possible, utilize them in practical ways, and be inspired by them.”
Architects Javier Sánchez and Carlos Mar of JSa created a bold house in Valle de Bravo that emerges from the setting in three parts like “excavated stone boxes.” Valle de Bravo that emerges from the setting in three parts like “excavated stone boxes. Inspired by Donald Judd’s minimalist works, the three volumes feature board-formed concrete walls accented with charred wood. Strategically placed cutouts and windows frame views within and between the volumes and out to the surrounding terrain.
About 100 miles southwest of Mexico City, nine black concrete blocks in a forest clearing make up one family’s holiday home. Designed by Mexican architect Fernanda Canales with landscaping by Claudia Rodríguez, Casa Bruma makes elegant use of a construction material that’s commonplace in Latin America. The texture of the black board-formed concrete contrasts with the simple, rectilinear forms of the individual parts of the residence that surround a central patio paved with stone.
Designed as a vacation home for a young family, this tropical modern dwelling uses restrained forms and fundamental materials to stunning effect. The residence stands out for its simplicity in the use of exposed board-formed concrete, metal, and aluminum frames. The simple, long, and narrow volume is accentuated by large eaves that provide shading from the sun’s warm rays.
Filled with light and views of greenery, two exquisitely crafted concrete pavilions form an award-winning home that ages elegantly over time. The bold, monolithic designs of Australian architecture studio Edition Office have been brought to life in an unexpected place—Hawthorn, one of the most affluent suburbs in Melbourne that’s better known for Victorian architecture than contemporary design. The recently completed home—dubbed the Hawthorn House—was created for a couple who asked Edition Office directors Kim Bridgland and Aaron Roberts to apply the design sensibilities they would normally use for rural landscapes to a more suburban context. In contrast to the soft greenery, the home is sheathed and supported by board-formed concrete, a material suggested by the client, who drew on his background in construction during the highly collaborative design process.
Luciano Kruk perforates a concrete volume with glass walls to fashion a simple yet elegant vacation home in the province of Buenos Aires. On a quiet lot populated with aged pinewood, Luciano Kruk designed a modest vacation home for three sisters and their families. The 807-square-foot, two-level home is ensconced in its forest setting. The firm employed board-formed concrete inside and out to connect the building with its environment. “Pine planks were used to set the formwork so that the partitions, as well as the slabs, would preserve the texture of the wood veins in an attempt to establish a harmonious dialogue with the bark of the local trees,” said the firm.
London–based Steyn Studio designed a three-bedroom home on the outskirts of Madrid, Spain, that stands out from its neighbors with a striking sawtooth roof. The project, nicknamed the Sierra House for both its peaked profile and its location in one of Madrid’s northwestern neighborhoods between Mirasierra and Montecarmelo, features furniture and window treatments that complement the neutral tones of the exterior and interior materials. Textured walls of board-formed concrete provide visual interest in the living room.
The 2,800-square-foot ranch house from the 1950s was renovated by San Francisco-based architect Nick Noyes, with interiors designed by Raili Clasen, founder of Newport Beach studio railiCAdesign. The remodel added about 300 square feet of space to the original structure, which allowed Noyes to create an open-plan kitchen, dining, and living area with a board-formed concrete fireplace, a mudroom, four bedrooms, and about an acre of outdoor space.
Cedar, glass, and concrete combine in this minimalist pool house that draws inspiration from Mies van der Rohe’s 1929 Barcelona Pavilion. The pool house, built into a mountainside west of Montreal and designed by Halifax–based MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects, employs board-formed concrete for the home’s expressive exterior.
A maple tree grows through an ipe deck in this garden that Mary Barensfeld designed for a family in Berkeley, California. A reflecting pool separates it from a granite patio, which is furnished with a Petal dining table by Richard Schultz and chairs by Mario Bellini. The 1,150-square-foot garden serves as an elegant transition from the couple’s 1964 Japanese-style town house to a small, elevated terrace with views of San Francisco Bay. Filigreed Cor-Ten steel fence screens—perforated with a water-jet cutter to cast dappled shadows on a bench and the ground below—and zigzagging board-formed concrete retaining walls are examples.
Recently retired and ready to downsize, Paul and Melonie Brophy found a lot in Palo Alto that gave them the chance to start fresh. Their glass, concrete, and wood house, designed by Feldman Architecture, seems to float above a landscape by Bernard Trainor. Of the board-formed concrete wall, architect Taisuke Ikegami says, “It connects the building to the ground plane while allowing the house to be a landscape element.”
At Sea Ranch, a half-century-old enclave of rugged modernist houses on the Northern California coast, a new home captures the spirit of its surroundings. The client, a couple, were guided by the Sea Ranch rules—local covenants guide new designs—didn’t mean slipping into Sea Ranch clichés. Lovers of Cor-Ten steel, with its ruddy and almost organic surface, the architects made it the main exterior material, along with board-formed concrete and ipe wood. The Cor-Ten, which quickly turned an autumnal rust in the sea air, and the concrete, with its grain and crannies, mean the house isn’t a pristine box, Ramirez says. His Neutra house “was very crisp and clean,” he says. “This house is more distressed, more wabi-sabi.” Together, the Cor-Ten steel and board-form concrete give the exterior a weathered look.
On an undulating stretch of California coastline, a hidden guesthouse runs free of the grid. “The house is elemental,” says project architect Dan Weber of Santa Barbara–based firm Anacapa, who collaborated on the project with designer Steve Willson. “We endeavored to make it out of materials that would wear and take on a patina over time, so they could feel like part of the landscape.” Unfinished steel, board-formed concrete, and glass continue inside, where rich black walnut—used for ceilings, cabinetry, and furniture—provides an inviting contrast. “On a foggy day, you want that feeling of warmth around you,” says Margaret. Brass fixtures complement the deep-hued wood.
In Englishman Bay, Maine, where his relatives have summered since the 19th century, a musician builds an idyllic hideaway for his family and their three parrots. In late 2015, the musician and his wife asked Whitten Architects and Nate Holyoke Builders (in Portland and Holden, respectively) for a durable, minimalist home, simultaneously rustic and Scandinavian, that would sit lightly on the land and make use of local materials whenever possible. A board-formed concrete hearth by Harkins Masonry, which can also act as seating, has a monumental presence in the three-season porch, which holds the dining and living areas.
The Phoenix home of designers and builders Sarah Swartz Wessel and Ethan Wessel sits amid desert-friendly trees and plants. The couple bought the property in 1998 and worked on the house for a decade. Juxtaposed with limestone floors, wood-beamed ceilings, and walls of hand-troweled plaster and board-formed concrete, glass is strategically placed throughout the 4,000-square-foot expanse to frame slivers of landscape and sky or open wide to reveal gardens of various sizes, which the couple also designed.
In February of 2007, two San Francisco art and travel addicts purchased a 3,200-square- foot former Chinese laundry and tooth-powder factory with column-free interiors and a zigzagging sawtooth roof in lower Pacific Heights. They customized a pair of shipping containers to accommodate their collection and reflect their passions, and hired a local company to sandblast the interior to expose the board-formed concrete walls and replaced the carpeted floors with Georgia hickory pecan planks— the longest, knottiest boards they could find—to further lengthen the loft and make it look more like a warehouse.