It may be cold to the touch, but concrete doesn’t have to make a home feel uncomfortable and unwelcoming, even when it makes up most of the surfaces throughout the interiors. In fact, concrete proves to be surprisingly versatile – polished to a mirror finish, molded with wood or given a rocky, irregular texture for visual interest – and setting it off with timber, glass, greenery and natural light strikes just the right balance.
Courtyard House by NOA Architecture
This stunning intergenerational house by NOA Architecture is programmed “as an inhabited landscape contained within a modernist slab,” with a single glass-wrapped layer between a floor and roof plane, so the concrete floors, walls and other surfaces are offset with views straight out onto the lush green landscape of Aurora, Oregon. The best part is that oculus-style atrium in the center of the living room.
Pitch House by Iñaqui Carnicero
The dramatic ‘Pitch House’ of Madrid by Iñaqui Carnicero uses textured concrete to transition visually into its sloped, rocky surroundings. Using wood as formwork for concrete, and leaving the resulting textural imprint behind, lends a richness that the material usually doesn’t have. Glazed walls reflecting a crystal-clear swimming pool on the terrace don’t hurt, either.
Casa Dem by Wespi de Meuron Romeo Architetti
From street level, this blocky concrete house doesn’t look like much, but its beauty is hidden on the other side of the slope. Casa Dem by Wespi de Meuron Romeo Architects was made with several different types of concrete, including smooth, minimalist textures and rougher, more gravelly textures for an unexpected and beautiful contrast. The house is defined by its many square- and rectangle-shaped cutouts, from the smaller ones on the facade to the openings for windows and doors.
Low-Cost Modernist House by Terra e Tuma Arquitetos
Cement blocks are more commonly associated with prisons than residential architecture, and when you hear that they’ve been used to create a remarkably low-cost home, your expectations might be low. But Terra e Tuma Arquitetos pulled off quite a feat with Vila Matilde, an ultra-affordable modernist home in Brazil. Despite these cheap and typically ‘cold’ materials, the space feels comfortable and homey, with special thanks to plenty of natural light and a clever design incorporating a plant-filled courtyard.
Casa Brutale Cliffside Concept
On the other side of the spectrum is Casa Brutale, a residence so luxurious and dramatic it seems like it could never be real. But this modern villain’s lair cut directly into a cliffside by OPA is actually under construction, with most of the interior spaces tucked beneath a glass-bottomed swimming pool for lots of watery reflections.