The entryway to your home should welcome people like open arms. There are many ways to create this warm embrace with concrete, both underfoot and as an architectural accent. Concrete is often maligned as being a cold, austere material. Yet it's anything but. Through the use of color, texture, shape and pattern, concrete can be made warm and inviting. Here are 10 ideas for using decorative concrete to create an attractive, beckoning front entry to your home. Be ready for lots of visitors!
All great entryways begin with a welcoming walkway that ushers visitors to your front door in grand fashion. With concrete, the decorative options for entrance walks are endless. Stamped or stenciled patterns, engraving, exposed-aggregate finishes, colored concrete, and concrete staining are just a few of the ways you can enhance your sidewalk design. To give your front entry even more allure, consider widening or flaring the concrete sidewalk or making it curvilinear rather than straight.
If you already have a plain gray concrete walkway or sidewalk leading to your home, but it needs a major facelift, you can often rejuvenate it with a colored and patterned concrete overlay. You'll be amazed at the transformation, while avoiding the expense and hassle of ripping out your existing concrete.
See these design ideas for concrete walkways:
Create even greater visual impact by having your concrete walkway lead to a decorative concrete stairway and landing that incorporates coordinating colors and patterns. Concrete steps can be poured onsite right along with your walkway and then colored and textured to match. Precast concrete steps and precast concrete stairs are also an option.
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Concrete is flexible enough to mimic nearly any material, pattern or color, allowing you to create a concrete entryway that matches or complements your home's architecture and color palette. Creating this unified appearance can be as simple as matching the color of your concrete walkway to your home's roof, exterior siding or front door. Or let the distinct character of your home's architecture be your guide when formulating your design plans. For example, if you live in a classic Colonial-style home, a concrete sidewalk and steps stamped in a traditional brick or cobblestone pattern would be a fitting entryway enhancement.
Here are ideas for using decorative concrete to complement 11 different home styles.
There are literally hundreds of concrete stamp patterns to choose from for your entryway, ranging from slate, to brick, to cobblestone, to botanical and wildlife themes. Because today's stamping mats are often molded from the actual materials they mimic, they produce amazingly realistic results. By extending the pattern from sidewalk to stairway to landing, the overall effect is even more impressive.
A stenciled pattern is another option, and works especially well with concrete overlays. Stencils for concrete come in a variety of popular patterns, ranging from running-bond brick to stone, slate and tile.
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As an alternative to stamped or colored concrete, you can achieve spectacular effects at a reasonable cost with an exposed-aggregate finish. Many types and sizes of decorative aggregate are available to achieve unlimited color and texture variations. Exposed aggregate also contrasts beautifully with plain concrete or other decorative treatments such as stamping, staining, and integral coloring. For concrete entryways, an exposed-aggregate finish offers additional benefits by providing a safe, nonskid surface that resists heavy foot traffic.
For the concrete steps leading to your entryway, a simple way to add architectural interest is to go with a shapely curved step edge rather than a sharp 90-degree angle. A number of manufacturers make polystyrene foam forms for concrete step edges in a variety of architectural profiles, including bull nose, French curve, keystone and quarried stone. Often these same forms can be used for the edges of concrete pilaster or wall caps.
See Scott Cohen of The Green Scene demonstrate how these forms are used:
By flanking the sides of your entryway with concrete seat walls—which are akin to low retaining walls—you can provide definition as well as a welcoming place to sit. A typical seat wall is constructed of 8- to 12-inch-wide concrete masonry units and topped with a decorative cap of brick, stone or bull-nosed cast concrete. The average height is 18 to 22 inches.
See: Concrete seat walls
To give your entryway the utmost in elegance and grandeur, consider using precast architectural concrete accents, such as columns, balustrades, pilasters, wall caps and archways. Architectural elements cast in concrete offer all the beauty of natural cut limestone, granite or marble, but permit much greater versatility in color, finish and detailing.
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For safety as well as ambience, entryways should be well lit at night—and that often means installing more than a dim light fixture above the front door. You should also provide path lighting all along the concrete walkway leading to the door and in transitions between concrete stairways and surrounding areas. One great way to do this is to cast built-in light fixtures right in the faces of concrete steps. Anotherpopular effect is downlighting from recessed fixtures built into concrete seat walls, columns or pilasters.
An easy way to instantly dress up a front entrance is to install a precast concrete fountain, a distinctive piece of concrete statuary, or a pair of decorative concrete planters or urns. Many manufacturers and suppliers offer specialized collections of concrete statuary and garden ornamentation that allow you to evoke a particular time, culture or architectural style. Concrete fountains are highly coveted centerpieces for many entry courtyards because they appeal to multiple senses, providing visual beauty enhanced by tranquil sounds and hypnotic movement.
Home Exterior: Six ways for using concrete for exterior home design and improvement