CONCRETE COWBOYS

by ALAENA HOSTETTER / photography by KEVIN TODORA

THROW OUT WHAT YOU THINK you know about concrete. Once considered a utilitarian choice for industrial settings, concrete flooring surprises the senses at the hands of Craftsman Concrete Floors. The business, which was born in Austin in 1999, expands on concrete flooring’s flexible aesthetic with a multitude of highly artistic finishes for luxury homes and consumer-facing businesses.

One of Craftsman Concrete Floors’ standout projects offers a case in point. The floor of a family home’s rec room is blanketed in sparkling white concrete—a chic yet durable choice for the kid-friendliest of spaces. High-end options such as this compete in pricing with marble tiling, according to Craftsman Concrete Floors’ owner Jeremy Cox, yet they last a lifetime with minimal maintenance.

“Concrete is the best-quality floor that you can install,” Cox emphasizes. “It doesn’t scratch, chip or deteriorate, and it’s difficult to stain. It can be vacuumed or mopped with soap and water. The best part is, it doesn’t show wear.”

As anyone with white floors can attest, that’s hard to achieve.

From pristine white to the full spectrum of colors, Craftsman Concrete Floors can meet any client’s aesthetic preference. “We do bright purple, red, blue,” Cox says. “We did a pitch-black overlay for a movie studio to match its black sets.”

Overlay is a technique that involves installing a new half-inch-thick layer of concrete over the existing subfloor, and it is suitable for new builds and renovations. For a more economical route, Craftsman Concrete Floors can also polish an existing concrete subfloor—a beautiful, budget-friendly option that offers a lot of aesthetic interest.

“We’ve retrofitted tons of condos, like in Oak Cliff and Turtle Creek, where the concrete might be 100 years old and patched in different places,” says Cox. “I think those floors look great. I enjoy all of that character, personally. The fact that it’s an imperfect material—there’s something special about that.”

On new builds Cox says his team loves working with the builder or architect from the beginning of the project to achieve the right look. From there, Craftsman Concrete Floors collaborates directly with the concrete manufacturer in order to get the right mix of ingredients to meet the client’s aesthetic goals, Cox says.

The result can be breathtakingly beautiful. Take, for instance, the waves of smoky charcoal gray rippling through a taupe background in one of Craftsman Concrete Floors’ projects. The look is achieved by increasing a particular ash component in the concrete mixture, coupled with a specific installation technique.

“We think of ourselves as a creative company as much as a construction company,” Cox explains. “All of my guys are very aesthetically focused and highly skilled. They have decades of experience.”

Cox pays a pretty penny for their expertise too—the average employee’s salary clocks in at $70,000 to $90,000 per year. “I’m literally the lowest paid employee at our company,” Cox says. “I don’t believe in paying people less than a living wage.”

Craftsman Concrete Floors’ social conscience extends to its commitment to ecology. Concrete floors are naturally “green” and don’t release harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are known to pollute indoor air, but the company takes things a few steps further.

“We buy carbon offsets for the fossil fuels our trucks use, and we’ve actually ordered Tesla electric trucks to replace them,” Cox says. “We limit waste as much as possible and use the most eco-friendly products.”

Craftsman Concrete Floors’ social responsiveness and artistic sensibilities have paid off in a booming business. “We get a lot of referrals from our manufacturers and distributors because we have a good reputation,” Cox says.

Celebrated interior designer Michelle Nussbaumer enlisted Craftsman Concrete Floors for the renovation of her 33,000-square-foot Design District home. This particular project required Cox’s team to grind and polish the Mexican tiled floor that would dialogue with local artist Francisco Moreno’s Aztec-inspired mural. The design earned the title of Kitchen of the Year from House Beautiful in 2019.

The fact that Nussbaumer called upon Craftsman Concrete Floors says something. “Our whole goal is quality and trying to be as unique and forward-looking as possible,” Cox explains. “Our name is kind of cliche, but that’s really what we are—craftsmen. We’re constantly innovating with new materials and new techniques to push the envelope forward.”

Alaena Hostetter is a content strategist, editor and journalist who writes about art, design, culture, music, entertainment and food. She can be reached via her website alaenahostetter.com.