Every design process can be different. But the result is always leading in our choice of design- and production techniques and the materials. Form and function are equally important to us. Our designs are somewhat typical because we give warmth, softness, refinement, and elegance to our products, but they also have a rough edge. Our goal is to give our work a wow-factor, so that everyone who sees and feels them will be surprised.
We get our inspiration from nature, architecture, and surroundings. We are attracted to the golden ratio. This so-called ‘golden ratio’ can be found everywhere, in the works of great painters such as Michelangelo and Leonardo DaVinci and in classical and modern architecture. But you can also find the golden ratio frequently in nature. For example, in how a nautilus shell is constructed, or how the seeds are arranged in a sunflower. Even a trip to a garden center can be a source of inspiration. Our tile, the Linea, is a bit derived from a plant, which grows a lot with those kinds of lines. Ultimately the golden ratio is a big inspiration to our design, making our designs looking easy on the eyes. In addition, some design styles are very inspirational as well, like art deco, jugenstil and brutalism.
Once we get inspired about a subject, we start sketching ideas. Everything is possible and everything is allowed. When this process dries out, we make a selection of the ones we like best and develop these further in more precise drawings. Eventually one or two remain which evolve into digital 3D designs.
3D Designing helps us visualize all sides of the design. We can play with angles, curves, sizes and height until we think we’ve got something we can work with. Without making even one fysical product several iterations can be done. But one needs to remain to actually develop.
The design we want to develop further is 3D printed to check for flaws. First in scale and after a couple more iterations in real size. It is always fascinating to experience the design in real size and find out that there’s still something we need to adjust, we haven’t thought about, so the design thinking process is repeated again and again until the design is perfect.
Finishing the design
Once we’ve agreed on the prototype, the proof of concept needs to be made. After a lot of sanding, plastering and varnishing we can start making a mould. As soon as the mould is ready, several concrete casts are made and we’ll know if it’s right!
Making a new design wall tile can take up weeks, months or even years. Every design follows its own process and path in time. The result however is always thrilling, giving a lot of joy. This feeling is something we would love to share with you. We believe that if you are in the possibility to experience our wall tiles first hand, you’ll be just as surprised, happy and enthusiastic as we are by the look and feel of the tiles.
It’s only normal for us to take into account another person and thus also the quality of life in the future! Therefore we committed ourselves to the Sustainability Development Goals 2050. That’s why we are working hard to make our concrete more sustainable. Over the years, many ways have been devised to make concrete more sustainable. Of course, concrete is very strong and will last a lifetime (read durable). And the cement that we normally use is also compensated for CO2, but that does not detract from the fact that concrete is responsible for 8% of the annual CO2 emissions worldwide. The major culprit in this is cement. The production of cement requires a lot of energy and a lot of CO2 is released. One kilo of CO2 is released during the production of one kilo of cement. This process is irreversible. We can accept all those improvements from the leading industry. And 100% CO2 compensation is not wrong, but we prefer to see it differently. Concrete has been around for a few thousand years. Much has improved, but the discovery and development of concrete did not have the basic principles and problems that we now encounter! CO2 emissions must be drastically reduced, concrete must be 100% recyclable and new sustainable applications must be developed with new materials.
March 2020 we started experimenting with raw materials and recipes on a new binder that is revolutionary for the Netherlands, which can partially or completely replace cement. This binder is called a geopolymer. Geopolymers or the better name Inorganic Polymers are cementitious raw materials, which when activated turn into a chain of molecules with cementitious properties. In other words, they work and react the same as cement, but make better and stronger connections. Optically you can’t see any difference between geopolymer concrete or regular concrete. Geopolymer concrete therefore looks the same and is better and stronger than ordinary concrete. The best thing, however, is that the production of geopolymers does not require high CO2 emissions. Our raw materials are actually made out of waste from the metal industry; landfill! But in time they could also be made out of local raw materials such as clay or river sludge and even from biobased residual products! In short, geopolymer concrete is made from local (waste) products with no CO2 emissions!
The first application we developed was a 3D wall tile prototype we called Summit. With peaks and valleys, sharp edges and a rolling smooth surface, the ideal design for testing aesthetic geopolymer concrete. After two years of experimenting and testing, we found the right combination of ingredients and process. To make impact, we decided to start designing wall tiles. And so, Novel Grey was born!
We believe that geopolymer concrete is a major step in making concrete more sustainable. Much bigger than all the other steps being taken now. Is it there yet? Yes. Is it already embraced by everyone? Far from. Is it tricky when we stick our neck out like this? Yes! But we’d rather be part of the solution than stand on the sidelines. A lot still needs to be done, but by using geopolymer concrete as an aesthetic concrete, we can test and show that it is stronger, better and, above all, much more sustainable and environmentally friendly than ordinary concrete.
As many architects, designers and interior architects we speak are looking for truly environmentally friendly, sustainable solutions for aesthetic design, finishing and product design, We believe that Geopolymer concrete is an answer to this. Meanwhile we keep on experimenting and discovering new ways to improve concrete, both in aesthetics and sustainability. Do you want to join the solution with us and contribute to a more sustainable future? Please contact us so that we can see together what you need to take your step!