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DIY: A Homemade Terrazzo Table by Heju of Paris

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DIY: A Homemade Terrazzo Table by Heju of Paris

January 31, 2018

In the moments when they’re not running their Paris design firm, Heju, 25-year-old architects Hélène Pinaud and Julien Schwartzmann love to make things. They post their DIY inventions on the Heju blog, and Hachette in France collected them in a book, Design It Yourself: 35 Objets Design à Petits Prix et à Faire Soi-Même. One of our new favorites is the duo’s DIY terrazzo table, their poor man’s answer to the labor-intensive and pricey finish. They came up with the project after not succeeding in including terrazzo in one of their architectural commissions: frustration fueled months of thinking and testing, and led to their little speckled table, which makes use of broken tile rather than marble fragments. They kindly agreed to share it with us.

N.B.: This is the second in a series of Heju projects we’ll be presenting. Over at The Organized Home, we recently spotlighted the Heju DIY Wall Organizer.

Photography courtesy of Heju.

Perfect for use as a coffee table or side table, the design is entirely DIY, including the wood-and-brass base.
Above: Perfect for use as a coffee table or side table, the design is entirely DIY, including the wood-and-brass base.
The tabletop is a mix of cement, sand, and grout inset with colored tile fragments.
Above: The tabletop is a mix of cement, sand, and grout inset with colored tile fragments.

Terrazzo is traditionally made of marble (or other stone) chips set into a cement matrix that’s polished to a high sheen. Decorative and hardwearing, it’s often seen as lobby flooring in historic buildings. Of late, the finish has made a comeback, thanks to, among others, British designer Max Lamb: See An Effortlessly Cool Cafe in Amsterdam. We’ve also recently admired terrazzo Chez Marie Sixtine in Paris and in a Danish Designer’s Handmade Kitchen. The Heju version is less involved, but requires a bit more time and labor than most of their DIYs.

The tabletop has a textured look but a smooth finish. It can be any color combination; Hélène and Julien chose a pastel palette.
Above: The tabletop has a textured look but a smooth finish. It can be any color combination; Hélène and Julien chose a pastel palette.

Tools and Materials for the Top

This is a two-part project: It involves putting together the table base and then the terrazzo top.
Above: This is a two-part project: It involves putting together the table base and then the terrazzo top.

Materials include panels of MDF, a 1.5-kilo (3.3-pound) bag of white cement, 3 kilos (6.6 pounds) of fine sand (available from pet- and garden-supply stores), pale-pink grout, and ceramic tiles for breaking into pieces. For the full specs and step-by-step on how to make the table base, go to Heju.

Instructions

An MDF tray serves as the base for the concrete-sand-grout-tile mix. It’s made by gluing precut pieces of MDF with a neoprene glue, such as Loctite; $8.10.
Above: An MDF tray serves as the base for the concrete-sand-grout-tile mix. It’s made by gluing precut pieces of MDF with a neoprene glue, such as Loctite; $8.10.
The fun part: hammering the tiles into fragments. “The goal is to get different sizes of stones and especially abstract shapes,” explain Hélène and Julien. “For a natural result, we advise against using too perfect or too square pieces.”
Above: The fun part: hammering the tiles into fragments. “The goal is to get different sizes of stones and especially abstract shapes,” explain Hélène and Julien. “For a natural result, we advise against using too perfect or too square pieces.”
The tile fragments are evenly sprinkled over the tray and also mixed into “the dough.”
Above: The tile fragments are evenly sprinkled over the tray and also mixed into “the dough.”
The concrete, sand, and grout combination are mixed with water until they’re “the consistency of a beauty mask.”
Above: The concrete, sand, and grout combination are mixed with water until they’re “the consistency of a beauty mask.”
The mixture is poured like cake batter into the frame and then evenly troweled. The tricky part is smoothing out the concrete without displacing the tile fragments.
Above: The mixture is poured like cake batter into the frame and then evenly troweled. The tricky part is smoothing out the concrete without displacing the tile fragments.
After the top is fully dry—it takes about three days—the MDF panels on the side are removed, and the top is turned over to reveal the terrazzo effect. For a smooth finish, use a fine-grit sandpaper. Hélène and Julien left theirs as is, but note you can also add varnish, if desired.
Above: After the top is fully dry—it takes about three days—the MDF panels on the side are removed, and the top is turned over to reveal the terrazzo effect. For a smooth finish, use a fine-grit sandpaper. Hélène and Julien left theirs as is, but note you can also add varnish, if desired.

The Finished Look

The designers admit the project takes some doing, “but to have a homemade terrazzo effect, it’s worth it, no?”
Above: The designers admit the project takes some doing, “but to have a homemade terrazzo effect, it’s worth it, no?”

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