fineCONCRETE by elbwrm
Alexander Kitchin and Nicole Sherman of elbwrm
If you think sidewalk when you hear concrete, Charlottesville’s fineCONCRETE by elbwrm will surprise you both in its peculiar moniker and in the extraordinary residential and commercial custom concrete furniture and surfaces they produce.
Run by partners Alexander Kitchin and Nicole Sherman, fineCONCRETE is one facet of elbwrm, a design, research and fabrication studio, which occupies a basement atelier on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. The pair craft pieces with curves and shapes that would be impossible with any other material. Because concrete is cast, it’s incredibly versatile, and ideal for bathtubs and sinks since it needs no joints or seams.
“What we like about concrete is the spatial and tactile qualities that make it seductive and timeless,” says Kitchin, “but also that the making of it embraces natural materials, cutting edge chemistry, and both the handmade and digital fabrication. We like to think of our studio as where the artist meets the scientist.”
A graduate of UVA and Southern California Institute of Architecture’s (SCI-Arc) graduate program and currently an adjunct faculty member at UVA’s School of Architecture, Kitchin has been using fine concrete in his designs for nearly 20 years. An author and jewelry designer, Sherman’s work has exhibited in numerous galleries and stores on the East Coast. Design is in her family: Her father was an award-winning architect and her husband, William Sherman, is on the faculty of the UVA School of Architecture.
Kitchin’s design philosophy is based in an organic response to everyday living. The name elbwrm (‘elbowroom’ sans the ‘o’s) references the most basic process of creating space as needed, so each fineCONCRETE design is practical as it is sensuous and tactile. And the medium itself is versatile: It can look both contemporary and ancient, with a wide variety of colors (from the most popular charcoal gray to terra cotta, dark green and rich blue), finishes (from high gloss to a soft sheen) and other add-ons like fiber optics and glass shards that can be incorporated into the concrete. They use sketches, full-scale mockups and computer modeling to develop innovative forms which, after casting, processing and finishing, have the durability of a sidewalk and the appearance and feel of smooth stone.
Comparable in cost to granite, the turnaround time from design to installation is about two weeks. Designs start at $600 for a small sink or table, and bathtubs, fireplaces and other furniture are priced individually.
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