I did a very dangerous thing this past month when pouring the ceiling for the master bedroom. No, it wasn’t that I poured 1,440 pounds of concrete over our bed. The danger wasn’t physical. Rather the risk was artistic. I inlayed, in concrete, on the bottom of the pour, where I could not see my results, a series of stones. If I got it wrong I would be living with the mistake for a long time to come – it’s set in concrete.
This past week we pulled the form work after having let the concrete cure for a bit over a month. That whole time I had the fear that it had not worked. Perhaps the stones had shifted in the wet concrete matrix. Maybe it was filled with gaps. Perhaps cement cream had slipped under my stones. Who knows what could have gone wrong. Maybe it even cracked – thus the long wait for curing.
When we finally pulled the last layer of form work off the results were spectacular! It worked! It was beautiful! Ooo-Ah! Our kids Ben, Will and Hope were very impressed. They had all helped with the ceiling pour but had not known that I was decorating the underside of the ceiling with inlaid stones.
Admittedly, I did practice about a dozen times on test tiles and a sink design before I tackled the real thing. I was pretty sure it would work but it was a bit of a nervous month…!
As an extra bonus surprise the flush inlaid stones across the ceiling have meaning. Look closely and see if you can see the forms in the stone. Down at the bottom of this post I’ll list them. There are hints in the text below. The view above is looking up from next to our bed. On the right side of the photo is the brick archway to the commons room.
So why take this chance just for the sake of art? Well, I confess there was an ulterior problem motivating me. When designing the form work for the ceiling pour I ran into a little issue. The foam sheets, and every other material I could find, were too small to make a one piece form. This meant there would be a joint. I came up with all sorts of schemes such as stepping the ceiling, using a thick shrink wrap plastic sheet, etc to get a smooth form. All had problems. Finally, while sketching future stencil work for the front room I realize there was the solution! Stencil the joints. With a little more thought I realized I could take it one more step and inlay stones during the pour to hide the ceiling joint and thus the parade began. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!
Going through my thinner pieces of salvaged granite and collected field stone I picked out potential ceiling pieces and sorted them by color and form. I narrowed the collection down to eight boxes of granite and quartz. Black, burgundy, purple, green, white, tan, red and field stones. Then I laid out a line on a 2×8 to represent the seam in the form work.
I began by simply making color patterns that waved back and forth, covering the seam line. Pretty soon the color groups evolved to patterns of shapes. Then I saw the dragonfly. One thing leads to another.
Once I had the design I wanted I photographed it and printed a copy to use as a reference while laying out the ceiling upside down and backwards along the real seam of the foam form work. Holly picked up each piece of stone in order, applied a very thin film of silicone glue to it and passed it up to me on the scaffolding. I then placed the stones in order following the design.
To make sure the stones sealed tightly to the foam I placed rocks and bricks on them to get good pressure.
I cleaned around the edges and inspected all the rocks. After allowing the silicone to cure overnight we poured the bedroom ceiling. The stones project up into the concrete matrix with their polished surfaces flush to the resulting ceiling below.
In the four corners of the room I placed chunks of black granite for accents.
Have you figured out the animals in the parade yet? Here’s looking from the commons room up through the bedroom arch at the ceiling. As Hope, in the picture above will tell you:
Of Tourse! It is…
a turtle chasing…
an alligator chasing…
a chicken chasing…
a dragonfly chasing…
And that is the view of our bedroom ceiling. As you may notice, the ceiling has a curve to it. The cottage is a house of many arches.
Outdoors: 35°F/12°F Mostly Sunny
Farm House: 65°F/51°F
Tiny Cottage: 55°F/52°F