When Moni and Tom DuBois decided to spruce up the old, boring kitchen of their new house in Ashland, they envisioned a countertop that would be unique and artsy, but it also had to be tough, affordable and environmentally responsible.
The answer, says Moni, was Glasscrete, a newly developed material made in Cave Junction that invites artistry, yet is tough, attractive, doesn't break the bank and is made of recycled glass. To the green-minded homeowner, the fact that it's locally made is a big plus because fewer fossil fuels are required to transport it, so it has a smaller carbon footprint.
Glasscrete Studios owners Shahoma McAlister and Prasad Boudreaux get their raw materials from our regional recycling bins. They choose the most colorful glass, break it up into small pieces, set them decoratively into forms, then pour on Calcium SulfoAluminate cement, a material so tough it's used for freeway and runway repairs.
The couple like to consult with homeowners, and they'll design custom counters in favorite shapes, using any glass — leftovers from stained-glass work, baubles that ordinarily go in aquariums, even a broken-up family glass heirloom.
When the counter sets, they grind and polish it, then install it in your kitchen. Using the same process, they can also make basins, backsplashes, islands, vanity tops, window sills and tub surrounds.
In redesigning their kitchen, the DuBoises decided that gutting it and putting in all new stuff would not only be expensive, it would also be wasteful. They did install some new items, such as new doors on their cabinets, and they replaced the old fluorescent light fixture with a deep light well. They faux-painted and stenciled the walls with playful shapes using paint containing no volatile organic compounds. They made the counter — laced with spirals and hearts — the centerpiece of their new kitchen.
"Everything I did was easy on the pocketbook," says Moni DuBois, who, with her husband, owns Grilla Bites in Ashland. "I tried to be ecologically conscious and not rip it all up and have everything new. And when I found Glasscrete, I thought, wow, local people are doing this, and it's really beautiful."
DuBois also wanted to avoid the usual straight lines of counters, so her island, extending off the counter, is rounded with organic curves. Even the backsplash wanders according to some unseen will. One aquarium bauble has the word "gratitude" visible in it.
"It's a piece of art," says DuBois, "and when people come in here, they notice the effect and say 'Wow, what a great counter.' It's not a lot of money when you think how many people have an experience with it."
"Most of our clients are artists in their own right," says Boudreaux. "About one in 10 come and help us arrange things, like heart-shaped stones or heirlooms they want in their counter."
The cement, which forms 15 percent of the mixture, ends up creamy, smooth and textureless. It comes in an array of colors, including light blue, sage, green, chocolate spice, beach, mocha, slate gray and granite red.
Especially eye-catching are the greens from bottles of ginger beer and the deep blues of glass from Bridgeview Winery in Cave Junction, says Boudreaux.
The couple started making Glasscrete five years ago, though they have been involved in green building for years, Boudreaux says.
Glasscrete counters cost about $75 a square foot, with the average kitchen falling in the $2,000 to $4,000 range, installed, says McAlister. This places it in the low end of the range for natural stone and engineered surfaces, according to a Good Housekeeping Web site.
The material wears like stone, with extreme resistance to burns, stains and scratches — and the busy patterns will usually mask such accidents, notes McAlister.
"The uniqueness of the countertops is how we can customize colors and highlights," she says. "It turns waste products into beautiful, functional art for the home."
For information: www.glasscretestudios.com or 541-592-2151.