In 2015 the birth of Notation was inspired by three friends and their innate desire to create something with their hands. Who would have thought that a single bag of cement would turn playing around into actually producing bespoke hand cast products? We went from dreaming up furniture designs to giving them life. In 2018 I started experimenting with terrazzo and fell in love with the endless possibilities it came with. 

Terrazzo itself has been around for hundreds of years and at the time was making a huge come-back in the design world. It originated in Italy where stonemasons would use old scraps of marble in their own floors. Floors were originally hand polished and as the trend became more popular it became an extremely exclusive material due to the cost and labour involved in making it. Anyone who was around in the 70’s in South Africa will know terrazzo – think post-office floors, or government buildings with the brown, yellow and beige terrazzo floors. Many of these are still around today, speaking to the durability of terrazzo in even the toughest environments.

The current iteration of the terrazzo trend is taking terrazzo to a whole new level. With advancements in technology and in the understanding of cement technology we can now produce amazing precast terrazzo instead of just in-situ (cast in place) flooring like in the past. This also allows us to make casts with large and chunky pieces, not only the small speckle terrazzo from the past. 

Notation specializes in precast terrazzo. We have developed a very specific cement mix that allows us to cast slabs, tiles and almost any shape terrazzo with much larger sized aggregates than what was used in traditional terrazzo. The process of making terrazzo, which seems simple – mix concrete, let it dry, grind to reveal stones – is incredibly complex and has taken us years to ‘perfect’. And we are still learning!

Unlike surfaces like marble, granite or engineered quartz that can be taken off a shelf, cut and installed, terrazzo is made from scratch. The manufacturing process is time consuming as we build all our own moulds, calculate exact quantities of raw materials for each mix, mix and pour each piece individually and then start the curing process. The curing process is unforgiving and it requires a combination of accurate timing and precision before you can  grind and polish. 

The most exciting part of the process has to be the first grind. Grinding away the top layer of the solid concrete to reveal how the stones have fallen in the mix, what the colour looks like, what the stones are hiding inside. Because our product is a natural product made by hand from stones, sand and cement, every piece is unique and therefore beautiful. 

We have no large computer guided grinding or polishing machines, so pieces are not perfectly calibrated and can’t be compared to other engineered surfaces that will be exactly the same every single time they are produced. But that is the charm of Terrazzo.  

The incredible beauty you see every time you sit down with Terrazzo is hard to beat. I still find new stones that have amazing colours, or shapes or patterns in surfaces that have been in our space for a few years already. You wouldn’t believe how often I am taking photos of individual stones in an existing surface that had just caught my eye. 

Terrazzo is really fun and limitless, although some products need to be bought as a complete piece, you can use one piece of terrazzo to completely change the aesthetic of any room. If one has an old coffee table that can use a reinvention, they can create their own modern top to fit the existing base, side tables, back splash for kitchens – terrazzo is very versatile and immediately offers that upgrade to a room. 

What are some areas of the house where one could add a splash of terrazzo? 

Terrazzo can be used in virtually any space in a home. It is very durable and can withstand water, humidity and the great outdoors. Side tables, occasional side tables or feature coffee tables make a great statement piece. We are seeing clients using Terrazzo for kitchen Islands, for walls and floors and even extending this through to the patio flooring. 

Our most popular products are our round nesting tables. Which can also be produced with a stainless-steel base so that they are suited for fully outdoor areas. Terrazzo’s durability makes it easily one of the most exciting trends. 

Some of our favourite colours / stones to mix

Our favourite surface is called uMshwathi Mist, and is made by mixing the most beautiful variety of greys, pinks and even sometimes a hint of green.  This colourway is great for longevity as well, because even though it is an overall grey and neutral colour, it has so many other colours within the stones that can be highlighted with different accessories over time. 

The best way to care for a terrazzo product 

Terrazzo is very durable and is easy to maintain. It can be cleaned like any normal kitchen surface and even spot treated with bleach for harsh stains. A terrazzo product is truly lifelong as even if it starts to show wear over many years it can be repolished and resealed and brought back to new. 

What is a small way our readers can hop onto this trend and introduce it to their homes?

Accessories like candle holders, coasters planters for indoor and outdoor plant parents, side tables and even stationary holders are fantastic and simple additions to your desired room, and offer you that ’on-trend’ aesthetic taking modern design by storm! 

By Notation owners: Jenny and Colin Armour

Instagram: @notationdesign