02/19/2013 04:48 EST | Updated 04/21/2013 05:12 EDT

Breaking Design Ground: Cement Isn't Just for Sidewalks Anymore

Hi everyone, I'm Terri Higgins and I'm the Group Manager for the Calgary Home + Garden Show. In my job I am constantly seeing designers push creative boundaries with fantastic results. I truly believe one of the greatest talents a designer can hold is the ability to add new perspective to everyday items and materials. My guest today can take a material we often only think of as an industrial construction mainstay and turn it into stunning pieces of furniture. Justin Brown specializes in concrete design, and along with his team at 2Stone Designer Concrete, is "Making Art Work" and reshaping how we look at this versatile and surprising material.

Justin's unique ability to revamp otherwise boring materials can also be seen at the Calgary Home + Garden Show's Pallet Design Competition, where he reconstructed shipping pallets into a functional and appealing interior design treasure. His piece, along with the other finished pallet designs, will be auctioned off at the show with the proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish® Foundation of Southern Alberta.

Here is what Justin has to say about his unique design esthetic.

1. How did you get started in concrete design?

While doing tile work one day I was asked by a contractor if I knew anything about "that concrete stuff." I didn't. I ended up looking it up online and two weeks later was on a plane bound to San Francisco to learn more.

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Concrete Designs By Justin Brown

2. What inspires you when creating your designs?

Mostly, I try to scare my former self. I try to do things that make me uncomfortable. Do things that I wouldn't have thought possible. Because I'm not just a designer, I'm not just trying to make nice things. I'm also the man behind the gun; the designer and the technician, so there are two personalities to satisfy in my design process. I think having these two roles in the same brain really makes for a more fluid final product because nothing is lost in translation when determining whether or not an idea is in fact buildable. That being said, I don't make things crazy just to be crazy. In a lot of my work, I'm aiming for a subtle beauty.

3. What's the best advice (creative or business-related) that you've ever been given?

"You have to shovel the s**t before you can drive the tractor." - Douglas Cuppen

4. What are your design pet peeves?

I have a few. I believe in honest materials, so my pet peeve is making concrete look like anything other than concrete. Actually, this is a general pet peeve. If you want something to look like rocks - use rocks instead of painted foam. If you want something to look like wood - use wood instead of plastic. Faux has got to go!

Don't overdo it. Overdoing it looks weak. Be precise and confident in the details and leave it.

Finally, it's not about symmetry, it's about balance. If you make everything symmetrical, you've wasted half your space.

5. How would you describe your signature style?

I use good, honest materials that are well-proportioned, well made and truly functional.

6. Can you describe one of your favourite design projects you worked on?

Probably the one I plan on debuting at the Calgary Home + Garden Show ;)

7. What tips would you give to someone thinking about utilizing concrete design in their home?

Don't just think counter tops. Use it somewhere else instead. If you're just going to put some slabs on the cabinets then you're not taping into concrete's true potential. There are many materials that can do that and honestly, do it better. Think integral sinks, patterned back splashes, wall panels, furniture, shower pans, lighting, etc. This industry has come so far in the last five years; it's not just about heavy 2D concrete anymore, it's about adding an architectural element to your home. Be brave!

8. Social media handles:





2Stone will be launching their most exciting project yet at the Calgary Home + Garden Show, which will be on display at booth #1811 from February 28 - March 3, 2013.

I'll be interviewing many more design experts, so keep checking back for insider advice and visit the Calgary Home + Garden Show website for any additional information: