Terrazzo: The Forgotten Flooring Material is Back, and Better than Ever

Terrazzo: The Forgotten Flooring Material is Back, and Better than Ever

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Nancy Mitchell
Jun 23, 2017
(Image credit: Divisare)

The wheel of design is always turning, and at no time is this more delightful than when something you remember from your childhood as being particularly dowdy is suddenly the height of chic. My mother's sandals and culottes are suddenly for sale at Urban Outfitters, and similarly, the floors of my parents' house are the hottest new thing in design. Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to terrazzo.

You probably remember this stuff from the floors of a school or government building conceived sometime in the 70s. It's a very hard, stone-like material, with those telltale chips embedded in the matrix. Terrazzo actually has a very long history — examples have been found as far back as 9,000 B.C.

(Image credit: Divisare)

It's currently viewed as a bit of a luxury finish, but modern terrazzo was actually created as a budget-friendly, DIY material. Venetian construction workers, looking for a low-cost way to surface the terraces surrounding their homes, set broken bits of marble into clay, and then ground down the resulting surface with stones until it was smooth. The name they gave this finish — terrazzo — is also the Italian word for terrace.

(Image credit: Obumex)

These days terrazzo is made with chips of marble, quartz, granite, or even glass set into a matrix of concrete or epoxy resin. The chips can actually be quite large, and the matrix and the aggregate can be almost any color you can imagine, which makes for a myriad of design possibilities.

(Image credit: Modern Times)

Here's a detail of a coffee table with a terrazzo top inlaid with marble, quartz, and granite. In this case, the pieces of stone laid into the concrete are quite large, producing a patchwork effect. Image from Modern Times.