My instinct, on walking onto the Castelatto stand at Revestir, was to make some smart-arse comment like “Impressive intumescence, senor!” Thankfully I have enough trouble being understood in Brazil as it is, so I restrained myself. Instead, here’s a bit of a preamble, and then it’s on with the tiles.
Just in case you haven’t read about it recently, shou sugi ban is the art of preserving and finishing wood using fire. The technique originated in Japan in the 18th century as way to treat wooden cladding to make it weatherproof. Today shou sugi ban – which involves charring a wood surface to a deep charcoal-black – has become very fashionable in contemporary architecture, and also for interior and exterior furniture. This is hardly surprising as the resultant surface is dramatic and full of character, while also complementing today’s on-trend grey palette to absolute perfection.
However, like many things Japanese, such apparent simplicity is very hard to achieve. Firstly, it is vital to start with the correct timber. Prime quality cedar, basswood, hemlock, maple, or oak can all be used. The wood is then charred using a blowtorch, until the fire starts to eat into the wood and causes it to separate like a log in an open fireplace. To get a perfect and evenly charred surface requires both practice and patience. Once charred, the planks are cleaned using a wire brush, working in the direction of the grain. This reveals the charred surface in all its beauty, but also opens up the wood, making it more porous. So many users then treat the surface with either a varnish or several coats of oil. Some even ‘seal’ in the oil with a final application of the blowtorch. So, while it may look great, this is not a finish easily or cheaply achieved. Furthermore, while indoor furniture should require very little maintenance, outdoor furniture needs to be re-oiled on a regular basis.
Or else you can turn to Castelatto. This company’s new Shou Sugi Ban range is one of the undoubted stars at Revestir 2018: in fact, it is one of most impressive ranges I’ve seen anywhere in years. This concrete tile, 200 by 1,000 by 20mm, absolutely captures the texture, tone and variety of the real thing. It is, quite simply, stunning: another in a long line of great designs from this company.
A new post by Joe Simpson, Diary of a Tile Addict, March 2018.