Shiny steel in modern kitchens isn’t unusual anymore, but its use in decorating contemporary homes, restaurants, hotels and shopping boutiques puts them in a whole new light. Sapna Srivastava reports on the different forms of steel and their innovative applications in au courant interiors.
When it comes to buildings, steel offers versatility that is hard to find in other materials. The visually attractive metal requires minimal maintenance in its many applications which till recently ranged from roofing, balustrades and handrails to steel doors, gates and fencing. Foraying into the exciting world of interiors, the steel can now be seen as an attractive wall cladding, bathroom tiles, ceiling panels, flooring & staircase treads and stylish furniture to name a few. Confirming the trend of stainless steel in interiors Mukesh Shah, Managing Director, Naman Steel says, “The material is being used by designers in building interior, shopping malls, hotels and elevator units as it is strong, durable, fire safe and does not require maintenance.
The new radical designs & finishes in steel that are impressive improvements over earlier products and its easy fabrication in any shape & degree curvature have also contributed to its recent popularity. Stainless steel today is available in different colours (Ti Coating), textures, embossed patterns and etched designs as per choice & requirement.”
Interior designers use many types of steel with varying strengths and anti-corrosive properties depending upon the amount of carbon content in them and their additives or mixtures. The two primary forms employed are mild steel and stainless steel. Mild steel sheet for cladding and stainless steel for backsplashes and furniture tops are some of the prominent applications. Sheet steel is usually not more than 3mm thick and can be perforated to create a patterned effect such as a lattice or may be textured to form a pattern. The thicker steel sheets called plates in chequered or embossed finish offer an unusual effect as tread plates of a staircase in a home or as floor or shelving in a retail fashion store.
Conversely, for a polished metal look, No.8 super mirror stainless steel is the material of choice. Stainless steel made by adding chrome to the steel mix is available in various grades and colours. The colour of stainless steel is prepared by having a minimum of 13% iron in them and then by immersing in hot solutions of chromic and sulphuric acids. As per Steel Color S.P.A, Italy, manufacturers of stainless steel products, “The advanced technology used in the treatment of stainless steel surfaces includes various stages often overlapping. The electro-coloured stainless steel not only gives outstanding aesthetic quality, but it also maintains the essential characteristics of stainless steel material. It is resistant to corrosion and can be worked, such as bending and cutting. We use patented I.N.C.O system to ensure ideal texture and brilliance for interference colouring.”
What’s more, both mild steel and stainless steel can be etched to offer personalized designs such as a company logo. The etching methods include , chemical etching that relies on an acidic solution, stamping and punching which employs hardened steel tools, plasma, laser and water jet cutting that utilizes directed energy to shape parts and, wire EDM which uses a wire electrode to dissolve unwanted metal and shape metal parts. Another product brushed stainless steel 1/4” thick tiles manufactured from 22 gauge steel sheet and bonded to a high density backing material like cork, hardboard or cement board are non-toxic, fire retardant, prevent noise and resist moisture and mildew. These stainless tiles are used for table tops, wall coverings, bath tiles or as kitchen backsplashes.
Some other finishes include hairline, cloud and vibration finish. For a diamond-head ground hairline surface finish, the process polishes on stainless steel sheet hairlines in one or more directions that, by controlling length and angles, produce a huge variety of 3D effects. The cloud finish is a special pattern that resembles clouds with indistinct, irregular, non-directional and multi-layered swirls. When combined with mirror polished stainless steel sheet, it can provide an array of custom designs. Somewhat similar to cloud finish is vibration finish comprising a dense array of thin, non-directional scratches on the mirror finish stainless sheet which produces a variety of patterns. In addition, hairline, cloud, and vibration finishes can be combined with each other or with etching and coloring processes to provide endless designs & patterns.
Talking about the innovative designs and decorative stainless steel sheets, Shah adds, “Interiors & furniture is one of the fastest growing markets for 3D art, etched, texture or coloured steel sheets, mainly due to aesthetics & durability. Stainless has as everlasting shiny appearance, is anti termite and will not chip, tarnish, fade or crack. Considering the life span of stainless, it is the least expensive option compared to other products and one of the important reasons for application in interior designing in particular and building construction in general. Apart from various decorative finishes in stainless sheets & tiles, our products are available either in Ion color coating of gold, brass, rose & black or in chemical colour coating of yellow, bronze and dark blue colors.”
Following the international trend, India designers are exploiting stainless steel in coloured or textured finishes as decorative feature or as cladding in their projects. Steel furniture & accessories in artistic forms too is gaining popularity in luxe interiors.
Interior designers too agree that steel is a great material for creating modern interior which does not need additional attention carvers. For instance, Jonathon Worner, Design Director at Alloy Designs Pvt. Ltd., Australia has developed punched and solid stainless steel mosaic tiles, taking an innovative approach to traditional tiles. In addition, with industrial and minimalist interiors becoming popular brushed steel accessories like décor pieces and hardware is being added to complement the décor style. Also, as stainless steel interacts interestingly with wood it is increasingly being used by furniture designers in artistic combinations to create chic furniture pieces.
According to Arttdinox, company that provides luxurious stainless steel lifestyle home products, stainless steel has made a strong comeback in Indian interiors market. In sync with the western trend where steel is looked upon as an up market material, Indian designers too are creating steel artifacts, furniture and other products to cater to modern sensibilities. The environmental qualities of stainless steel are its 100% recyclability and manufacturing that utilizes 50-80% of used scrap material.
A remarkable use of steel can be seen in the interiors of Steel Bar and Grill restaurant in Sydney created by designer Michael McCann. The interior has been conceived as a one-of-a-kind “steel” inspired atmospheres. The object was to use stainless steel in a warm, rich and inviting manner, challenging the common perception of the material as cold and sterile.
The blend of polished stainless steel mesh and tiles, silver-gray timber, sandstone, glass and polished concrete walls proves to create quite the cozy environment. McCann has broken up the large internal area by using steel mesh cages framed in reflective, highly polished stainless steel tiles for intimate dining experience. In addition, the steel mesh ‘curtains’ draped like a fabric as visual dividers across the floor offer a shimmering effect. The planes of mesh filter sight lines and create distinct sectors in the otherwise open main floor to offer.
The innovative use of warm halogen lighting offers a gentle ambient haze that brings out molten tones of steel and makes the steel mesh, planes and angles seem to gleam and dissolve. The designer was intent on ensuring that every diner would enjoy an interesting view, wherever they were seated. The open kitchen custom designed contoured bulk-head, sandstone-fronted bar, the wine display backed with custom-patterned glass and the steel wall that holds wood to feed the oven reflect this desire to engage and indulge the patrons. Even the bathrooms live up to the restaurant’s name, clad in stainless steel mosaics on every surface.