New Uses for Concrete Partner Website

Cliffhangers, Inc., Innovates applications for versatile and sustainable concrete

Concrete is an ideal medium for artistic experimentation and the application of functional and decorative elements. Local artisan, craftsman and owner of Cliffhangers, Inc., Jon Nasvik, has spent his career exploring the potential of concrete, and he especially enjoys innovating new uses for this versatile material.

The Wood River Valley holds numerous examples of Cliffhangers’ work. Others can be found in the Mall of America in Minneapolis, the Grand Wailea Hotel on Maui, the Tropical Forrest Pavilion at Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, and the Dan Hotel in Eilat, Israel. Yellowstone and Mt. Rainier National Parks have miles of naturalistic simulated stone masonry. Most recently and in his own home, Jon Nasvik has reached to new levels of application and artistry.

Western Home Journal talks to Jon Nasvik about the tragedy of losing his family’s long-time log home north of Hailey and his decision to rebuild.

WHJ: How did it come about that you chose to build this home? In February 2008, my home was totally destroyed by fire. Fortunately, my family and I were safe. Although losing our home truly was a tragedy for us, it also became an opportunity for my company to express the diverse and aesthetic uses of concrete.

WHJ: How and why did you come to be interested in concrete as a material for your new home?
I’ve been involved in the decorative concrete industry since 1966. My company, Cliffhangers, Inc., has specialized in decorative concrete in the Wood River area since 1991. So much has been learned along the way, it only made sense to put concrete on the table as the primary building product. I wanted to experiment with ideas I’ve never seen before, as well as with techniques to improve durability. Ultimately, I hoped it might become something of an example for sustainable building elsewhere. The challenge isn’t so much what you can do with it, just how you use it. That is why the opportunity to rebuild my home in concrete was so appealing.

Other than the fact that concrete is a durable, low maintenance, relatively inexpensive, locally available, ultimately green, and a highly adaptable building material, there was one other reason why I chose it as the #1 building material for my home: It doesn’t burn.

WHJ: Is there a down side to concrete? Making good choices with it is the difficult part. Concrete “white elephants” can be difficult and expensive to eliminate.

WHJ: How did you use concrete in your home? Interior and exterior wall panels, floors, counter-tops, sinks, tubs, showers, door panels, fireplace, driveways, outdoor furniture, waterfalls and other landscaping features were all created with concrete for our new home.
The challenge for the use of concrete as a building material is deciding how to use it. Since 1966, I’ve been working with customers to build an inventory of new and different uses for concrete that now seems endless because concrete begins as a liquid, can assume the shape, color, and texture of almost anything and then solidifies rock-like. It can last for centuries.

WHJ: What are the reactions to what you have built? Reading this, you might think: too much concrete. Certainly there were concerns in the design stage about this, but the responses so far say otherwise. Concrete doesn’t have to appear cold and austere. I think its reputation comes from how it has been used, not by how it can be.

WHJ: What have you learned, and where do you think it will take you? It’s been said that concrete workers are set in their ways. As the owner of Cliffhangers, Inc., I confess that I’m guilty. But, not completely guilty, because there is always something new to learn from it, and I’m always seeking some new way to use it.
Cliffhangers, Inc. tries to assume an aesthetic approach to the more innovative uses of concrete. We bring experience, inventive ideas, and a willingness to try almost anything to the table. Even if concrete is a material that has been used for the past two- thousand years, we like to think of it as something new and different.

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