Sleepy Hollow home's kitchen really rocks
Actually, it's cement

July 24, 2009
By JANELLE WALKER For The Courier-News

SLEEPY HOLLOW — When Dale Thalman asked her brother-in-law what color she should re-paint her dated kitchen, little did she, or he, know that she'd get a complete renovation.

What the Thalman family kitchen got, thanks to the help of her husband's brother, Bruce Thalman, and several friends and volunteers, is a custom, eco-friendly, and completely unusual design. Her peninsula, backsplash and walls are now encased in what looks like the same stone her fireplace is made of. The door lintels now appear to be made of rough hewn wood beams, and floor has stone work and beams, too. However, all of the wood and stone is really concrete, carved and colored by hand to look like the real thing.
» Click to enlarge image
Chicago-area native Bruce Thalman, of New York City, discusses faux stone work using concrete that he is applying at a relative's house in Sleepy Hollow. The kitchen walls are created with the concrete, sculpted and faux pas painted to simulate real rock.
(Michael Smart/Staff Photographer)

» Click to enlarge image
Designer Bruce Thalman faux pas paints a concrete floor designed to simulate rock Wednesday at the Sleepy Hollow home of his brother and sister-in-law Dale Thalman (right).
(Michael Smart/Staff Photographer)

"I decided I wanted to paint my cabinets and put in a new floor," Dale said.

Her house, part of the Headless Horseman property on Sleepy Hollow Road, dates from the 1800s but has had several additions since then.

The kitchen went from re-paint to renovate due to some unlikely help.

Bruce Thalman came in from New York for what was supposed to be a week's stay to help with the kitchen but ended up taking a class on vertical concrete applications, too. When the class was done, the instructor, its students and some friends showed up to help redo the entire room.

In the application, the concrete is mixed to the consistency of peanut butter and tossed onto the walls where it sticks. The concrete is cut, textured and colored on the walls and on the floor.

Bruce, who works with faux finishes as a designer, had some ideas based on a job he's getting ready for in North Carolina. But, once in the Chicago area, he discovered a class on vertical cement at the Chicago Institute of Fine Finishing in Carol Stream, put on by Nathan Giffin. The two had met at an expo in New Jersey the year before and Bruce was enthralled by his work.

"We were going to work on the kitchen at night, and I'd go to the class during the day," Bruce said.

On the last day of class, he asked Giffin if they could hire him to do the vertical concrete in the Thalman's kitchen, then asked the two other students if they wanted some practical experience.

Bruce also hooked up with Elgin's Sigi Psimenos. The two had met on an Internet forum for artists. She agreed to help, too, even feeding the workers.

"When he called from New York and said, 'I know you're busy with the Rain Barrels in Elgin, but can you get the Chicago Crew together,' I dropped everything and made some calls," Psimenos said, referring to the "Rain Barrels on Parade" even sponsored this summer by Gail Borden Library.

Everyone showed up to help on July 13. And everyone was invited back on Saturday night to celebrate the completion, too.

While the application of concrete is new, Bruce was more impressed by the eco-friendly nature of the project.

"First, we did not have to kill a tree" for any of the remodel, he said.

They used the same cabinets, and laid the concrete directly over the existing woodwork.

"We didn't have to remove or dispose of anything. This went directly on the drywall and studs," Bruce explained.

And, by having three inches of concrete on the walls, the room's thermal quality "is nuts," Bruce said.

The vertical concrete is also local, coming from a Lamont-based company, Speco.

For more information on vertical concrete, go to

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PIcs?? where's the pics?

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