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JM Lifestyles – Cast In Stone

Writer Marirose Krall

Artisan Justin brings precision to his work.

Michelle Radley in her atelier.

NJ Creators is the story of New Jersey business owners who aren’t afraid to, literally, get their hands dirty. They’re the artisans who make home décor products; the originators who produce something from nothing; the stewards of age-old craftsmanship. Here at Design NJ, we’ve been privileged to observe up close both the crafters at work and the one-of-a-kind results of their labors. Now we’re taking you behind the curtain and into the workroom; join us as we witness the power of the Creators.


Michelle Radley’s background offered little hint of the career that was to come. “I came from product development and banking,” she says. Still, Radley, an owner of JM Lifestyles, had an interest in creating artistic pieces that had functional use in the home. The company, which is co-owned by Jeff Kudrick, specializes in concrete design and produces countertops, tables, seating and a variety of other high-style home furnishings. Kudrick’s background is diverse. “He’s half artist, half engineer,” Radley says. Together, the two have built a company that creates “functional, sustainable art using concrete as a medium.”

It’s a process they’re passionate about. Radley is inspired by the idea of seeing a project through from conception to completion. “It’s satisfying to see a piece go from merely an idea to actualizing it,” she says. Kudrick has a particular affinity for this medium. “He’s always liked concrete because it’s so malleable. You can make anything with it.”

You can, in fact, make something that looks completely different from concrete. JM Lifestyles is the inventor of WoodForm Concrete®, a sustainable concrete composite that has the look and feel of wood.

Artisan Abel working on a piece.

It came about, as many inventions do, from trial and error.

“We’re always playing with different textures, colors and ways to show concrete,” Radley explains.

They discovered that “concrete can take very fine detail. If I can cast my hand on concrete and get a handprint, we can cast on a piece of wood.”

The result is stone pieces that look remarkably like the wood they’re imitating. The process, according to Radley, involves “taking a template or a drawing of whatever we’re going to make. We make a mold, spray concrete into the mold, take it out for finishing, refine any details, then stain and seal it.” The end product is not just beautiful, it’s also environmentally sound; it comprises 50% recycled content. “We don’t have to cut down trees, there’s zero waste.”

Artisans Trevor, Roberto and Lee at work

Since the late aughts when WoodForm was invented, the workroom process has been refined and enhanced. “It used to be a couple of people, each making entire pieces,” Radley says. “Now we have departments that make each part.”

 

Artisan Fernando painting a final coat.

Though you won’t often find Radley wielding a spray gun these days—her role as owner of a growing company has left little time for hands-on fabrication—she is a constant presence in the atelier, overseeing a team of 40 artisans who create custom pieces for discerning clientele.

“We’ve perfected it, we have people come from all over the world for it.”

 

The final product. Wood-look concrete is a stylish, sturdy addition to any kitchen.