Photography by Jason Stephens
Riko Ramos has made a name for himself in the home renovation and interior design industry by creating beautiful and functional works of art.
Lakelander Riko Ramos’ inspiring professional story – from corporate burnout to building a decorative concrete business that’s absolutely on fire – is perhaps overshadowed only by the stunning work he produces on concrete floors, countertops, and walls. No Boring Concrete’s beautiful and functional surfaces have been featured on HGTV and span backyard patios to enormous commercial applications. We caught up with this talented Lakelander Maker recently (on a Jobsite, of course!).
The Lakelander: What’s your entrepreneurial story?
Riko Ramos: Until about twelve years ago, I worked in the corporate world in New York – in sales and marketing – and just got burned out. I didn’t realize burnout was a common thing – I just felt like I’d failed and let everyone down. But then, a former coworker told me that her boyfriend – a remodeler and house-flipper – needed help. She recommended me to him with the understanding that I could do that type of work until I got my resume out and found another job. At that point, I hadn’t done any kind of construction work. But I was a quick learner, and soon I was flipping homes myself. When the Great Recession hit, I began my own remodeling business.
One day I got a call from a person who asked if I could do decorative concrete. I said, “Sure!” but I wasn’t sure – so I had to figure it out quickly! As I did so, I became intrigued with it. Then I landed a big job and started installing decorative concrete in hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, even a fashion show runway for fashion week.
Then about eight years ago, my wife and I had twin girls, and we decided to move back here to Lakeland, where our family lives. I had to start all over – I did odds and ends jobs at night while building my decorative concrete business during the day. It’s been a lot of hard work, of course. But now, I’ve completed twelve episodes and two seasons on HGTV DIY Network. We’re also doing all of the outdoor countertops for the Lucas Lagoons Insane Pools TV show, and not that long ago, I was a Walmart distribution center employee, but right now, I’m talking to you outside; a Walmart distribution center on my own job site! So it’s just blown up, and I’m just grateful.
“Then I landed a big job and started installing decorative concrete in hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, even a fashion show runway for fashion week.”
TL: Were you creative growing up? What’s the inspiration for your work?
RR: I’ve always loved design. When my wife and I travel, we visit the affluent neighborhoods not because we’re enamored of the idea of a big, fancy house but because we are inspired by modern elements, the combinations of different textures and materials that you don’t always see, the lighting, the landscaping. My wife has an excellent eye for design; when I was flipping houses, she staged homes to make them look great.
I’m also inspired by hip-hop music, combined with fashion, design, home décor, and architecture – I was always intrigued by these things but didn’t know how to do any of them! When I learned decorative concrete, I saw many opportunities to apply these interests. It was inspiring to me, whether it was epoxy, concrete, or a combination with elements like wood, metal, or plastic. Sometimes I don’t think of what I do as artistic – maybe because I don’t paint or draw, for instance – but others have pointed out that it is creative and artistic and concrete is just my medium – so I’ll take it!
What do you love about the unusual combination of functional and artistic in your work?
Well, it’s interesting you bring that up because I’ve felt like I’ve been trying to create my own lane for a while! It seems I’m too “artsy” for the construction world and too “construction-y” for the art world.
What I’ve finally realized is that I offer functional art. It’s artistic and creative, but often you can literally live on it daily – an epoxy floor, for instance, or a custom dining table. You can touch it, drive on it – it’s not a delicate piece that’s framed or behind glass and can’t be used for another purpose.
TL: How have Lakelanders Supported the Growth of No Boring Concrete?
RR: At first, I found Central Florida wasn’t as interested in decorative concrete as metropolitan New York. I heard the generalized question, “Why does concrete need to be decorative – why can’t it be plain grey?” It wasn’t clear why someone would want to dress up plain concrete. So I sought jobs more in Tampa and Orlando, and even Miami.
But I made inroads by making decorative concrete practical. For example: demoing a slab and repouring it would be more expensive and invasive – sod, irrigation, permitting – than when I show up and resurface it, making it look new and decorative. And all I brought was a drill and a 5-gallon bucket! Now, we have expanded to the point where we will repour a slab if needed and install pavers, fireplaces, fire pits, outdoor living spaces, and water features – but often, we can simply resurface a floor or floor wall.
TL: What’s next for you and No Boring Concrete?
RR: We’ll be opening up a showroom on S. Florida in the plaza near Panera Bread in late Spring 2022. You’ll be able to see and feel our epoxy floors, outdoor fireplace features, floating concrete, indoor and outdoor kitchens – all the things we create. And we’ll have a small fabrication shop in the back.
TL: How can readers see your work?
RR: The most up-to-date pictures are videos on social media – Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube. I have tons of content ready to be uploaded, too.
I am so grateful for every job because I know people don’t necessarily need decorative concrete. I’m only as good as my last job, so I strive to deliver a quality product every time. I’m glad I get to wake up and do what I do.