With sustainability being a major movement and talking point within design, it is inevitable that we have embraced resources and materials with eco-friendly credentials that are free of chemical components. One of these said materials that I have particularly enjoyed witnessing designers explore is Cork wood. Sustainably harvested from the branches of a cork tree that naturally shed their bark every 9-10 years, Cork has many progressive attributes that cause it to be an ideal material for your interior.
Cork works well as a thermal and acoustic insulator and is also highly durable, absorbing pressure and ensuring it is suitable for areas in the home such as flooring or wall panelling. Cork has anti mould features and is impervious to rotting, as well as being resistant to acids, fuels and oils – this means the wood is habitually utilised within kitchens and for worktops.
Cork has traditionally been applied to walls or flooring within the home, but more recently designs have incorporated this wood within complex schemes such as lighting, furniture and even architecture. Cork House is a fantastic example of this, designed by Matthew Barnett Howland with Dido Milne and Oliver Wilton and shortlisted for this year’s 2019 RIBA Stirling prize. This home is exclusively built from sustainably sourced blocks of cork wood and timber. Grand pyramids emerge from the ground and the inside is just as striking as the outside with no finishes or treatments applied to the wood, instead it is left in a natural and unaffected state. Cork house is supposedly a reaction to the design industry, in particular, architecture that has previously relied profoundly on single use materials that contribute to increasing greenhouse gas emissions. A socially conscious design that does not comprise within its splendour or magnificence.
Cork is easily moulded and shaped due to strong but buoyant properties, resulting in a variety of very unique designs and styles of furniture. A lightweight material that works best with no stain application, simply sanding and sealing the cork shows off the raw and exquisite substance. Cork wood is a relatively inexpensive material however can be designed to create the ‘look’ of high-end design. The light coloured but rich texture feels cosy and welcoming and can add warmth to your home and interior space. In the extension of this London home designed by Nimtim Architects, they were able to showcase how well the organic state of cork teams with a pop of bright and lively colour. The minimal walls are complimented by the upbeat pink window frames and modern styling, concocting a space that feels alluring, contemporary and distinctive.