Material Spotlight: CORK

Hands up, who knew cork was so amazing?! Whilst it might conjure up memories of the 1970s for some, over the years it’s been given a fresh facelift and repurposed in such inventive, creative ways that this article is about celebrating the wonder that is cork.

First things first. The material itself is incredible. Why? Because it’s extremely waterproof (despite what you might think!), it’s resistant to abrasion, it acts as a fire retardant AND it’s an acoustic insulator!

What’s even better is how it’s made: Most cork is grown in Portugal in forests of cork oak trees called “montados”. The process by which cork is made also could not be more sustainable. It is harvested by stripping the outer layer of skin off the tree with a small hatchet that then regrows in time for the next harvest. The cork is shredded and compressed at high temperatures, causing it to expand and the sap to melt to form a glue that binds it all together. Once cooled, it can be cut to measure ready to be put up as cladding. None of the harvested bark goes to waste in the process apart from the dust produced along the way, and that’s it - no added ingredients!

If you’re like us and are totally sold on cork already, let’s take you through some awesome examples of just how you can incorporate it into your home.

Image credit:  Megan Taylor

Image credit: Megan Taylor

Image credit:  Megan Taylor

Image credit: Megan Taylor

CLAD IT INSIDE AND OUT

We are completely in love with this project by nimtim architects who used cork to externally and internally clad the rear extension to a terrace house in South London. Not only does the cork complement the existing brickwork on the original house but the pop of pink on the window and door frames brings vitality and freshness to the whole design.

nimtim architects have a brilliant collaborative approach to making projects, and this project was a co-creation with the clients - a graphic designer and photography agent. “It’s important for us to create an outcome that everyone could feel a sense of pride and ownership in” - Allie Mackinnon, project runner.

"The cork offers so much as a building material," Mackinnon said. "It ticks all the boxes when it comes to thermal and acoustic performance but is also breathable, free from chemicals, synthetic resins and carcinogenic materials and creates a healthy environment inside the house."

If that wasn’t enough goodness, there is also the added benefit of cost savings. The cork cost approximately £35/m2 and was a saving of approximately £66/m2 if compared to the traditional internal wall build up (plasterboard, plastering, paint).

GET INSPIRED BY OTHER CORK PROJECTS

LAY IT ALL DOWN

If cladding your home in cork is a step too far, then consider cork as a great material for your flooring. It’s durable, easy to clean and easy to maintain and is a VERY budget friendly flooring finish.

It looks great in small spaces like bathrooms, with its natural warmth and texture, but also works in larger living spaces. Check out these projects below for some inspiration!

One of our favourite suppliers is the Colour Flooring Company who do a great collection of cork flooring, all for £44 per sq/m. See our top 3 favourites below:

PINPOINT A WALL

Some might claim that the concept of a “feature wall” has had its day, but we’d say there is definitely a place for a functional backdrop like in the images below. It’s a great choice for that study nook or the designated home office corner, and not just because you can use it as a giant pin-board; it can also be used in one area or on one wall to signify that this is a designated study area.

Image credit: Petra Bindel

Image credit: Petra Bindel

Image credit:  Nyde

Image credit: Nyde

Image credit:  Catlin Mills

Image credit: Catlin Mills

ADD A LITLE SOMETHING

We totally get that incorporating cork as a external cladding material or as an internal wall or floor finish to your home might feel like a big commitment, so we wanted to end this exploration by showing you just a small sample of the array of products that have been developed with cork.

It demonstrates just how versatile and wonderful this material is, but it also means that whatever the budget or aesthetic you are going for, including a splash of earth-friendly warmth in the guise of cork is a must for every home.

PRODUCT REVIEWAmy Poulsom