Cork isn't new, far from it in fact. Cork has a distinctly retro reputation. Growing up, I remember a wall of cork tiles in our bathroom, along with a yellow floral carpet, a brown corner sofa and one of those domed pendant lights that you could raise and lower on a spiral cord - very retro. But cork has had something of a revival of late and with good reason.
As a material it has an extensive list of benefits; it’s lightweight, moisture resistant, a thermal and acoustic insulator, it’s naturally fire retardant and anti-allergenic but most importantly, it’s sustainable. When cork is harvested it is stripped from the trunk of the tree. The tree does not need to be cut down and the bark then grows back. Also, when the bark is removed the tree actually absorbs more Carbon Dioxide. Given the critical nature of our environmental situation, anything with green credentials is a winner in our opinion.
Another big benefit of cork is the price with wall tiles starting from around £18 per sqm and flooring from around £30 per sqm. It’s also very easy to fit yourself so there is the potential to save on installation costs. A wall clad entirely with pin cork looks great, is really functional and very easy to do yourself if you like a project. Wall cork comes in panels or on the roll and can be easily cut to size with a craft knife. Some panels even come with a self-adhesive backing. Accessories are always another easy, low cost way to introduce materials and there are lots of gorgeous cork products popping up on the high street. Ikea has just introduced a cork veneer to its Pax wardrobe range.
Choice isn't limited either. There is a huge range of cork flooring and wall cladding out there with different grain sizes, textures, colours and even cork that looks like metal and stone. We recently discovered the Organic Blocks collection by Muratto featuring three dimensional wall tiles created using new technology to mould very fine granulated cork into sculptural forms. The end product is super slick and looks equally stunning in both its natural colour or one of the fabulous colours in the range.
Swiss architects Dost recently used cork to stunning effect in its interior for the Heart Treatment Clinic in Zurich. The result is clean and fresh but has warmth and character and proves that cork can now officially consider itself contemporary.