Members of the design world are on a mission to locate materials that bring us closer to achieving sustainability targets, while also being beautiful and long-lasting. Cork is becoming a prime candidate.
When we think of cork, we’re likely imagining popping open a celebratory bottle of champagne or pinning our favourite photos onto a board in our living room.
But nowadays cork is gaining popularity in the world of design for its sustainable, durable, and aesthetically pleasing properties.
As we see cork making appearances as wallpaper, flooring, or being used to create long-lasting furniture, there are some questions many will have about the often-overlooked material.
In particular: how cork is produced, where it comes from, and finally, what makes it an attractive option for designers looking to maximise sustainability while producing beautiful results.
The relatively small European nation holds the title of being the world’s largest supplier of cork. It is home to 1.6 million acres of cork oak forests, primarily located in the southern Alentejo region.
These cork trees are incredibly sustainable. They are carbon positive, absorbing five times more carbon from the atmosphere while growing than they release while being harvested.
This is because cork can be perpetually harvested without cutting down the tree itself. Cork bark takes around nine and twelve years to grow back fully, but it is a renewable resource as long as forests are harvested in a proper manner.
Credit: Jasper Morrison
What makes cork even more attractive to designers is its biodegradable properties. It can be replaced and discarded without polluting the environment for eternity. We can’t say the same for plastic, foam insulation, and other synthetic materials.
Cork makes a great addition as a wall covering, due to its anti-microbial and moisture-resistant properties (hence why it is used in wineries) and it is also shock absorbent, allowing for soundproofing.
Not to mention, the fact that cork is a natural material brings a sense of warmth and closeness to nature that many are looking to bring into modern homes.
Whether it’s through accented wall panelling, furniture, or storage – the possibilities are endless. Designers are continuing to experiment and a diverse range of products are even available from independent sellers on Etsy.
As creatives continue to test the capabilities of various sustainable materials, all that’s left for consumers to do is lean in.