Cork! It's not just about wine stoppers and wedge shoes. Cork's sustainability and multiple design uses are phenomenal.
Cork is the outer bark of a special oak tree. After each harvest the cork tree fully regenerates its precious bark and can be harvested over and over again until the tree reaches approximately 200 years of age.
Cork is an amazing material: it's elastic, waterproof, fireproof, and buoyant. Plus, it's sustainable, environmentally friendly, and easily recyclable. Most cork today comes from Portugal.
Cork has been used in progressive modern furniture for decades, utilized by some of the greatest figures in the history of modern design. One of them was the Viennese-born Paul Frankl, whom I consider one of the fathers of Modern American design. In the 50s, Frankl launched a series of furniture for the Johnson Company of Grand Rapid Michigan. It included several tables of bleached cork tops over wooden legs. Those tables, which are praised by collectors today, were promoted in America's foremost design magazines, granting Frankl a notable reputation.
"Frank Lloyd Wright chose cork tiles out of all materials to clad the bathrooms of his masterpiece "Fallingwater." Fallingwater is widely considered the world's most celebrated modern house and its image is well known. The surrounding woodland and the powerful falls that provided the magnificent setting have captured the imagination of generations of design lovers.
Yet, only those few who have visited this dream house would be able to peek into the bathrooms. All the bathrooms are made of cork tiles, floor to ceiling. I had the privilege of visiting and I have to say -- after seeing these bathrooms firsthand, the patina accumulated over time on the surface of the cork making it even more attractive, lively and dynamic."
Cork is perfect for bathrooms because it is waterproof and has natural anti-fungal properties. It is an underutilized material for bathrooms and accessories, but you can find products like cork bathrooms seats at the Conran Shop.
A new generation of designers are excited about the possibilities of cork -- you can find lighting, furniture, vases, tableware, toys, place sets, and tiles all made of this humble material. In fact, you could say we are in the middle of a great cork revival.
The company Yemm & Hart, for example will recycle your wine bottle corks into floor tiles, and Design Within Reach holds an annual competition for creating original miniature chairs made of champagne bottles.
Cork deserves attention. It is environmentally responsible, completely sustainable, recyclable, and plentiful. Cork can be processed into fantastic shapes for various uses in modern interiors, fitting into a green lifestyle perfectly, on design.