mini trends

pop your cork!

by Grace Bonney


i’ve wanted to write a little roundup on cork for some time now- this spongey, eco-friendly material has been all over in the design world for the past season or so and is starting to catch on in a big way because of its environmental attributes and ability to mold well to create various forms used commonly in design like seating and flooring. not only is cork a fully renewable resource, it can also be super cute when molded into pieces like chairs, stools, floor tiles and accessories like modern cork boards and wall tiles. [photo above, clockwise left to right: jasper morrison stools/tables at dwr: $298, notneutral wall panel at dp: $32, cork bowls at branch home: $88]

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my favorite use of cork revolves around using it ways that allow its natural beauty to shine through. whether its in a form of a small round stool or a child’s chair- or even tabletop accessories like salt shakers- cork has a beautiful color and texture that’s begging to be touched. not to be outdone by the design world, fashion has been picking up on cork by using it for jewelry and accessories like earrings and bags. my favorite pieces are my designer jasper morrison– his stools are adorable in their cute, squattyness that are perfect for impromptou gettogethers that require extra seating or room to place plates, drinks, etc. oh! and don’t forget, cork may look thick, dense and heavy, but it’s actually quite light! prices for cork are all over the board- smaller pieces like cork tiles are more affordable, larger pieces like stools and seating can be around the $500 area. so, check out these great options above and below and see if cork is right for you! [photo above, clockwise from left to right: notneutral cork panels at dp: $32, cork salt and pepper shakers by tonfisk (see local retailers for prices)]

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[photo above, clockwise left to right: tonfisk tableware (see local retailers for prices), cork coasters by dinner-ware: $30 for 4, cork children’s chair at branch home: $138, cork stools by jasper morrison at hive modern: $425 each (i know, ouch!)]

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  • Cork is a wonderful material, and like you said, environmentally friendly. It can also be used as floor tiles, counter tops… it can come in various colors (although the natural ones are the nicest), and various finishes as well. My old boss had it all over his floor in his house, it looked really nice. The biggest producer of cork is Portugal, and it looks quite weird to see the naked trees without their cork dresses, but it grows back.

  • I’m so glad you’ve spotlighted cork. I’ve been wondering about this for some time. If cork is such a great material to be using why are wineries using it less and less? Is it just cost? If it is cost why aren’t furniture items designed with cork, or cork flooring absurdly expensive. It just seems contradictory to me. Desingers seem to use cork more and more while wineries use it less and less.

  • from what i’ve read- designers are using it more because there is a surplus abroad due to the wine industry’s switch over to different ‘corking’ material- whether it’s metal tops or another material. all the research says that cork can rot or go bad and ruin the taste of the wine, so some wineries are switching over. i can’t speak for designers, but it seems that designers in general are turning to eco materials for new designs. but i think creative designers- like jasper- seem to always reach out to materials that aren’t normally used for furniture to create unusual designs.


  • I love the patterns of the Dinner-Ware coasters (preferred to Not Neutral’s designs and cheaper, too). They also come in a larger trivet size. I think a bunch of them hanging above a desk would make such a fantastic bulletin board. Thanks for the heads up!

  • i just wanted to say that kevin walz has been designing/producing cork furniture, tiles, etc. since the late 90s. he might have been the first designer to do so, but i can’t say for sure. in 2001, i sat in a very comfortable chair designed by him. it had a lot of “give.” very cool stuff, it’s naturally antibacterial, and it retains heat well. it can be hard to not make it “give” too much and break when used as furniture, which is why some don’t like to use it.

  • This is an old thread, but I am behind on my mini trends… I just wanted to say that I love cork, and I love that you wrote about it! We just put in cork flooring in my bedroom and studio… its beautiful! And, it requires no adhesive so its very eco- and diy-friendly.

    Some pics if you are curious: http://flickr.com/photos/louisemarie/tags/newroom/

  • Am considering cork floors in a kitchen and family room but am concerned about the durability given that I have two mini Dachshunds. Does anyone have any experience/pros/cons to share?

  • This is a GREAT trend, especially with that lamp you created. Ingenious. I love that you included some of Daniel Michalik’s work at Branch Home. I did a profile on him for the Neiman Marcus/BG magazine and he was just delightful. Check out his chaise lounge–truly great work!

    Sorry I have not commented previously but I am an avid follower. You are definitely the go-to gal!

  • This is in response to Dee Dee’s question as to whether cork is a good choice for her kitchen and family room given her pet situation.
    A resounding YES!!. I have cork flooring in my family room and kitchen and also have a large 60 pd Aussie mix dog and did have a kitty. The cork is very durable and easy to take care of. It does scratch, but you will not see the scratches unless you get down on the ground to look. Advice would be to stay away from the darker options that may show scratching.

    Good luck to you!


  • I would like to paint my old cork kitchenfloor which is light brown.
    Would like to give ‘m some color like blue or yellow.
    Does someone know if it’s possible to paint cork without downsides and if yes what kind of color.
    Thanks to all of you who might have an answer .

  • I am so glad I found this article! I have been working with cork for some years now, mostly hand paintings and some home accessories. Cork is a wonderful medium, it’s a sustainable material and it’s a new art form that I believe will be the next big trend :) You can definitely paint cork, with watercolors, acrylic colors or even gouache! It does require sealing if exposed for a long time – I use a non-toxic coating which works perfectly as it doesn’t alter the colors or materials.

    Anyone interested, please check out my site, it gives more info and it shows how I have been using it.

  • I just came back from Portugal and I learned all about Cork. Cork is a tree from the Oak family. It takes 25 yrs to harvest the first time and the first time it is not good to use for the wine tops so the cork is use for insulation, floors, chairs and other things, second harvest is 9 yrs later still the cork is not good for wine tops until the 3rd harvest 9 yrs later than they can use for the wine. When the cork is harvest is the bark of the tree that is cooked (boil) in water for 1 hour the first time, they wait for 2 to 3 weeks to dry, the second time for 0:45 minutes. The reason to boil the cork is to make the bark flat.

  • PLease Please, I need help finding cork suppliers in the U.S.A. Please I also need information on how to place cork on painted walls, painted cement floors, painted plywood floors and I would like to place cork on the kitchen counter too. !!!! And yes , I would be most grateful for any tips on how to do work with cork for any of the above projects. Thank you.