Cork?! Did you say cork? Oh dear. No. Definitely not. That’s been the reaction of a few people I’ve mentioned cork to recently. Reactions are a bit like Marmite, and seem to come down to how vividly you remember the seventies, or if you were even born then, as to whether you can embrace this trend. Happily for me I wasn’t, so I can peruse it with the kind abandon that isn’t held back by memories of aunties cork tiled kitchen with terracotta walls and bead curtains (though listen up, apparently bead curtains are on their way back too). I love cork, I love its texture, it’s warmth, its sustainability, its crafted aesthetic, the way it lends itself to the bohemian look, and I have been known to occasionally feel rather fond of that vintage fizzy stuff it often preserves.
I’ve been spotting cork around for a little while now, as a quiet suggestion, biding it’s time on the sidelines. First in accessories from the likes of Hay, then from cool little companies that specialise in cork products – Mind the Cork springs to mind as a great example. At both the London Design weeks last year (Clerkenwell & Design Junction) Michael Sodeau’s famous cork chairs were being customised by new designers to great effect in the fabulous Where’s Casper campaign (image below). Then Isle Crawford used it extensively in her debut Sinnerlig range for Ikea and you know when something is coming to a big outlet of Scandinavian origin it’s going to become a thing everywhere at some point in the not too distant future. You have been warned.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am enthusiastic, but I’m not suggesting that we all run out and buy cork floor tiles en masses straight away (though in the right setting they can look completely fabulous) but as an accent or accessory in the home it can look really, truly beautiful. See the image below of it styled against green by Dadaa, how beautiful, or a few of the shots from our bedroom dotted around this post (the little cork drinks coasters, £1.25 for two and pot stands, £3.50 for three, both from Ikea) are a great little accent for adding warmth and a hint of rustic to my very modern clean line Normann, Copenhagen table in the pared back minimalist feels of our bedroom.
Dan & I both fell in love with cork on our trip to Lisbon last year, there are so many beautiful uses of it in the country with the highest production of it in the world, in fact Dan still talks regretfully about the pair of cork brogues he saw in Lisbon but didn’t buy. In the summer, I really wanted to buy an expensive metallic cork geometric patterned handbag from &OtherStories (which they are teasing me with a clutch version of this season) but I decided I am now a little too far away from my twenties to justify this kind of fashion splurge, so I treated our house (the splurge I seem to always be able to justify) instead to a gorgeous cork and pink Tapas set by Bloomingville (image far below) in the new year sales which I love for the contrast of textures. For me, cork is all about the contrast, it adds both warmth and texture in the same way as wood, and it works so well in both bold geometric or bright neon spaces (see the Frank & Faber office design above for a great use of this) and in minimal pared back ones (see multiple images below of Scandinavian simplicity).
Cork is produced from the membrane of bark which means no trees are felled in its production so it’s an entirely sustainable product. Just as with many other natural products, one of corks greatest charms is its unique patina, I love its variation and the fact that no two pieces will ever look the same. With all of this ethicality and versatility it’s not hard to see why cork is making a comeback.
What do you think? Do any of these examples tickle your fancy? Is it something you’re drawn to, or does it make you think of being dragged back (kicking and screaming) to the seventies? I have a feeling I’m going to be picking up quite a bit of cork kitchenalia over the next year…