19 Ways Cork Can Make Your Home Pop

19 Ways Cork Can Make Your Home Pop

Versatile and hardworking, cork can soften, texturize, and insulate a space.
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What’s not to love about cork? It’s pleasantly tactile, beautifully textured, insulating, and sustainably sourced from trees. This incredibly effective, versatile, and environmentally-friendly building material has been a mainstay in architecture since ancient times and its popularity has only seemed to increase over the centuries. 

Cork is endemic to the southwest Mediterranean and parts of Northern Africa. It is harvested from the cork oak tree every nine years in a process that simply removes the outer layer of bark, allowing the tree to keep growing. Astonishingly, cork oak trees can live up to 300 years. 

But along with its significant sustainable attributes, cork is also elastic, highly insulating, and impermeable. This makes it a great choice for floors and cladding. Its warm, natural hues make it work as a neutral tone in rooms, and its organic texture brings visual interest to a space. Here, we’ve gathered together a range of spaces and buildings that are proof that this eco-friendly material can do much more than just cork your bottle.

A Fresh Dose of Color And Cork Livens Up This Midcentury Los Angeles Home

The stairs at this home are clad in cork, ensuring a cushioned and quiet surface underfoot. Inspired by Mexican artist Luis Barragán, the architects turned a dark and beleaguered mid-century house into a family home for the ages. The paint colors chosen by the residents and architect Linda Taalman are American Cheese 2019-40 and Blushing Bride 2086-50, both by Benjamin Moore.

This backyard home office for a couple in London is constructed with all-timber structural framing and is clad in cork and topped with a vegetated roof. These eco-friendly materials make for a delightfully sensory space, with lots of lighting provided by the skylight and glass and oak door.

You're probably used to seeing bathrooms with stone or tile flooring, but cork's impervious nature makes it a good option for wet spaces, like the bathroom.  At a home in South Africa, the main bedroom ensuite has a restrained interior palette with cork flooring.

In a two-phase renovation of a 1960s home in Portland, Oregon, Fieldwork Design + Architecture began with updates to the first floor. The firm swapped out the white carpeting for warm cork flooring, then strategically inserted variegated cedar plank walls.

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Brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec founded their Paris-based design firm in 1999, where they design architectural projects, large-scale art installations, furniture, rugs, tableware and home accessories.

On a small island in the Thames, architect Matthew Barnett Howland designed a home constructed out of cork bricks that interlock with each other to form the residence's exterior walls. The cork bricks are made of reconstituted waste cork, a by-product of the cork industry in Portugal.

Cork flooring had a big moment in the 1950s and 1960s when it was used in living rooms and dining rooms across the country. In the dining area of this 1954 home, the cork flooring works in concert with the wood paneling that appears to extend straight out into the fence on the exterior.

When Linda Taalman of Taalman Koch Architecture renovated her and her partner's live-work space in Hollywood, California, they lined the open shelving in their kitchen with sheets of cork. This created a soft, durable landing spot for their dishes and other items on display.

In the living room and kitchen, soft-but-tough Expanko cork flooring provides comfort and stands up to dings and scuffs. While the kitchen was designed primarily with the homeowner's and a caregiver’s needs in mind, it also accommodates the five-foot-radius of a wheelchair.

An LA home took advantage of the porous, textured nature of cork to use it as a wall covering that also functions as a space for the family's eclectic collections of art and personal artifacts. The home went from dark, disconnected spaces and outdoor rooms to luminous indoor ones, with flashes of pattern and interior planes of saffron and pink stucco.

On the second floor of a Brooklyn duplex, the sliding door to one of the kids’ bedrooms lies flush with a cork-wrapped wall. In the bedroom, a colorful custom Maharam window shade rests above a window seat with a Kvadrat cushion.

At this 1954 home designed by California architects Powers, Daly and DeRosa, the floors are covered with cork in a lighter, cream-colored tone than isn't typical of the material.

In a guest room at Kibbutz Ortal in northern Israel, a headboard made of cork board is both cushioning and eye-catching. Adi Perez

The master bath at this renovated San Francisco apartment incorporates a two-tone cork floor that matches custom cabinets by Bob Clausen. The bathroom fixtures are by Grohe, Hansgrohe, and Kohler, and the sink is by Duravit.

Cork covers the floor of the sunken living room in this home in Portland, Oregon. The steps allow for delineation of space while keeping an open-plan environment, and the cork is soft and warm underfoot.

For the renovation of a 1940s Arts and Crafts home, cork was used for the floor throughout the home, including in the kitchen. The designers rebuilt the vanity with MAXI Film birch plywood in black and a Caesarstone raw concrete composite stone counter.

Light-colored cork covers the floor of this prefabricated, environmentally-friendly home in Upstate New York. The Japanese pantry in the kitchen is by Shibui Kotto.

Inspired by midcentury modern design, the architects of this ranch home renovation selected authentic materials, like cork flooring, for the house. 

This tree house-inspired beach house, designed in the 1970s by a student at Cal Poly, features a unique mix of organic materials. Some are original to the build, such as the redwood used on walls and ceilings, as well as the terra cotta tile and red brick flooring in the entry. New cork flooring throughout the home acts as a complement to these original features.

The interior of the Murphy bed in this New York apartment is lined with a stained cork panel and contains a smaller shelving unit with bedside reading, alarm clock, and reading lamp in place.

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