At the Stockholm Furniture Fair this year, IKEA launched the Sinnerlig collection, a line of furniture, lighting and accessories designed to "fit into everyday life." Not exactly outside-the-box thinking for IKEA, whose entire existence is built upon bringing affordable modern design into the average home, but this newly announced collaboration with London designer Ilse Crawford is a departure for the Swedish retailer because of its innovative use of cork for everything from dinner tables to floor lamps.
And it's not just at IKEA. This year, designers around the world are hailing cork's many virtues: It is durable, waterproof and easy to clean; it provides good insulation and dampens sound; it's resistant to mould, mildew and bacteria (not to mention critters such as termites); and it's more fire-resistant than its traditional wood counterparts.
Cork has proven to be a great material for industrial design. It's versatile, soft, textured and easily reused. The bark of a cork tree can be harvested every 10 years or so without killing the tree, so, considering cork trees live an average of 200 years, it's a very renewable resource. (It's not without drawbacks on the sustainability score: Virgin cork has to be shipped from Portugal and Spain.) And while screw tops are now commonplace, there is definitely no shortage of wine corks – and production waste from the making of wine corks – to shred and repurpose into furniture, walls, floors and more.
The Sinnerlig collection hits Canadian shelves in October. In the meantime, here are some other newly launched options to get you trendsetting.
Designer Max Harper’s new range of pendant lighting takes its inspiration from his native Australia – specifically, the sun hats with corks hanging from the brim to keep bugs at bay (“Though no one is certain that these hats were ever a part of our history, it has become part of Australia’s iconography,” Harper says). Made by hand in Sydney, the bulbous Corker lights come in both simple hanging versions and pivoting models. “Cork ticks a lot of eco-friendly boxes by being renewable, biodegradable and recyclable,” Harper says. “Aesthetically speaking, cork has a natural warmth about it – it reminds me of kitsch ’70s kitchens, but I think that’s part of its charm.” – From $380, through maxharper.co
Muratto focuses on cork wall coverings in every shape and form. The Organic Blocks, for example, feature modules made of granulated cork with resin and pigments that are moulded into 3-D variations – everything from squares that jut out at the corners to textured beehive motifs. The tiles can be mixed and matched in varying hues for a statement wall that muffles sound. – Price upon request, through muratto.com
Originally created for the Evergreen Brick Works Design by Nature competition last fall, the limited-edition Strata Stool by Toronto’s National Design Collective recreates the look of quarry core samples with various waste materials. “The project started as a love of cork as a raw material. We like how it can be ground and formed for use in wine bottles, and then reground and reformed,” says NDC’s Scott Bodaly. “This idea of reforming granular scrap materials was expanded.” The final design includes layers of sawdust from NDC’s studio, ground cork from Niagara’s winery district, ground tires and waste concrete aggregate. – $400, through thendc.ca
While the ergonomic frame of Dutch artist Joop Couwenberg’s cantilever stool was inspired by the Bauhaus movement, the handcrafted cork seat came from watching fishermen collect waste from the ocean floor. Each stackable seat – produced by German manufacturer Tecta – is made from about 150 used corks, which are shredded and then pressed with latex and burlap. – From $1,080, through klausn.com, tecta.de
Two favourite materials – cork and Corian solid surfacing – come together in Tinsel & Sawdust’s boards. Available in 25-centimetre “paddles” and 10 cm-by-40 cm “bats,” the minimalist yet multifunctional boards are resistant to heat, stains and scratches. – $75, through madedesign.goodsie.com, tinselandsawdust.com