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Designers turn cork into beautiful, functional decor

by: modgrain

I came across this post this morning. Kim has inspired me to continue looking for ways to incorporate this amazing natural resource into my design. Also love seeing one of my favorite designers — Michael Iannone being recognized, as well as many of my favorite stores.

A roundup of home products created from cork. The products include creative designs found at Velocity Art and Design, Ecohaus, Target, Branch Home and MOMA.
By Kim Cook The Associated Press

bark harvest

The Portuguese Cork Association shows workers as they harvest cork from a cork oak tree in Portugal. The trees are a remarkable renewable resource; the bark can be harvested every nine or 10 years for the life of the tree -- most live to about 200.

The design world has rediscovered cork — and we’re not talking wine stoppers and bulletin boards. Beautiful, fresh examples can be found in furniture and home accessories.

Cork is the outer bark of the cork oak tree, found in the Mediterranean and, in particular, Portugal, where more than half the world’s cork comes from. The trees are a remarkable renewable resource; the bark can be harvested every nine or 10 years for the life of the tree — most live to about 200. A tree in its prime, at 80 years old, can yield 440 pounds of cork. That’s enough raw material to produce about 25,000 natural wine corks.

Cork is durable, lightweight, naturally insulating, fire and rot resistant, and has a soft, pliable quality. It can be shaved thin enough to be used as a fabric for anything from handbags to upholstery. In thicker forms, or layered over other materials, cork makes great furniture and building materials.

Philadelphia-based designer Michael Iannone uses the material artistically in a collection of striking sideboards. Geometric and nature motifs are coaxed out of differently colored and textured cork.

“As a green furniture designer, I’m always looking for new materials to expand the range of sustainable materials that are available,” Iannone says. “We’ve always incorporated graphics into our furniture line — cork fits the bill as a green material, and gives me a wide range of colors and finishes to create graphics with.”

Vitra’s smart stools appear at first glance to be wine corks for enormous bottles. They’re light and portable, and would complement any décor.

MOMA’s design store now features “Destination: Portugal,” an exhibit of goods from that country’s best designers. There are cork umbrellas, envelopes and stylish tableware.

Ferm Living has a charming set of cork place mats painted with a simple branch design, and a clever trivet fashioned out of little cork balls.

Branch Home, another retailer known for stocking eco-friendly yet design-savvy goods, offers a selection of cork trays, bowls and cutting boards in an array of sizes.

Target offers an attractive cork bath mat.

In home renovation, we’re seeing more cork flooring. Warm, quiet and comfortable underfoot, cork floor tiles are available in many patterns and colors at a modest cost. Their resiliency makes them a popular choice for kitchens, bathrooms and family rooms. Check out Ecohaus’s selection as well as Jelinek Cork Group.

For some great photographs and history about cork’s production and use over the decades, go to the Canada-based Jelinek’s website as well as the Portuguese Cork Association’s site.

Simple Forms Design, the studio of Portuguese designers Alzira Peixoto and Carlos Mendonca, won the 2008 REDDOT Design Award for their cork bath collection, which includes geometric laser cut mats, soap dishes and even wash basins.

“Despite being such a traditional material, cork can be employed in very innovative and unexpected ways,” the pair wrote on their Web page.

Sourcebook

www.momastore.org: “Destination: Portugal,” MOMA’s limited-run exhibition with an array of cork products. Among the designer items are cork umbrellas, stationery, tea sets, wine coolers and trays.

www.ecohaus.com: Capri cork tiles, $7-$10.50 per square foot; many other varieties available.

www.velocityartanddesign.com: Iannone Design cork media console, $2,800; deer mosaic sideboard, $3,400; Vitra stool/tables, $406.

www.fermlivingshop.us: Cork dinner mats, set of two, $33; Cork ball trivet, $21.95.

www.branchhome.com: From Bambu, a collection of cork tableware including trays, cutting boards and bowls, $10-$68.

www.corkstore.com: Jelinek Cork Group offers building materials and furniture, plus interesting information on cork.

www.realcork.org: The official Portuguese Cork Association’s information site.

Original Post:
Home & Garden | Designers turn cork into beautiful, functional decor | Seattle Times Newspaper.

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