For the love of cork

We all have a relationship with cork – most likely one that’s associated with wine – but perhaps you also remember it as the little float at the end of your fishing line or the wedge on a pair of your mother’s heels? These are all good memories.

This year, IKEA of Sweden created SINNERLIG, a collection that is sure to create many new memories around cork. SINNERLIG is a collection of more than 30 pieces designed by British designer Ilse Crawford that includes a desk, dining table, stool and bench – all made from cork.

In creating SINNERLIG, Ilse’s vision was to bring the head, heart and hand together by using natural materials. Jan Ahlsén, a material specialist at IKEA of Sweden AB since the 1970s, heard about her vision and, thanks to his passion for natural materials, immediately got involved. When Ilse showed him her first designs, he thought bamboo would be a good choice thanks to its durability and fast growth, and because it’s a natural material with many possibilities. Together, Jan and Ilse went to the factories in Vietnam to produce some samples – only to discover that bamboo didn’t give them the tactical feeling they were looking for.

However, a few steps back can often lead to gigantic leaps forward, so Jan and Ilse retraced their steps and found a somewhat unconventional solution instead: cork.

Sinnerlig vases on a sofatable

But what exactly is cork? While we all have a relationship with it, not everyone is aware that cork is a renewable material – it’s the bark from the cork oak tree, which is harvested every nine years because it’s the perfect density for wineries at that age. And since only the bark is used, there’s no need to cut down the trees. The oak tree continues to grow new bark until the next harvest, a process that can continue for about 200 years.

The majority of the Earth’s cork is found in Portugal, where it’s cultivated by farmers that have been there for generations. There’s no question about its versatility or longevity, either. “Cork is a fantastic material in so many ways,” says Jan. “It’s heat resistant so it don’t burn like wood does, it’s lightweight, and it’s dirt and stain-repellent” – meaning it’s ideal for corking bottles, but also for tabletops that are prone to coffee stains and other signs of everyday use. It’s also waterproof, easy to clean, and acts as an acoustic softener.

what’s not to love about cork

“Cork has natural irregularities that give it honest imperfections,” says Marcus Engman, design manager at IKEA of Sweden. “It’s nice to touch and considered more sustainable than many other materials.”

With these properties and all the fond memories that go with it, what’s not to love about cork?

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