Benefits and Applications of Cork in Interior Design

Cork is a Beautiful and Practical Material That Can Be Used Throughout the Home

When you think of cork, afternoon wine on the patio may come to mind. While cork is commonly seen in wine bottle stoppers, this beautiful, sustainable, and easy-to-maintain material has many benefits and applications throughout the entire home. The interior designers and architects at our San Antonio design studio review six benefits of cork as a residential design material, propose five beautifully unexpected applications, and explain why cork is so practical and popular in renovations. 

Cork is More Than a Wine Bottle Stopper

Amity Worrel, the principal interior designer at Amity Kett, first fell in love with cork flooring during the late 1990s while renovating older homes from the 30s and 40s. These houses often had their original cork flooring in the back working areas of the home, such as the kitchen and laundry room. Cork flooring was applied in these work zones for its softness on the feet, perfect for tasks that involved hours of standing. “It made a huge impression on me that a material such as cork, that I knew only as bulletin boards or stoppers for the 10 dollar bottles of white that I was just able to afford in my early working days, could be used in such beautiful ways in the home.” Ever since her initial introduction to the period applications of cork flooring, Amity has been a proponent of the beautiful and practical ways to use cork in the home. 

Amity Worrel's Personal Kitchen
Amity Worrel’s Personal Kitchen

6 Benefits of Cork as a Residential Design Material 

Designs featuring cork have been used for centuries because of the incredible characteristics inherent in the material, such as antibacterial qualities, self-healing properties, and natural beauty. Today, cork is experiencing a resurgence as homeowners and designers focus on Green interior design. Here are our San Antonio designers’ six favorite benefits of cork as a design material. 

1. Provides Comfortable and Quiet Flooring

Cork is a beautiful, soft, and, most importantly, quiet flooring option. Unlike hard materials like wood, tile, and stone, cork absorbs the impact of footsteps, making it the perfect choice for a peaceful home. The give of cork floors also makes them easy to stand on when working for long periods.      

2. Offers Antimicrobial and Hypoallergenic Qualities 

Cork offers antimicrobial properties and is naturally resistant to mildew, making it a clean and hypoallergenic option. As health becomes a primary focus in residential design, the popularity of naturally antimicrobial materials like cork will only continue to grow.  

3. Yields Eco-friendly Designs 

Unlike wood and other materials, cork can be harvested without cutting down any trees, allowing for a low environmental impact. In fact, cork trees can live as long as 300 years with the proper care. 

4. Supports Easy Installation and Maintenance

Cork flooring is easy to install and can even be floated over existing floors. Once properly sealed, cork is easy to maintain and only requires vacuuming and damp mopping.   

5. Contains Self-healing Properties 

Cork possesses self-healing properties, meaning the naturally flexible material will form back to its shape after being altered by indentations. For example, homeowners can pin notes to cork-lined walls and expect the holes to close up when removed. This benefit makes cork an excellent wall covering.  

6. Creates a Beautiful Look 

Cork provides beautiful rich coloring and texture to any home. Very few building materials offer the same combination of durability, sustainability, and aesthetics. There are more pros than cons for cork flooring and wall coverings.  

5 Beautiful and Unexpected Cork Applications in the Home

While cork floor tiles have been a popular design option for decades, our San Antonio interior designers and architects have a few unexpected cork applications on this list! 

1. Cork Flooring 

Cork flooring is a classic home design option that features a beautiful look and unsurpassed comfort on the feet. 

2. Cork Walls 

Cork walls are fantastic for kids’ rooms and offices because they allow the family to pin up notes, artwork, and reminders. They also provide sound control and deliver unexpected texture for a warm and cozy feel. 

3. Cork Ceilings 

Cork ceilings are an unexpected application of this versatile material! Applying cork to the ceiling will deliver a similar look and feel as a wood-paneled ceiling with the added benefit of additional sound control and insulation. 

Cork Ceiling by Miles Redd from Arch Digest
Cork Ceiling by Miles Redd from Arch Digest

4. Cork Countertops 

While not commonly seen, cork can even be used as countertop material for laundry rooms and home offices. The soft and warm feel of cork makes for an inviting workspace. 

5. Cork Fixtures 

Cork fixtures and furnishings can be applied to a space to continue the warm feel grounded in cork flooring and wall coverings or stand alone as bold yet neutral accents. 

Cork Light Fixture by Ashe Leandro from Arch Digest
Cork Light Fixture by Ashe Leandro from Arch Digest

Cork Flooring is Extremely Practical for Renovations 

Principal Interior Designer Amity Worrel used cork flooring for its practicality, easy installation, and softness in her own home renovation. Here are Amity’s three favorite things about using cork floors in renovation projects.   

Floating Cork Flooring Over Existing Floors 

In the case of Amity’s renovation, her 1971 home had original tile that contained asbestos. Instead of undergoing a costly and dangerous demolition and abatement process, she decided to float cork flooring over the existing tile. “The cork tile flooring sits comfortably on top of the original tile and mitigates the risks of any asbestos being disturbed and posing a risk to the home,” explains Amity. When removing existing flooring can be costly or dangerous, cork tiles are an easy way to float new flooring on top of the old. 

Applying Cork in Wet Areas

Despite skepticism, Amity asserts that cork is a durable flooring choice for wet areas. “When folks say cork is not good for wet areas, I say, tell that to the boat builders who lined the hauls with cork or the wine industry who seals their bottles with it,” explains Amity. Cork is as durable as wood, depending on the quality and the finish.  

Cork Tile in Wet Areas from Dwell Photo Liani Douglas
Cork Tile in Wet Areas from Dwell Photo Liani Douglas

Creating a Quiet Cork-lined Home

Amity loves the warm look of her quiet cork-lined home. She explains, “when I drop things, they do not break, they bounce. When my kids run through the house at a breakneck speed, their footfalls are dampened. When my dog Bubbles or my cat Fred scratch the floor, it is hardly noticeable because the cork I choose hides wear better than wood.”

Why is Cork Flooring Rising in Popularity? 

Now more than ever, homeowners are prioritizing the feel and comfort of the home. So long are the days of cold marble tile floors prone to scratching and echoing through the hallways. Cork provides a warm look, a comfortable feel underfoot, and a peaceful home. Plus, this durable and sustainable material will last for decades with the proper care. Who wouldn’t want to use cork in their home? 

Are you looking to install cork flooring in your home?  

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