Healthy and beautiful, cork is not confined to the wine industry anymore. In the last decade, this green material has been increasingly utilized by interior designers, to the point that cork flooring and cork furniture are becoming trendy today. Its raw appearance immediately reminds us nature, and its granular texture is decorative in itself. Cork feels warm to the touch and has excellent thermal and acoustic insulation properties that make it a great material to save energy.

In the past, cork was mainly appreciated for its high resistance to pressure. This is the reason why it is often utilized as a support for other materials still today. Another common utilization of cork is flooring, while pieces of furniture made from cork, like lamps, cabinet panels, armchairs and vases, are still somewhat difficult to find. However, young designers love cork, and objects made from this material are easier to find now. Thanks to its unusual visual properties, cork can be paired both with modern and classic furniture. It is also very resistant: consider that a cork panel can last 50 years or more.

Cork has natural antimicrobial and antistatic properties. As a result, a cork surface has very little if not any toxins and dust absorption and it contributes to clean air. This is a real blessing for people with allergies. Being very elastic, cork floorings are also helpful for people with knee problems or those who needs absorption support.

If you aim to get a LEED certification, know that cork can help you earn points because of its renewable and biodegradable properties. Cork is harvested from the cortex of a special type of oak, Quercus Suber, that grows in Southern Europe and North Africa and lives up to 150-250 years. This makes it a very renewable material, as cork oaks are never cut down in the process of cork production. A cork oak can be harvested every 10-12 years, for a total of dozen times in its lifetime, and, surprisingly, wine corks represent only a scarce 15% of its usage.

Other advantages of cork are its fire resistance and its softness. If you have children, cork will help you to prevent possible injuries because a cork surface works as a cushion when somebody trips and falls. Maintenance is very easy: you have simply to periodically sweep or vacuum your cork flooring.

Naturally, there are also some cons. Cork can be easily scratched, especially by your pets or sharp objects. Therefore, you should strictly limit high heels, sharp objects, cats and dogs. Chairs can pierce your cork floor and the legs of your pieces of furniture as well. Severe damage like high discoloration, bulges or curling can be caused by water or sunlight. Consequently, cork is not appropriate for very wet environments like the kitchen or the bathroom, or rooms that are subjected to flooding, like basements and ground floor environments. Last, it is necessary to block the sunlight with curtains or blinds in order to avoid getting some areas of your cork flooring or cork panels discolored.

Photo credit: http://www.betterlivingthroughdesign.com/furnishings/cork-ottoman/