Cork Can Be a Beautiful and Practical Design Practice

Cork has taken a few stops on its winding journey to showstopping interior design element: From the wine industry as bottle-stoppers (its most common and most lucrative use), then to badminton shuttlecocks and bulletin boards, next to a purely functional use in architecture as sub-flooring and insulation, and finally the walls, ceilings and floors in the homes featured in AD. The woody material’s pragmatic use in architecture is well deserved because of its elastic, cellular structure, its thermal-regulating and soundproofing qualities, and its natural resistance to fire, but it’s the cork’s natural warm hue and subtly dappled texture that are the secret to its modern design success. The versatile material can be dyed or painted (and still maintain its speckled look), it can be applied to walls and ceilings, and its inherent durability make it a prime choice for floors. Here, AD explores the varied uses of cork in spaces like one of Seth Meyers’s dressing rooms, a summer house designed by Thom Filicia, and the modernist home of GQ‘s Fred Woodward.

Designed by Ashe + Leandro, a dressing room backstage at Late Night: Seth Meyers features the warm, natural texture of a cork wall covering by Wolf-Gordon. The space, which also boasts an overhead cork pendant light made by Benjamin Hubert, is livened up with a bright-red sofa, colorful artwork, and a lime green floral arrangement.

The striking black cabinetry and stainless-steel appliances are balanced with the softer, more natural tones of cork flooring by DuroDesign in this Hudson Valley home. Known as Obercreek Farm, the countryside residence has been in the family of financier Alex Reese for six generations and was renovated by his wife, architect Alison Spear.