Building Study

Covered in Cork

The Modern Edit looks into the materials that make the Cork House by Nintim Architects so successful.

Completed in December 2018, Cork House consists of a loft conversion and innovative ground floor extension that was shortlisted for the AJ Small Projects Award in 2019. Designed in collaboration with the clients, a graphic designer and photography agent, this original and playful renovation has been clad with natural cork both externally and internally to create a bold and tactile home. 

The Cladding

The use of interesting materials and the large bright pink pivot door offset the simple pitched roof of the extension. The cork cladding, which will gradually weather to a silver-grey colour, works well with the existing brickwork and adds a really interesting textural quality to the relatively simple form. Cork is a truly sustainable material, as it comes from a tree that naturally regenerates itself, and it is impermeable to both liquids and gases which means as a result it is water resistant and does not rot. Cork also has inherent acoustic and thermal insulating properties, which means it was a perfect choice for the external finish. It is also breathable, free from chemicals, synthetic resins and carcinogenic materials which is why it was left exposed internally as well. Although it has been used in its raw state for thousands of years, cork is now becoming an increasingly popular building material as architects and designers are becoming more aware of its unique properties and the environmental benefits. 

The Windows

By contrasting the natural cork with the bright pink coloured windows, the architects have created a fun and unexpected juxtaposition that adds additional interest to the project.

At the The Modern Edit, we would have probably played it safe with a dark grey or black on the window frames but we can appreciate the playfulness of using a more unusual and bold colour. 

The Interiors

Throughout the project, varying tones of pink have been used to create a coherent internal language that helps to unite the new and old spaces. We particularly like the use of blush coloured tiles by Claybrook for the kitchen splashback as these beautifully smooth tiles made from recycled glass add another contrasting texture. The stepped internal landscape, that was a result of differing floor levels at the front and back of the house, is cleverly used to define the different spaces. However, by using a pale grey resin floor throughout, the architects have successfully created a satisfying sense of connection.

Overall, The Modern Edit feels the project is memorable for a variety of different reasons. We particularly like the consistent palette of materials that is used both externally and internally as by doing this, the architects have successfully incorporated the new extension with the existing house. The use of cork as a building material is notable not only for its environmental credentials but also due to its tactile qualities. By leaving it exposed, especially on the internal walls, the architects have added an additional layer of materiality to an otherwise relatively simple extension. Finally, the bold flash of colour on the windows is particularly admirable and, although not necessarily what we would have gone for, it really makes the project stand out. 

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