Fun fact: the majority of the world's cork comes from Portugal. Conservative estimates come in at 50% while some figures put it at nearly 70%, but either way, that's a lot of cork for a relatively small country—one whose total population is between that of Michigan and Ohio.
Ana Mestre and Gonçalo Riscado are among the 10.65m who call Portugal home, and they've taken it upon themselves to spread the word about the sustainable natural resource from their corner of the world, through their new home furnishings venture CORQUE design.
Mestre spent the better part of the past decade researching cork as SUSDESIGN, a sustainability consultancy:
As an outcome of a Research & Development program that explored the processes of innovation through sustainable design, CORQUE proposes the valorization of a natural, renewable material, which integrates unique social and cultural aspects, raising it to a Sustainable Icon.
The designs themselves tend to be unfussy if not outright minimal, with the common theme of a very distinct material. Yet cork itself has a range of variation: for example, the "Puf-Fup" freeform string (a take on a bean-bag chair) is made of raw cork, while the "Moorish Mosaic" table (below) is made from a finer cork grain that is mixed with resin. Similarly, the darker colors are achieved by boiling cork, while it is also possible to add a kind of varnish to weatherproof the pieces for outdoor use. (The inside of the wine bucket, "Vine," pictured on the "Moorish Mosaic" table, is obviously treated as such.)
The "Lagarta" modular stool, above, consists of pure cork that has been boiled to achieve a darker color with the natural grain (as in the detail, below).
The "Puf-String" (above) presents further possibilities for cork design: its basically a strip of cork that has been mixed with rubber (from Brazil) to create a unique textile. This treatment has largely been confined to industrial applications, yet it could easily substitute leather for many purposes.
The inaugural collection is on display this weekend at a pop-up showroom as part of Meatpacking Design