Several Craft Nectar readers have expressed an interest in learning more about the cork walls shown in my interview on Reclaiming the Home. So here’s the background and some tips about installing your own cork wall.
Before starting FunQuilts I worked at a 300-person architecture firm in downtown Chicago. The best thing I got from that job, other than the realization that I never, ever wanted to work for a 300-person architecture firm again, was the idea for the cork wall that’s in our kitchen. On each corner of the 20th and 21st floors of that architecture firm was a coffee area with an adjacent cork wall for displaying architectural drawings with the exact light fixtures we have on our wall, which as I recall were assembled by some guy in his garage in Seattle. The lighting is really critical I think or else the whole thing is in shadow. The cork walls at the architecture firm were all painted various colors but both Bill and I love the natural cork color.We have this floor to ceiling cork wall in our kitchen, a counter to ceiling cork wall in the studio and a cork band along one wall above our desks in the office.
Cork has followed us around. Bill grew up with cork flooring in his family’s kitchen, designed by his father, an architect. Our first apartment after getting married was in a Mies van de Rohe apartment building in Chicago, which explains why we have a cat named Mies van der Kitty. As a note to you architecture lovers, I would never have named the cat Mies had I known that we would settle in Oak Park, the home of Frank Lloyd Wright. It just seems wrong to be looking out the back door at all of these Arts and Crafts bungalows calling for our cat named after the father of Modernism. “Mies? Come on in Mies.” I say to him when I’m trying to lure him off the comfy chair on our back porch where he and his sister survey their domain. Anyway, the flooring in our Mies apartment was sealed cork.
The cork on the wall was actually purchased from a hardwood floor installation company. Here’s a link to an online source. It’s the underlayment used for installing hardwood floors. It came in rolls and we got a special cork adhesive at Home Depot to adhere it to the wall.
Installing the cork wall in the kitchen yielded one of the greatest lines ever uttered in our marriage. There we were with the first piece of cork cut to the exact wall dimensions with cut outs for the light fixtures. The light fixtures had been hard-wired before we put up the cork. We’re both standing on ladders on either side of the sheet of heavy cork and we’re about to adhere it to the wall before the adhesive dries. There’s no going back at this point. Then Bill says to me in the most gentle and diplomatic voice, “However this ends up looking, I think it’s important that we both recognize that we’re doing our best to get it right.” We both knew that if we didn’t get those edges perfectly abutted it would drive us crazy for years to come. Happily, we got it up perfectly and incurred no damage to our marriage.
We rotate the stuff on the wall regularly because even though it faces north and gets no direct sun on it, the ambient light does gradually fade the color of the cork if you leave things in the same place for months at a time. The cork is about 1/4″ thick so it holds push pins easily.
As we put up there every thing we need or want to remember I have to do a cork wall audit sometimes before parties. Once I found a single male dinner guest, who was waiting for me to pour him another glass of wine, staring at the mammogram script from my doctor for an upcoming appointment. It had the breast diagram on it and he was staring at it for way too long. I’m guessing this was a curiosity for him as I doubt he had ever seen a mammogram order before but I swear he was looking at my breasts for the rest of the night in an odd sort of way. Anyway, realize that if you put up a cork wall, people will want to look at every single thing on it, so be forewarned!
Also beware that if you have cats, they will think you have put up the greatest scratching post in history just for them. We handled that by tacking an extra sheet of cork on top of the cork adhered to the wall and making sure that the cork within paw’s reach is covered with papers of some sort to deter destructive scratching. No matter how many other scratching posts we give those cats, they seem to like the softness of the cork. Plan accordingly.