George Clarke reveals the ‘dated’ material everyone should use in their next makeover

He says it's got a 'bad rep'... but it can be beautiful

You can always rely on our favourite telly architect George Clarke for some out-of-the-box design pearls of wisdom. And when Ideal Home chatted to him exclusively last month, he didn't let us down – sharing some genius tips for making over our homes.

George Clarke's extension planning advice – including his brilliant tips for sticking to a budget

But there was one that immediately stuck out. Partly because it champions sustainability – something increasing and crucially important to home design in the 21st Century. And partly because, well, it involves the return of a material we'd previously assigned to the design dustbin...

George Clarke cork trend – why our favourite TV architect is sparking a revival

george clarke sitting in armchair in yellow wall room

(Image credit: Belvita)

That material? Cork.

'Whoever I speak to and wherever I go, sustainability is rightly the main driving force in design right now,' George tells us. 'There are so many durable sustainable materials. Bamboo is one. And cork.'

'It’s got a bad rep for its use in the 1970s – those horrible varnished cork tiles. But it’s easily harvested and can be used everywhere.'

How to use cork at home – and why

bedroom with wood and cork cladding and bed with designed cushion

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Katie Lee)

'Flooring is an obvious application, but I like using it for lining walls and ceilings as it has an incredible acoustic quality and softens everything up,' explains George. 

That's shown to stunning effect in this bedroom idea, where cork as been used along with other natural materials such as wooden wall panelling to clad surfaces and cosy up the space.

'I’ve used cork furniture on projects, too. I’ve sourced some lovely stools with thick cork tops – people think cork is a very thin material but it can come in big thick rustic chunks, too,' George adds. 

string furniture with system with cork bottle rack and cutlery tray

(Image credit: String Furniture)

George isn't the only cork fan out there. The team at String Furniture loves to use cork to for their storage inserts – for example the cutlery tray and wine rack above. Using cork as a cutlery tray preserves the blades of your knives and absorbs the sound made as you rummage.

Cork also protects shelves by withstanding heat (for example, from candles), moisture and sharp edges, providing a durable, cushioned base.

'Cork is a really clever and versatile material that’s coming back in style for 2021,' says String Furniture's Bo Hellberg. 'Cork is a material part of the  ”biophilia” trend, where we seek to connect with nature and and organic materials and plant life, in our homes.'

'It is obviously inherently sustainable and brings warmth and texture to any surface or space, but it’s also ideal for insulating, which makes it great for kitchens. Cork is a great match for our metal shelves, taming the industrial look. It combines the Scandi kitchen interior with a softer, organic material. Japandi-light, if you like, especially if you look at the wine rack or the cutlery dividers. And the cork underlays look great with any pots and pans.'

George Clarke was talking to us in his role as ambassador for belVita's Reclaim Our Space drive – click through to discover more ways to make your home a sanctuary.

Are you tempted to try using cork in your home? Or is this sustainable 1970s staple one you're happy to leave in the past?

Amy Lockwood
Content Editor

After studying Print Design at Winchester School of Art, Amy spent multiple years working in the interior industry as a copywriter, content creator, and product stylist. She’s now Content Editor at Ideal Home, offering expert advice on the best products for decorating your home and ensuring it functions smoothly. That includes sourcing stylish yet affordable furniture – from the best sofa beds for combining style, comfort, and function, to the best artificial Christmas trees for a stress-free festive season – helping our readers to find the best mattress for their sleep style, and testing top-rated dehumidifiers and air purifiers to narrow down the best-in-class.