Marcel Proust famously secluded himself in a cork-lined room for the last 15 years of his life, devoting his energies to the monumental Remembrance of Things Past. So why cork? With its closed-cell foam structure, the low-density wood dampens sound and resists bacteria, mold, and mildew—enemies of the asthmatic and chronically ill author.
In 2001, while studying industrial design at Helsinki University of Arts and Crafts, Jaana Ylitalo conceived of a more playful incarnation of cork with her Pop wooden panels—form-pressed plywood squares with raised circular bubbles. Available in the United States through the Hightower Group, they come in a variety of veneers: cork, the most sound-absorbent, as well as birch, cherry, walnut, wengé, and the more recent black and white lacquer versions. Although it is primarily decorative, the raised circular shape helps absorb sound—and Ylitalo hopes it may prove instructive as well: “I wanted to draw people’s attention to the workability of wood materials and to the many unused possibilities of wood in interior design.”
The panels are laminated with a clear matte film for increased durability and easy cleaning. Fortunately they are also environmentally friendly: the manufacturer, Brainwood Oy, uses glue and hardeners that are nonhazardous and odorless, and the timber comes from forests that have received Pan European Forest Certification for sustainable management.
Form-pressed plywood panels with natural wood veneers
Available as eight- and sixteen-inch squares, the panels are durable and easy to clean. They are typically mounted with concealed aluminum lists (narrow joint strips) for neat edges.
An interior surface treatment for walls, ceilings, and partitions in offices, lobbies, residences, and retail spaces
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