Cork cladding in self-builds - Grand Designs magazine

Cork cladding keeps rural house cosy

American architect Nathan Dalesio used the eco-friendly material on his own home

By Alice Westgate |

Self-builders are often keen to embrace innovation when it comes to sustainability. Constructing a home can present an ideal opportunity to ensure the building is airtight, optimally insulated and to install renewable energy systems such as a ground source heat pump or solar panels. Discover why American architect Nathan Dalesio of Multitude Studio chose cork cladding for the exterior of his family home in Lower Hudson Valley, USA.

Tell us about your home

It’s in the quiet rural suburb of South Salem, New York State, surrounded by green space and near a lake. I live here with my wife Allison Terlizzi and our sons, Rowan, four, and Wells, two. I suppose we are living the country dream. New York City is 80 minutes away by train.

Why did you buy the house?

The agent apologised for showing us a property built in 1937 that had been empty for three years and was damp and mouldy, with a rotten roof. Nobody else wanted to touch it, but it was exactly the kind of project we had been looking for.

Cork cladding self-build home in New York

Photo: Nathan Dalesio

What happened next?

When we started work on the roof in April 2019 the concrete walls began to crumble, so we decided to demolish the entire house and start all over again. We did keep the foundations and enlarged the footprint a little, then set about building a three-bedroom, timber-framed house on a single level that has a total area of 232sqm.

Why choose cork cladding?

I initially looked at wooden panelling, but then I saw an online article about a cork cladding on a house in London. I liked its softness, the colour and especially its uniform, monolithic effect.

Cork cladding on roof with large window

Photo: Nathan Dalesio

What are the benefits?

The 5cm-thick panels we used are great insulators, which is perfect as we were looking for ways to reduce our energy bills and had already installed well-insulated windows.

It’s also very good value – costing around £39 per sqm, which is much less than timber. Cork is also lightweight, weatherproof and resistant to bugs and termites. The only threat is from woodpeckers, but we deter them by hanging shiny streamers around the property.

How long will cork cladding last?

It’s a waiting game as it’s relatively untested, but it should last 40 to 50 years, maybe even longer. When it does need replacing, cork cladding is recyclable.

Inside of cork cladding home including kitchen with open plan breakfast bar

Photo: Nathan Dalesio

What it’s like living in your new home?

We finished the house in July 2020. It’s been warm in winter and never overheats in summer, and the cork cladding walls are so tactile that when people come to the front door they always want to reach out and touch them. It’s like living in a peaceful cocoon.