The concept behind using cork is this - it's a sustainable, durable material that has the look and feel, to some degree, of leather. Therefore in the Koala stables, it's filling a gap - now you can buy a Koala couch that's smooth to the touch and not fabric-covered. Great news if you have kids, dogs, or just grubby hands because you're, ahem, me.
The couch has been piquing interest of late - it's certainly an interesting new addition to the Australian market, with Koala saying that while they're unsure if they were the first to use cork as what's essentially a fabric, they're certainly one of the first.
We decided to road test the couch to see what this cork business is like.
In true Koala style, the packaging for the cork couch was easy to navigate and in enough separate boxes that I could fly solo with moving it around my house. The instructions use images to explain what to do, when, and zipped into the base were all the tools I needed - and an adorable turtle toy, because every cork couch sold means a sea turtle is "adopted". Cute.
Instead of needing drills and so on, Koala uses "gumnuts" to assemble the cork couch. These are plastic-topped large screws that are ergonomic and easy to twist in tight.
Assembly was easy enough - again, I was doing this solo. The first stage was fine, just lining up the arms to the back. When I got stuck into connecting the base to the arms and back, however, I ran into trouble.
In the end this was entirely my fault - I didn't read the instructions carefully and was methodically screwing gumnuts in as I went - tight - when you're meant to only gently screw them all in, then go around to tighten them after.
This must be because the alignment of the screw holes goes out if you tighten one side before the other. At least, I assume so - because that's what happened to me.
In the end, I'll be honest - the screws attaching the back to the base didn't seem to want to go in. But it was secure along the armrests and didn't seem to be falling apart, so I just... left that bit. Here's hoping I don't collapse the couch soon.
3. That Cork Material
Now, for what you all wanted to know - what DOES cork feel like as a couch material? Pretty interesting is the answer. The cork material used by Koala in the cork couch is soft and thinner than I expected. I'm used to cork in the sense of kitchen pot stands and the like - think thick and rough. This material felt like material, if that makes sense.
However I wouldn't say it's a straight replacement for leather - I don't feel Koala are positioning it that way, either. It's still a little rough to the touch, and while it's soft, it's definitely stiffer than leather is.
That being said it's surprisingly comfortable to lie on. I found it cool - it's currently summer, so that was a bonus - in the same way leather is, you know? The cushions and base have the same classic Koala support, comfortable but firm so you don't get a backache from binge-watching TV.
Also worth noting a cool feature - the back cushions zip onto the back of the couch, so they don't slide around all over the place like leather cushions sometimes do! As someone who used to own a leather couch where the cushions would always slide off, I loved this.
4. The Verdict
I have tried both the fabric Koala couch and the cork couch now, and I like both for different reasons. I think if you're into aesthetics, the cork couch is a winner - it has a bit of a mid-century feel to it in a room, because of the unique material, and feels very "adult". I can imagine people sitting on this couch and quaffing negronis, for example.
It's also great if you have kids or pets and are sick of stains - the cork material is water-resistant, and it feels really sturdy and durable. It's a great option for having a stylish house item that's also fairly damage-proof.
However, if you're a big couch potato like me, you might prefer a different fabric. It's not super snuggly, and while it's soft it's not the same type of softness you find from fabric couches. You need to enjoy a leather couch to enjoy the cork couch, for sure.