When Quality is Sustainable

Jacob Marks and his remarkable designs with cork

Jacob Marks is the Designer and Founder of Skram Furniture, a bespoke furniture design studio based in North Carolina.

A Colorado College graduate with no formal design training, Jacob Marks founded the modern furniture brand at age 25 in 2001. Named one of the top 50 young designers of the Americas (Young Designers: Americas, Daab), Marks’ visually restrained work has earned national and international recognition for its singular marriage of austerity, warmth and timelessness, and an uncompromising technical mastery that is accentuated by the use of natural materials like wood, leather, stone and metal.

His approach is deeply rooted in the philosophy that argues for the inextricably of good design, unwavering attention to detail, extraordinary workmanship, deep interpretation of sustainability, and organic embrace of natural imperfections. With an emphasis of minimalism over excess, Marks’ innovation in process and design, can be seen through his  hand-shaped seating and spare, rectilinear casegoods and tables.  Marks’ highly sought-after designs have been showcased in a range of residential and commercial spaces throughout the world.

With a deep awareness of the impact manufacturing has on our community and on our planet, Skram only uses non-toxic adhesives and industrial strength, low-VOC water-based polyurethane finishes. Timber is locally sourced as much as possible, and they are committed to broadening their offering of certified timber options as they become available in consistent quantity and quality. In 2008, Skram transitioned to a LEED contributing, formaldehyde-free, 100% pre-consumer recycled content substrate in their veneered products. And in 2015, they installed a rooftop solar array at the Burlington, North Carolina facility. The resulting energy directly powers their machinery, while excess energy is fed back into the traditional power grid and are proud to say that this has lead to an annual offset of over 30,000 pounds of coal and over 50,000 pounds tof CO2. Skram is a member of American Forests, the Rainforest Alliance and the Sustainable Furnishings Council.

Jacob Marks on why he is interested in cork: 

"As a designer, material typically comes after form.  I want my designs to stand alone, without consideration of material as much as possible.  Material exists to complete the story, not to steal the show in our case.  But cork is a bit different in that it has performance attributes and limitations that do need to be considered from an early stage relative to form and structure.    

"The most interesting aspects of the material aside from its unique performance characteristics have to do with sustainability.  Cork has outstanding qualities that reinforce our approach to sustainable design and minimizing the harmful aspects of our manufacturing on the environment.  The ultra high density cork that we use in our products is the reconstituted bark of the Cork Oak tree (quercus suber).  The Cork Oak grows in managed low density forests and the material we know as ‘cork’ is actually the reconstituted bark of the tree.  These trees can remain productive for several hundred years and the harvest of the cork, which is done by hand, happens every 7-10 years.  In my view, cork is the very definition of a truly sustainable resource in the deepest (broadest) sense of the word.

"Cork is the primary material in several Skram accessories like the Corkbox and Corkbowl and also in our Corkdrop stool/side table.  Beyond that, the standard configuration of all Skram drawers on our desks, casegoods, nightstands, etc is a solid timber drawer perimeter with a cork-lined bottom.  This is a nice, unexpected feature and it gives the inside of our drawers a light, soft look and feel while protecting the objects inside from scratches and shifting as the drawer is opened and closed."

Also check out other work by Jacob Marks in Welum's Gallery room.