What happens when you shape Corian, a material best known for kitchen and bathroom applications, into modern furniture? Something arrestingly beautiful – more indicative of museum-grade sculpture than a mere functional sink and countertop. But that is exactly what accomplished interior designer Sandra Nunnerley has achieved with her ‘Celestial Collection’ of Corian tables.
Corian is a familiar element to most design professionals. The material, made from the fusion of acrylic polymer and a variant of aluminium, has been a mainstay of kitchen and bathroom countertop surfaces for decades as a cost-effective and non-porous alternative to natural stones like granite or marble. Corian can be moulded into unique or customised shapes using a process called thermoforming, in which the material is heated to a temperature where it becomes pliable, and then is formed to a specific shape or mould. Unlike natural stone, which is much more difficult and labour-intensive to sculpt, Corian is less commonly used for furniture but, as designer Sandra Nunnerley will attest, its versatility in colour, pattern, pliability and weight makes it an ideal alternative to natural stone.
Sandra Nunnerley on ‘Celestial Collection’ Corian tables
Corian can easily take on many different forms and elements can be moulded together seamlessly. ‘The great thing [about Corian] is that you can use it in sculptural forms and we can do wonderful inlays. You can inlay bronze in it. You could do all sorts of things with it,’ Nunnerley says. A native New Zealander and owner of the eponymous interior design studio in New York, Nunnerley has fashioned Corian into a series of contemporary console and coffee tables in her ‘Celestial Collection’, which first debuted in 2016 with a set of smaller occasional tables called ‘Solaris’ and has been renewed with the addition of pieces that integrate bronze as a design accent within the Corian form.
The 2022 update of the collection has been made exclusively for New York’s Maison Gerard and consists of a black coffee table with bronze inlays, oval top and a tapered base called ‘Aurora’, and two versions of Nunnerley’s ‘Nova’ console table – one in black with bronze inlays, and a slightly smaller model in off-white with bronze inlays. Like the ‘Aurora’, the ‘Nova’ consoles consist of an oval-shaped top and gracefully tapered base. 'We wanted to give [the pieces] more of a jewel-like presence. The bronze inlays did that. They elevated the look,' Nunnerley explains. In her words, the ‘Nova’ tables represent 'the visual nova of a celestial star – flaring up in brightness before returning to its original form'. The pieces are sleek, with rounded corners and elegant curves along the tapered base.
A key consideration, besides the aesthetics that can be achieved with Corian, says Nunnerley, is that 'you can move these tables around. They're light, in comparison to marble tables.' Perhaps more importantly, Corian is an environmentally friendly material, according to her. While many designers and consumers have a preference for natural stone, she points out that mining for marble and granite 'is really cruel to the environment'. Corian, which is man-made, also has comparatively low VOCs (volatile organic compounds, present in many building materials, furnishings and finishes including paint, are a form of indoor air pollution), and has been certified as having low VOC emissions by the UL Greenguard standard. She adds that the adhesive used to bind pieces of Corian also has VOC emissions.
Nunnerley’s ‘Celestial Collection’ of tables is markedly contemporary and likely to appeal to those seeking clean geometry in their interior design, although she notes that it also works well in both transitional and traditional rooms. The result is dramatic, but unobtrusive – something that can be used with a variety of décor styles. 'There's a designer I work with In London who specialises in traditional English design. He has bought many of my side tables and put them into traditional rooms,' Nunnerley says.
The versatility and shapeshifting abilities of Corian definitely make it a rival to traditional materials. We are looking forward to seeing in what innovative ways it will be transformed next.
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