05 January 2011

Guess the counter material, the follow up

Yesterday I ran a series of photos with the challenge to identify the material used for counters in each photo. you guys are pretty slick because just about everybody got it right. Every one of those images showed a laminate counter from Formica's 180fx series. Remember that the category is properly called laminate and the brand name is Formica. Formica has a great website that's brimming with great photos and idea for how to make a room that features laminates look fantastic.

It's very vogue to look down on laminates but for a lot of people, they are the right option. They make a resilient, long-lasting kitchen surface. A properly installed and cared-for laminate counter will last for years and as I've mentioned here before, I think laminates are pretty cool.

A. Antique Mascarello

B. Blue Storm

C. Breccia Paradiso

D. Calacatta Marble

E. Espirito Santo

F. Golden Mascaello

G. Red Montana

H. Slate Sequoia

I. Slate Sequoia

I'm impressed with this latest collection form Formica laminates. While it's true these Formica laminates are a good way to get the appearance of a stone counter at home for a fraction of the price, I can see this being used really well in commercial settings. Sheathing walls in it or covering curved surfaces with these 180fx laminates would make for a spectacular lobby or restaurant space.

Check out Formica's website and take a look at what laminates look like these days.

So what do you guys think? Is there a place in your lives for laminates?


  1. Oh totally. I had laminate bench tops in my previous home which had an older 50s style kitchen. And it was great and very much in-keeping with the style of the home. Anything other than that would have been just too over the top.

  2. I could totally see the slate sequoia in my laundry room - great look, hard working, impervious to detergent and more affordable than the real thing. The calacatta marble would glam up the worktops in my craft room without being so patterned that I'd have to worry about losing pins.

    And I love your idea about sheathing whole walls, curves, etc. Great possibilities.

  3. I've really enjoyed using these laminates in spaces where the homeowner is trying to achieve a look without the price- In my opinion, the best way to use them are with designs that have no miters. I know that's not always easy, but I am MUCH more apt to suggest a laminate in a space if I know we have lots of straight runs.

    Good stuff, Paul!

  4. Those are really nice but we also sell laminates by Wilsonart at Cabinetparts.com. Laminates are the best alternative to actual stone counter tops. They look just as nice but cost way less.

    Great post!

    You can check out the laminates we sell here: http://www.cabinetparts.com/c/laminates-for-countertops/

  5. I'm happy to see such an endorsement of laminates this morning, from all the ends of the earth. Thanks!

    And yes Nick, you're right about miters but the only place I ever see them used is with post-forms from home centers. Rooms with cabinets that turn corners really ought to go to independent fabricators for their counters. I think everybody ought to go to independents instead of home centers anyhow, but that's just me.

    Brismod: There are some spaces where laminates pick themselves, you're right.

    Lax: I'm going to post some shots of a room in a couple hours that will knock your socks off.

    CabinetParts: As always, thanks for checking in. I'm glad you're hanging around here.

  6. Well, OK, if I had been the first one to comment yesterday, I would have guessed various stones. Once the first person mentioned laminate, though, it became apparent that this was the material used. I’m not sure I would have guessed laminate throughout based only on the pictorial evidence.

    I make a game of guessing the counter material from a distance whenever I go through Home Depot. Unless I see a flat end, it is difficult to tell from a distance, although once you run your hands over it, you can tell at once.

    As for Formica itself, or plastic laminate, I like it a lot. My wife and I had a kitchen with plastic laminate countertops for five years when we first married. It was a new rental unit, and we were the first ones in it. We used trivets when we took things out of the oven, did not cut on the counter surface (I would not cut directly on ANY counter surface), and used Soft Scrub rather than cleanser whenever this old Army cook decided to scrub hell out of the kitchen. At the end of that time those countertops looked brand new.

    God willing, I will finally make our kitchen this year. We have gone back and forth on countertop materials. At one point I wanted to install a wooden countertop I would make myself. Throughout it all, though, the one standby has been Formica, because we know about it already. The only reservation we have is that I will be making custom cabinetry, and it seems a bit “cheap” to use Formica countertops in that setting. We will probably use Silestone because of that, although Formica can never be entirely out of the running. Much cheaper, and I have access to a guy who is an absolute wizard with it.

    Speaking of Formica installations, the guy I’m thinking of… Aw, let’s give him a plug. It’s Brendan Mathews, his company is Foothill Cabinetworks, and here’s a link: http://www.foothillcabinetworks.com/ He’s in Vista, which is a bit north of San Diego, California.

    Brendan teaches several classes at Palomar College, and I was able to take his class on plastic laminate. He has a way of joining large pieces so the seam all but disappears. The other thing he does is NOT use miter joints when he goes around corners of countertops so large they must be pieced. A simple butt joint is much easier to seam, and with his method, that seam is difficult to see. On laminate corners, one immediately looks for that mitered joint, probably because it is never as tight as the other seams. Brendan’s method works much better.

    But in answer to your question about the suitability of Formica, the answer is VERY. It is more fragile than stone, but if you follow those few simple rules, it’s really no different than any other material. We have some in the kitchen now on a microwave counter that is doing just fine. The only Formica I’ve scratched is on my work tables in my shop (because yellow glue will not permanently stick to Formica), but hey, those are WORK tables!

  7. OK, I'm no designer, obviously. I figured something had to be up, but that marble looks like marble to me!

  8. Joe: That's what I'd call a ringing endorsement!

    Julie: They've certainly come a long way.

  9. As I tell people frequently, there is such a wide variety of design materials available today that one can plan an attractive space no matter their price point. Laminates are a perfect example of this.

  10. Thanks Sharon, you're absolutely right.

  11. Wow! What a cool post. I'm totally impressed with the product they have made.

    I just stumbled across your blog for the first time and thought I would say hello! I looked through a few of your posts and love your style.

    I'm a blogger as well, about the world of art, but my history is in interior design and fashion. I love to hear what people are saying! Hope we get to see more of each other in the future.


  12. I think they look great for a laminate product, not to mention they are affordable! We've completed a couple projects recently using the laminate undermount sinks and at the open house for one of the projects the clients thought the countertop was granite, even though it was Wilsonart, the sink made all the difference!

  13. Bethany: Thanks for checking in and welcome to K&RD. I love hearing from people outside of the US so please keep coming back!

    Marissa: Thanks for your comment, laminates have come a very long way.

  14. These laminates look great in the photos, but I have to question their use in high-end kitchens which is what most of these seem to be.

    If I were to enter a house with this (high-end kitchen) my first reaction would be (from 20+ feet away), "Wow, gorgeous!". Then upon entering the kitchen and seeing that they were laminate my second reaction would be, "did this person run into money troubles along the way?" or "what were they thinking?!"

  15. Adam, I don’t care for snarky “gotcha” type comments, so if this comes across that way, I apologize in advance for the irritation it will surely cause. But reading your comment, I am of two minds. Frankly, that is the one thing that holds us back from using Formica in our kitchen when we get to that point. But on the other hand, I do think we sometimes have to free ourselves of really caring what other people think and start going in our own direction. Ours is a small kitchen. Countertops in Formica will run about $2000. In Silestone they will be $6000. In one of those drop-dead gorgeous granite slabs, the price will be some $12,000 or more. I’ve not looked too deeply into the granite, though, because once I learned that the ones I really liked cost a small fortune, I began casting about for something a bit more suitable, budget-wise.

    Given what I’ve already said about the Formica, though, it is clear that it is a countertop that we would have no problem enjoying. All that holds us back is snob appeal—and we’re two of the people who are thinking along those lines, so I don’t want to single anyone out on this! The question to ask, though, is what price should we pay for the approval of others? If we’re happy with the Formica, and can use that $4000 for something else in our kitchen, isn’t that the better course to take?

    And even saying that, I find myself thinking about the cabinetry I’ve already designed for our kitchen. I don’t want to brag too much about it because I haven’t done it yet, but if it goes as planned, it will be custom work of the first order. On that basis, should I install Silestone so as to find favor with others, or go with the Formica… and forever worry that we went too cheap?

  16. Ultimately you should do what makes you happy. Everyone's different. Personally I wouldn't want to skimp on the countertop material, especially considering how special the cabinetry will be. I'd rather skimp on appliances than the countertop as I'd be replacing those in several years anyway whereas I'd want to keep the countertops for as long as I had the kitchen.

  17. Every client and every job is different and everybody has different priorities and price sensitivities. I'm glad to see that there are attractive options for every segment of the market. Laminates are a category that's too easily dismissed as a viable option and I think the biggest thing these new patterns do is counteract some of the stigma associated with the category.

  18. I am really happy I looked at this post. I have volunteered to do a kitchen redesign for a domestic violence shelter in the San Francisco Bay Area. Cost is an issue, and frankly, with 25 moms and as many assorted kids using the kitchen every day, the counters are pretty much under assault. I'm leaning toward stainless steel countertops, and was thinking about tiling the walls. But that's pricey. Paul, your idea about using this kind of formica as a wall covering is ab fab. Maybe I will do that and use the same formica on the islands, which take a bit less beating that the main countertops...

  19. Thank you so much for posting these images. Most are on my "final list" so it will help me greatly in my decision on which to use.

    I've currently had pink countertops for 18 years so anything will look better than that. It is a testimate of laminates durability though. No noticable scratches, lifting, etc.

    One thing I will add is that I think that what makes laminate look so "laminate" is the thickness of the edge. A granite slab I believe is typically 1 1/4" thick so a 1 1/2"+ edge looks wrong to my eye. On one of the edges mine is 2"+ currently.

  20. I would love to see some real kitchens where someone used this product. I want to spruce up my kitchen by replacing a few base cabinets with draws, paint them all and get new laminate countertops. Granite is classic here in Maine, but I've been in houses where the granite has chipped along edges. Plus, I can't afford granite. Or rather, I would rather spend the money on something else. :-) I'm still trying to figure out what direction to go with my kitchen. It works fairly well most of the time.

  21. Dixie, I would talk to a local Formica fabricator. He or she will be able to direct you to a place where you can see this material in an actual kitchen.


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