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Design Around This #4: Formica Patterns are coooool!

11 years ago

The exercise today focuses on patterned laminate. Patterned laminate was extremely popular in the mid-century period, but faux wood designs rose to prominence in the 70s and now stone looks are dominant. However, manufacturers continue to offer some (non-stone, non-wood) patterns. Some of these are abstracts, some are based on ceramics or textiles.

I was going to limit this to just one pattern, maybe in multiple colors. But I wanted to highlight the diversity of laminate pattens (one of the big advantages of the material), so I'm opening up to any distinctly patterned laminate (speckles are a pattern, but not what I hav in mind for this exercise).

Here are some of Formica's patterns. If you want to go off this list, for example to another laminate manufacturer, that's fine, but the laminate should have a distinctive (non-stone, non-wood) pattern.



Formica's European website showed a much greater selection of bold patterns in vivid colors. I'm okay with you using these, but be aware that IRL you'd have to go to a lot of work and expense to import them:

A Brief History of Formica (and laminate countertops in general)

Formica, a combination of fibers and thermosetting resin, was first invented in 1913 as an electrical insulator. The inventors soon found other applications for the material. Patterned laminate was introduced in 1927, and laminate counters came into limited use at that time. But laminate counters really took off in kitchens in 1938 when the development of melamine thermosetting resin made the material more heat resistant.

Textolite samples (Source:

The last sample in the second row is what my mother still has in her 1960 kitchen.


Formica samples (source

Interesting links:


> Do your homework first. This isn't such a huge part of the present exercise compared to the historic homes exercises)but I've thrown in some information here for your edification.

> Be unique. Patterned laminate was extremely popular in mid-century design, but don't feel you need to restrict yourself to homes of that era, since patterns have continued to be manufactured and used since then. Your laminate doesn't have to be a countertop. It could be a tabletop, or whatever application you want.

> Put it in context. Your design should flow from the look of the house.

> Use a realistic budget. Laminate is a budget material, but if you want to go more upscale, that's okay too.

> Show your work. Explain and rationalize your choices.

> Critique others and accept criticism yourself. You spend a lot of time on your design, and you deserve some constructive feedback, good and bad. Don't make criticisms personal, and don't take criticisms personally. This isn't a finished kitchens thread so nobody has to pretend to like something they don't.

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