12 new laminate countertops with retro modern style, from Wilsonart

retro countertop laminatesWilsonart is launching a new wave of laminates on June 1 — with one of their big themes, “What’s Old is New Again”. I asked their PR team to send me samples of the new designs, so that I could ogle the colors and patterns. Alas, we are currently living amidst of design wave of gray kitchens, so few of these laminates are what I’d describe as “midcentury cheerful”…they have serious gray undertones — very low chroma, I think is how you describe it. Even so, there are a number of neutrals — and even one aqua — that Retro Renovators in needs of new kitchen counter tops or bathroom counter tops will want to take a look at.

Above: Pinball laminate from Wilsonart — which Wilsonart describes as having a 1980s vibe — like all the arcade games we were nuts about — or, they say, it could also been seen as a 1950s vibe. I agree. This is a great new neutral to consider but, again, very gray.

Above: Arcade laminate from Wilsonart. This one *reads* very much like Formica’s boomerang laminate in charcoal but without the boomerangs. It’s nice if you want charcoal/gray.

Above: Midway laminate from Wilsonart. I am way more a beige person — I like this one a lot. For example, it would make for a great bathroom vanity countertop in a bathroom with 4″ rose beige tiles.

Want more styles kind of like this? Take a look at Formica’s Dogbone etc.

Above: The company has several new “Fizz” laminates that have relatively subtle yet playful pattern.

Above: Aqua Fizz. Could well work in a lot of our bathrooms and kitchens now that Formica’s aqua boomerang laminate is kaput.

Above: Berry Fizz. We did see some purple in midcentury homes… not a lot, but on occasion.

Above: Cream Fizz: A beige with gray undertones.

Above: Linens also in the lineup. However, while I was excited to hear them coming, I am less excited to see them in person. They do not replicate the massively popular, midcentury linen laminates. They are very literal. It’s like they took a photo of a really tightly woven linen. These seem “uptight” to me. But, check them out yourself, different strokes — errr… warps and wefts — for different folks…

Above: They’re calling this Classic Linen. Weird, because to me, classic linen would be a yellow off white… ecru… not grey…

Above: Casual linen.

Above: Crisp linen.

Above: I’ll show you the Linearity lineup, too, even though I’d call it 2012 contemporary, not midcentury modern. This line has the “faux bois”, or cartoonish fake woodgrain, look that I’ve noticed is being massively marketed currently.

Above: Vapor Strandz. 

Above: Cosmic Strandz.

Above: Astro Strandz.


You know, I continue to self-analyze why I am so negative on the greige (mausoleum) look being pushed by mass marketers today. It truly pains me. I really don’t think that I just don’t *like* this color — because I like grey and beige and greige just fine, in doses — they can be restful backdrops, just like white and off-white. But all over every surface of the room? I just don’t get it…. On this question, I am going to play the age and experience card: I have always been “into decorating”… I have been reading home design magazines since I was five years old… and have lived through and soaked up virtually every decorating trend wave since, let’s say, 1969. In addition, I have been immersed in the world of earlier 20th century design for a good solid 20 years. My takeway from all this experience: We humans are ornamental creatures. We always come back to ornament. We love decoration — including color, sparkle, excess. In addition, we are fundamentally optimistic creatures — who want our homes to be happy places. In contrast: All these greys being marketed today (again: not in doses, but covering massive amounts of space) are quite sparse, washed out, anti-ornamental and glum. Color, sparkle, happy ornament — they always return. I just do not believe all these gray kitchens, bathrooms and living rooms will endure: In contrast, I think this whole era will go down a greigenormous, “What in the world were we thinking?” — and not soon enough for me, that’s for sure. Yes, certain “best of” elements will be revived around the year 2062… by which time my bones will be tucked away my own pink marble mausoleum… my soul, eternally rocking and rolling along red-orange-yellow-green-blue-indigo-violet rainbows accompanied by flower power butterflies and laughing bluebirds.


Get our retrolicious free newsletter.


Get our retrolicious free newsletter.


  1. says

    Yeah, they could definitely take those a LOT further. Does everything have to be subtle and recede into the background? Does pattern have to be merely suggested? Why can’t it just be Kapow! Pattern! ?

    They remind me of the surfaces that you find in doctor’s offices and hospitals. They’re eh..okay but nothing that would make me want to rush out and start doing the measurements.

    Why “Fizz” when we can bubble over? : )

    • pam kueber says

      In fact, and I should have said it: These are “contract” patterns — meant for retail and office spaces fundamentally, I believe….

  2. Jone says

    Totally agree with you! This palette is so safe! It’s fine… but what about some jazzy colors for us kooks? Way too boring for me!

  3. Marta says

    I don’t know; that pinky beige linen looks a lot like my MIL’s kitchen. I’ll have to look more closely next time I go over. I also informed her I would be taking a picture of said knotty pine cabinet wall in her kitchen for Knotty but Nice, and also of her living room which is very ‘colonial revival’, and hasn’t changed since my late FIL updated it in the late 50’s early 60’s. The furniture is only her second set, upholstered in green Herculon that I swear would withstand nuclear attack.

  4. 52PostNBeam says

    Hey, nobody does “faux bois”, or cartoonish fake woodgrain better than the margins of your website!

    I have to agree– these are contemporary. This collection represents the mainstreaming of Mid Mod culture … made for the Design Within Reach, Modernica, Room and Board crowd (who only use color as an accent — think glasswear and pillows). They’re not really aimed at vintage lovers, but that’s not surprising because marketing to vintage lovers is generally a fail — we don’t buy anything new, ha hah!

    Thanx for posting.

  5. Joelle says

    I think these are all a bit boring really – at least the grey formica boomerang has the boomerangs to pep it up a bit!

  6. Lynne says

    I could live with these counters. At least they don’t try to simulate granite or marble, or stone. I just don’t know what it is with all of these drab neutral colors. I was just recently in a Renovators hardware store, near Chicago. Oh my word! Not a drop of color anywhere! The entire store was like walking in an old sepia photograph. Everything blended together and you saw nothing!

    I was just at the carpet store, looking for a shade in the avocado green family. The clerk looked at me like I was crazy, as we stood in a sea of beige plush sample boards. He tells me, “Lady, thats what people are pulling up” Nuf said.

    • pam kueber says

      Restoration Hardware is THE WORST culprit in all of this. All their catalogs look like you walked into a vampire’s den.

      • Suzanne says

        Restoration Hardware was EXACLY what I was thinking about when I read your comment on the laminate. I got their massive catalogs a couple months ago & was amazed at how bland & washed out everything looked. Blah!

    • Lindsey C. says

      Ewww, I H*** [pam edited h-word] granite countertops!!! (well, highly, highly dislike)

      OF course, living in Houston the manufactured city that is all I can find or 60-70’s homes that have been helpfully “upgraded” by the sellers.

      It’s so depressing I get really turned off of looking for a new home because I feel like it will be impossible to find a home I won’t have to retro renovate the entire kitchen and bathrooms.

  7. Meghan says

    I think the drab thing has to do with people being terrified to do anything that would affect resale, and that is related to people being incredibly picky about homes they might buy. I’ve heard people refuse to buy great places because of small, easily fixed issues like paint colour, so people are afraid to go out on a limb with a counter-top or tile. So everything is made neutral.

    • Patty says

      I don’t think it is more expensive to produce vibrant colors, but they do eliminate some buyers. So I think the analysts figure they can sell the neutral to most buyers, where the bright color will only be attractive to the small handful that are open to it. I guess we can’t exactly fault them for it.

      Speaking of the buyer, I completely agree with Meghan in why everything is so neutral. Except for the fix and flippers or rental property, I can’t understand why people buy houses and spend the money to renovate them when their concern is resale rather than making it the home they love.

      My biggest confusion is the beigy, yellowish, brown travertine tile that is frequently installed in bathrooms. The pattern (especially when there is a shadow which will always occur next to the toilet), always makes me wonder if someone urinated on the floor or if that’s just the color of the stone. It may be neutral, but certainly doesn’t have that clean feeling I require in a bathroom.

  8. says

    Wilsonart people, thanks for this, the linen look is nice but the colors are kinda blaah. If you are checking out the comments as I hope you are, please give us some old is new again choices with some color and with gold specks in the mix!

  9. Victoria says

    Yep, pretty safe and bland, but I can see how they would work in some situations. Not QUITE enough pattern. And not enough different colors! As I have been looking for tile for my pink bathroom, I feel that if I see another selection of brown and beige faux pompeii tile, I will scream. I feel the same about these laminates.

    I am a defender of real grey, though, as a mid-century color. As my point of departure, I cite the original (1960) Ocean’s Eleven interior decor, with deep gray walls and orange shelves, etc. as well as other films of the era.

  10. ChrisH says

    It’s a broader trend than just decorating materials. It’s hard to get colorful cars anymore. You can get red, but that’s about the only “exciting” color available. Most cars are silver, beige, silver-beige, champagne, at least three choices of gray, black and white. You can get blue, but it’s got to be a weird goofy blue. I think it has to do with confidence and optimism, and I just don’t think we have that, as a nation, right now.

    • Stacy says

      True-we just bought a new Honda. Seven shades of grey and beige, black, white, one silvery blue, and a maroon red. Those were the factory choices. When we got to the dealer, silver was all they had. It was depressing, but I was stuck with it unless I wanted to wait a month.

    • Just another Pam says

      And all cars look basically the same to begin with. I’ve been sitting at a light with a friend of mine who’s an old car guy and he’s pointed out there’s a Mercedes in front of us that looks basically the same as the Honda on one side of it and the Ford on the other. Just another example of generic and kind of sad that the old joke, What kind of car do you drive, answer….silver….is now factual.

      I have to agree with everyone else, there’s nothing there that would have me dreaming of changing out my counters. You’d think they could at least, the very least, have the option of some colour. And that’s coming from someone who’s still mad about black and white, it must be dispiriting for people who want to live with colour in their lives to constantly be faced with more of the same, tract house greige.

  11. LISA says

    Oh my God! This so reminds me of what I call the horror of all of the new houses of America – the beige-ing of America! All new developments have beige siding. I am a seventies girl at heart – about to put in an avocado green sink with Hudee ring and matching vintage GE avocodo green double oven and fridge. Bring on the color!!!

  12. says

    Maybe I’m a little cynical, but does it COST more to produce home decorating materials in happy, vibrant colors? I can imagine some analyst in an office somewhere crunching the numbers on how much more profit would be made when a less expensive color is used in the production process, and voila! We have a new trend!

    Pam, I love reading your last paragraph in the post. I love commentary.

  13. Janine says

    OMG! I am so glad to hear someone else (other than me), does not like griege. I think the greige started because back in the housing boom people were moving more often. They were told by decorators to keep it neutral. Now that the housing boom is basically over, maybe we can go back to more color.

  14. says

    I bought a 73 Scotty trailer. I have a 1/2 a sheet of turquoise boomerang left. My boyfriend is a printer so he is going to scan a large, yummy, print in case I don’t have enough. Thanks to you, Pam, I saw the article that coral and skylark were already gone so and I bought all turq. I could afford. Maybe if Formica actually marketed the retro laminates, they would have sold more. Thus, no reason to discontinue. I curse them, and their little dog too!

  15. Lindsey C. says

    omg. You have no idea. I did not know that the retro headset was a thing. But I have thought about trying to have one created for me.

    Your top pic up there. Floored me. I immediately went searching and found one. I don’t know why I thought I was the only one who would want this.

    Thank you for posting that pic, I’m sure you were not thinking about helping me specifically with finding something I had only fantasized about before.

    Thank you! I am so ordering one soon!

  16. Mike S says

    Dig the Strandz line! And I agree with you, Pam, in that we humans are ornamental creatures!

    Perhaps they are designing for designers, and not homeowners. I’m more a fan of muted aquas, yellows, oranges, and greens. Add those to the ecru, gray, and beige tones of today, and they spell “contemporary mid mod”, which I like very much.

    In ’88, my mother redecorated the kitchen of our ’63 ranch. Gone was the “rooster and chicken” wallpaper, vinyl floor, and original Frigidaire fridge and electric range — and in their place was butter-yellow paint, a tiled floor, and modern appliances.

    What remained were the pull-down lamp (which I painted off-white, covering the avocado green), cabinet hardware, white melamine counter tops, and the paneled accent wall.

    Point is, we needn’t go with what some manufacturers consider “mid mod”. Some stuff made isn’t marketed as mid mod, but would work as well, design-wise, as the original furnishings available in those days.

    Get googie where you can find it. Googie is good. Long live googie!

  17. Jennifer C says

    I am actually glad to just see something I can work with. We just purchased a GREAT 1957 ranch and decided to keep the original knotty pine kitchen cabinets. We replaced the bad late 70’s vinyl floor (bad color, bad shape, bad smell) with a cool real linoleum product and are getting ready to paint the walls a bright lemongrass green (cheery) The original pumpkin orange Formica counters are in bad shape, and truthfully the color does not look good with the knotty pine. We have been driving ourselves crazy trying to find appropriate laminate counter tops, if nothing else, these counters won’t be out of place and we can keep our other details bright and cheerful!

  18. says

    Having had to sell and own homes in the past ten years, I can tell you that real estate agents in this awful market urge folks to keep things neutral. We have had to, on more than one occasion, re-paint the colors we had painstakingly chosen and applied in order to sell the houses more quickly. I adore mid-century design and the bright colors. However, until my husband’s job settles in one area, and I can truly call the house my home, I feel hesitant to be too bold lest I be told to pull it back again by another agent.

  19. kindacrunchy says

    I came across the Avonite website and they seem to have more exciting options for countertops,particularly the Metallic and Crystelle lines.The Petals line would also be cute in a bathroom,in my humble opinion.

    • pam kueber says

      hi kindacrunchy, I don’t talk about solid surface counter tops much (except for butcher block) because they are not period-authentic. but i agree, lots are very attractive….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *