Lusterock kitchen counter tops — readers share stories about this interesting 1960s material

One of the coolest aspects of this blog is that one reader will send us photos of something unusual that they own or have encountered — perhaps an original feature of their home, a specimen of steel kitchen cabinet or an interesting light. We may not know about the object — and all internet searches will be for naught — but then we post the question and BLAMMO — our knowledgeable readers will leave comments filled with valuable tidbits of information, personal stories involving the item in question and even identify the woddity — solving the mystery. This is exactly what happened with our post about about a vintage kitchen counter top embedded with quartz chips — which is still getting clicks after over two years. What was it made of?  You vigorously responded: Lusterock. Yes — thanks to our readers — who have help to solve yet another mystery about the vintage treasures in our jewel box mid century houses. Read on to learn more about this interesting material –>

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lusterock-kitchen-counterAfter Pam posted the photos above of reader Becky’s unusual counter tops, the comments started to pour in. Several readers had personal encounters with this inventive material.

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Stephanie was the first to pipe up with a name:

My parents have these counter tops in their kitchen….they remodeled the kitchen in the 1970s…I believe it’s called Luster Rock…they get lots of comments on it…some good some bad…..I didn’t like it!! Ha Ha

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Spoon rest for sale on etsy.com shows the Lusterock label

Chris came along next (albeit both he and Stephanie provided incorrect spellings; we’re not being critical, we just want everyone to notice and use the correct spelling from here on, same as it’s “hudee rings“, not huddee rings.) :

It’s definitely Luster Rock, we had it in our house, (just finished remodeling and replaced it with boomerang counter top!). My friends dad was an installer in the 60s and said the stuff was indestructible, which I can attest to. I did everything to it and it always looked the same. I saved some of it to try to make a bar top for summer entertaining. Mine had more brown chips to it, and my problem was finding wall colors to work with it.

Still other readers knew people who had worked to fabricate, sell or install Lusterock, such as reader Delores who said:

Yes, it is called luster rock. My mom’s neighbors in Los Angeles ran a small business out of an El Sereno warehouse where they made these counter tops. They also subcontracted through Sears until I believe it became against the law to obtain shell in these quantities for these purposes. My mom sold her 1924 home in 2005, and the kitchen was done in the yellowish white lusterock. Two houses to the right is where the luster rock couple still live and their 2 story home including, kitchen and bathrooms were beautiful in the best of their work and luster rock. The house in between belonged to the wife’s brother (was a wrought iron artist) and that house was also complete with luster rock counter tops. We are selling some unique pieces (stereo unit and curio iron stands) that were made by brother and the tops are luster rock – white yellow and a long piece made with a bluish lavender shell that looks like carnival glass. Wonder what they are really worth…. they have kept their luster and beauty.

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Lusterock paperweight currently for sale on ebay here

Linda reports that her stepfather worked with Lusterock:

My stepfather made and sold that in Arlington VA back in the 60s and 70s. I remember that he had to go away someplace to learn how to do it and buy the rights (I guess it was a franchise type of thing.) They used real rocks and shells, even fossil shark’s teeth and coins. Their house was full of it – they made shower stalls, sinks, counter tops, floors, paper weights – you name it they made it. I do not know why they stopped making it. It was beautiful then and it still is beautiful now. Probably found out it was really toxic or something – or like someone above said maybe it was illegal to get the shells in such quantity. But they used a lot of rocks, and it doesn’t make sense that it would be illegal to get rocks!

lusterock-label

Label from paperweight that is for sale on ebay

Then there were the readers who have fallen in love with this unique material — having fond memories of their past experiences with Lusterock or living in homes with Lusterock to this day.  Jackie has lived with her Lusterock counter tops since 1968 and reports:

We built our house in 1968 and put it Luster Rock counters. The have bits of shells and mother of pearl in an almond-colored acrylic. They have very few scratches and have kept their beauty for 42 years. I wouldn’t think of putting in new ones. It’s too bad they are no longer available.

Gayle added:

My friend’s parents’ house had the same counters. Her dad was a pharmacist and the counters in the back of his drugstore where he worked were made of the same resin but instead of rocks and pebble-like things, it was filled with all kinds of different pills. I was always fascinated with their counters at home and the store. Her parents had them both specially made.

Oooooh, a Lusterock counter top of pharmacist’s pills! We’d love to get hold of a photo of that curiousity!

And finally reader Ro added his happy memories — of his grandparents’ toilet seat! It happens! 🙂 :

My grandparents’ house in Orange County, CA was built in the ’60s and one of the bathrooms had a counter top and matching toilet seat that were made of clear resin with embedded abalone shell. It was absolutely stunning. The embedded pieces of shell were numerous and had the full range of rainbow colored shine that abalone shell is known for. There were also little flecks of gold “sand” inside the resin. It was gorgeous, the whole thing was so captivating. You felt like you were swimming in the sea when you were in that bathroom. I have such fond memories of that counter top & toilet seat, as silly as it sounds, because they were just so unique and beautiful, despite having a somewhat dated feel when I would visit them in the 80s. I was just googling to find an abalone shell counter top or toilet seat like the one they had, but I haven’t found an exact match. None of them ones I’m seeing online measure up to how beautiful theirs was.

Who’da thunk it: All the (mostly) happy memories of Lusterock. Moreover, it’s so great to post these curiosities — and have so many readers pipe up to identify them, and tell their stories.

Special thanks goes out to Ebay seller mikeingreensboro for granting us permission to feature the photos of his vintage Lusterock informational post card… to ebay seller Dr. Von for allowing us to use his vintage Lusterock butterfly paperweight photos… and to Etsy seller Treasures2Share for allowing us to use photos of their vintage Lusterock spoon rest.

Lusterock-table-with-matching-chairsLusterock-table-topUPDATE: Reader Hannah sent us these photos of her friend Kevin’s dining set with what looks to be a yellow Lusterock table top. Thanks for sharing guys.

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And this is the story that keeps on giving: Facebook follower tipped us to this bathroom counter top, spotted on craigslist, and the craiglister gave us permission to feature these photos in our archive.

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Comments

  1. leslie says

    Looking at the close up image of grey stones, my first reaction was southwest landscaping!
    So in love with Lusterock, didn’t know it had an official name.

  2. says

    The bathroom vanity in the basement of my parents home has Lusterock in green. The sink and countertop are all one piece. I always wondered what it was called.

  3. Rebecca Marsh says

    We had Lusterock counters installed in my parents home in 1977. Gold and brown in the kitchen and blue and white in the bathroom. The kitchen counters are still there………..still in great shape……but the bathroom one is gone…my sister lives there now and remodeled the bathroom. The bathroom counter did fade from the sun coming in on it from the window.

  4. 'Gina says

    Thank you for identifying my bathroom counter and sink. It is original to a mid-60s ranch and is a custom size which is the only reason it is still in the bathroom. It does kind of grow on you… in a weird way. Does anyone know if I can cut through this substance to remove the sink bowl. It is cracked and I did notice in one picture a counter with a new sink attached. I just didn’t know if someone removed an attached sink. Can anyone help.

    • pam kueber says

      Nope not me, but remember: Before you start messing with old stuff consult with a properly licensed professional to ensure you know what you are working with — vintage nasties in that stuff??? — so that you can make informed decisions.

      • says

        Hi Pam,
        Many years ago I used to make Lusterock counters in Wisconsin. If the finish is just getting dull, you can rub some fine steel wool on it and then just use a liquid car wax. After the wax is hazed over, just buff it with a soft cloth, like a diaper. You can do the same routine for scratches on it as well. I still have a few tables that I made in the early 70s. Too bad they are not made anymore. i think they could give the granite dealers a run for their money. Good luck

        • EstherC says

          I have a bathroom (pink) that has this as the counter top. It is L-shaped and has really yellowed where the sections were glued together. The surface around the sink has also worn away so that shells are actually exposed. Any suggestions for repairing/restoring these problems? Thanks!

          • pam kueber says

            EstherC, this is not a repair-and-restore or DIY site…. I suggest you try to find someone locally who can advise you. Good luck.

        • Larry says

          Rick,

          Since you use to make Lusterock product; can you tell me why they do not make this product anymore? My parents had Lusterock in both of our bathrooms and it was wonderful. It is still there and looks great.

  5. Holly says

    There is a bar in Atlanta, GA (the Local on Ponce de Leon) which has a similar (custom built) bar top—-absolutely gorgeous, filled with BBs; definitely takes abuse. They used to have an additional one filled with pennies, but I think it was removed during a renovation. Sorry I don’t have pics to share……

  6. Anastasia says

    AMAZING! (& yes now all those shell counter things here in FL make sense, lol) & yes I Wish we could still get something this amazing!

  7. says

    You can make your own tabletops, countertops and other items in this same way…. here is a video linked in the website link above showing how to cast a tabletop with embedments. IF you are really into these countertops and you have a damaged one, you could probably break up an old countertop and use the pieces with some new resin poured over it to recycle the abalone shell. That Naturestone pebble flooring is basically the same process. I had Naturestone in a 70’s house I was restoring and had to install a new drain line which required us cutting through the concrete. As we were putting in a new closet, I chiseled off the Naturestone where the closet was going, used a mallet to break the chunks of chiseled off flooring back into pebbles and mixed the bucket of pebbles and the accompanying resin dust with some new casting resin and hardener and patted it over the new concrete poured over the drain lines. Almost undetectable once I rolled it down (using a big rolling pin and a polyethylene sheet between the pour and the rolling pin).

    • pam kueber says

      BUT: Precautionary Pam reminds that you never know what’s in this old stuff — the old materials and their layers in our vintage homes may contain vintage nastiness such as lead and asbestos and… ? So, consult with your own properly licensed professional so that you know what you are working with so that you can make informed decisions how to handle.

  8. Mike Page says

    Hiya guys, enjoyed reading and gazing on the way cool Lusterock items featured. But you haven’t seen my swanky kidney shaped coffee table, built with orange tint shells and rock resin ! Stunning piece of art. If interested, I can e-mail pic’s of it. Regards , Mike

  9. Cathy Heppell says

    We bought a 1950’s house with a kitchen that had been remodeled in 1970. Now I know what this counter and backsplash is – Lusterock! It has broken shells and mother of pearl in clear resin. People who come in our house are weirdly fascinated. Guys like it more than women. People have offered to buy it when we’re ready to get rid of it. We’ve been here 25 years and I love this counter – it reminds me of the beach.

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