Formica 6696-46 Carrara Bianco marble — my new top-favorite marble laminate

formica-carrara-marble-laminateFormica last month introduced a new Carrara marble laminate — Formica Carrara Bianco 6696-46. Previously, I had identified three places you can find Carrara-style laminate. This Formica design now makes four. Moreover, because of its available #46 etched surface — which mimics fleabite pits you likely would see in the patina of real, aged marble — it now my favorite choice among the Carrara marble laminates on the market today. I asked Formica to send me a large sample, which they did — and I really like the fleabite etching. It looks and feels great — gives the laminate a very natural look. 

Cararra-Bianco-laminate-FormicaI do not know when a marble laminate like this was first introduced to the market. But I do know that most early laminates were designed to mimic other materials — like linoleum. And, by 1969 I know we had Formica White Onyx — which is still available today. Formica’s White Onyx is the oldest pattern in Formica’s range (there are some solid colors that are older, though).

Update: I checked Grace Jeffers’ thesis on the history of Formica. She says that “Cremo Marble” laminate was introduced in the late 1950s and that it became an instant best-seller. The pattern was discontinued in 1983. So: Appropriate for a 1960s and 1970s kitchen, I’d say!

That said, I also associate Carrara marble with pre-war kitchens — not post-war kitchens. Doing a 1900s-1930 farmhousy kitchen? Go for it, too!

For bathrooms, I would probably consider Carrara marble for both pre- and post-war bathrooms, though. I think it would be “okay” in a postwar bathroom because that’s a smaller space.

If I liked the marble look, I would actually prefer a marble laminate in my house — because (1) it would be way cheaper to use laminate than marble… (2) marble is notoriously porous and stains easily, and 3) I don’t like the idea of the environmental degradation caused by mining when laminate would work just as well on a counter top installation, maybe better. When I worked in the sustainability field for a while, I learned the concept of “Material Utilization.” I *think* I learned that, at its heart, sustainable material utilization means using resources — especially finite resources — toward their highest possible cause. I don’t have the data, but my hypothesis is that: Mining marble and granite to use as kitchen and bathroom counter tops is not the best possible use of those finite materials and the energy to process them, when alternatives like 70% paper counter tops (laminate) can do the trick and at a fraction of the cost. Simple ceramic tile also would be wise material utilization for this purpose, I think.

Note: I checked with two of other companies making Carrara marble laminates — neither Wilsonart nor Abet Laminati offer etching like this on their Carrara laminates. I did not check with Arpa; their website is difficult to navigate.

If I were using marble-patternd laminate for a counter top, I would consider doing the fancy post-formed edge that eliminates the visible Kraft paper line. Instead — and especially now that there is this etched Formica Carrara Bianco — I would probably go for it and try to mimic real marble as best I could. This preference is actually counter to the way I’d use other laminates — with other patterns or solids, I’d likely either have a flat edge with the Kraft paper line… or, I’d do a classic postformed edge — just a simple roll… or, I’d edge in steel or aluminum; that is, I would not try to disguise that I was using laminate. With the Carrara marble laminate, however, I just like the idea of faking it, which is possible with postforming technology — not to mention the pitted Formica #46 etching — today.

One final note: Carrara marble — with its closer veining — is the timeless one. The Calacatta marble you see featured in mainstream media a lot today was not commonly used back in the day, as far as I know; it’s a trendy fashionable thing circa 2013. If you want to create a Retro Renovation style kitchen or bathroom, ix-nay the Calacatta, go for the Carrara.

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  1. lynda davis says

    I agree with you, Pam, about granite and marble. It just always seemed wrong to me to take a slab of rock from the earth, send it somewhere else to be polished and then send it to America to be fabricated for a countertop. And..when Americans tire of the countertops, there will be ideas on what to to with the old counters. Perhaps making a garden bench, or creating stepping stones for the garden will be some of the ideas. If anyone lives near VA, there is a soapstone company there. I always thought that might be a good option for a local counter. I like wood butcher block for counters. I agree, the laminates are certainly a good option for a counter. We just used an Ikea laminate for two bathroom counters in my daughter’s house. We used drop in Kohler sinks and Hansgrohe faucets. We caulked around the wall and then used vinyl shoe moulding around the counter and I think it looks very nice and should hold up well. The Ikea counters are very inexpensive. They have to be cut for the bath since kitchen cabinets are deeper. Ikea does not have any backsplash options, so you have to use tile or mouldings around the counter. I agree, the marble featured in this article looks very nice. For our meager budget, custom order laminate counters were too expensive compared to the in-stock Ikea options.

    • Roundhouse sarah says

      We carved soapstone in college in my sculpture class. If you can carve it with hand tools I would think it wouldn’t be a great material for countertops.

      • sarahjaneb says

        Soapstone has been used for countertops for ages. What you were using was a different grade of soapstone. “Artistic-grade soapstone has a high talc content and is soft and easy to carve. Architectural-grade soapstone has a lower talc content (usually between 50% and 75%), which makes it harder—and more suitable for countertop use.”

        It does scratch and ding more easily than granite or marble, but you can either buff it out or just accept that it’s not going to be perfect and call the damage patina. I did a lot of research on various countertop materials when I redid my kitchen. I really wanted soapstone, but ultimately chose laminate for financial reasons.

        • Maureen Bajeyt says

          I’ve recently seen episodes of a remodel show where soapstone was used. It’s beautiful. When we remodeled our kitchen, we used quartz – I roll dough on the surface sometimes because it’s not porous, and because counter space is still at a premium in my small kitchen.

  2. MCM is grand says

    After going ’round and ’round on the floor covering issue, we chose the marble looking- Armstrong Alterna for the bathroom floor. It looks just like marble BUT is non-slippery, warmer on the feet, and much easier to clean! Having had a nasty slip & fall on a ceramic tile floor once, I was happy to find so many other options out there.

  3. Robin, NV says

    It should also be mentioned that pre-war (and even late 19th century) it was very common to use trompe l’oeil in homes. Wood grains and marbling were two very common forms of this art. So, in a way, there is historic precedent for using manmade materials to fool the eye.

    I also wanted to mention that Pionite has come out with a cute new pattern that I think would look super in either a kitchen or bathroom: I ordered a sample of Sugar Fiber and was a little disappointed that the pattern was much smaller than shown on the website. But I still think it would look great in a pink bathroom remodel.

  4. Laurie Louise says

    Our new 1961 (almost) time capsule ranch has what we believe is the original marble-look laminate in the kitchen and both baths. We just got the phone number of the last owner to live there (it sat vacant for about three years) and will add this to the list of questions we have for him. Some of the patterns on the Formica site have a nice retro vibe–a few in the first four rows look sweet. Thanks for keeping us updated, Pam!

      • Laurie Louise says

        Just got off the phone with the previous owner (or the last one to live there–he sold it to a Big Name Conservation Outfit who definitely did not conserve this house). Learned so much! He and his wife replaced the laminate after a hail storm punched a hole in the roof and kitchen ceiling. He didn’t remember when, but his family moved there in 1976. So it’s not original–late 70s or early 80s?–but lovely nonetheless.

  5. Rudy says

    I have marble countertops and back splashes in my kitchen. I do love their look but after 10 years of being paranoid about staining, chips from dropped utensils and just being broken due to accident for one reason or another, never again! I have come to realize a lot of the materials I had in the past come to think of as cheap or lesser, even inferior, materials served many definitely positive functions. Easier maintenance, less initial cost as well as cost of replacement, simpler repairs in some cases are all very attractive benefits to me now! This applies to many things! Sinks, appliances, plumbing, tubs, floor coverings etc. Never again! Retro materials for me. I have come to love and appreciate the items and materials that I took for granted in my youth. Nostalgia and practically. Thanks for the inspiration yet again!

  6. lisa in Seattle says

    I am a huge proponent of laminates — people who don’t find them attractive likely have not seen the range of designs. Home centers only carry a small fraction. Wilsonart, and probably Formica also, will send you samples of those that interest you for free. I’ve learned the finish makes as much difference as the color/pattern in how I respond to the laminate, so samples are a must.

  7. Josie says

    I put in Formica in Portico Marble here in Australia (I’m not sure we have this new-y yet) a year or so ago. It’s a nice soft colour and I am really liking it. And I haven’t wrecked it, which I probably would have with marble, since I am a known spatterer, splasher, grubby and sometimes red-wine-tipsy cook.

    I didn’t want a totally dead shiny sterile no-pattern white, but I wasn’t looking for a lot of exciting brights in a very small kitchen with limited light that’s open to my living room. I really am very happy with warm white cabinets and the “marble” tops.

    It’s nice to have vintage-friendly neutral options. I can’t put colour on every surface. And honestly I find it less daunting to consider painting the walls.

    I don’t feel like white cabinets and a light-marble-pattern counter is an effect that I’ll regret. It’s not sexy like some of the more candy-coloured kitchens I’ve seen on here, but it’s relatively timeless? Or so I tell myself. It goes with my stainless drainboard sink and white appliances, right? It says “Pick a decade, any decade…”

  8. Scott says

    A friend of mine has what seems to be Formica White Onyx (it matches the large swatch perfectly at least) in his nearly all-original 1960 ranch. It looks enough like this new pattern that I can tell you if you have pink appliances either one would look spectacular.

  9. alex says

    Carrara marble is back in trend for past 2.5 years. Greenlam launched it first in Asia pac region which became a big hit in the region.
    I used it on counter top in one of the project
    The decor is gloss finish looks stunning!

  10. Carol says

    My Mom has the original 1967 formica in the kitchen and hall bath. She chose the carrara marble and it has withstood the test of time, less a would be boyfriends name and a pets name that got etched onto the bathroom countertop. Bad children! Carrara marble is my favorite countertop surface of all time, but I think for the kitchen I would opt for laminate. The veining on Mom’s laminate is less pronounced than the new option however. Still, an awesome neutral choice that’s not boring.

  11. Carol says

    Just thought of Roundhouse Sarah and her parents house. The kitchen floor in atmosphere with the formica carrara marble. That might look awesome if someone is shooting for neutral with color pops in the rest of the kitchen. It’s not beige and not gray. Any color on the planet would go with this stuff. My mom’s appliances were avocado and are now bisque and need to be replaced soon. The countertops looked great with both.

  12. MB Jackson says

    Marble is gorgeous, but real life loves laminate. I put laminate and linoleum in my kitchen and was told those materials weren’t classy. But I like vintage dishes and when you drop something on rock or tile, you aren’t getting it back. There have been some great saves from these more forgiving materials. And the latest laminates really look like stone, especially if you customize the edges. You have to feel the temp difference of it to know it isn’t real stone sometimes.

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