3 retro laminates from Arborite: including a substitute for red crackle ice

1940s kitchen countertop materialWhen folks move into new/old 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s or 1970s homes, it seems like one of the biggest and most common needs is to update materials in the kitchen that are on their last legs. In general, if you have a laminate countertop that is in good shape, I’d say: Keep it. Or at least, live with it a year. I’ve heard lots of feedback, and seen examples, of old countertops that are stunning — and, they really seem to be better made than what’s available today. But, if they’re wrecked and have to go… or, if you inherited a more modern kitchen and want to back-date it (“back date” = “Retro Renovation”) then I am always on the look out for laminates on the the market that have an appropriate, retro vibe. Today: 3 possibilities I spotted from Arborite.

1938 kitchen renovationFirst up… and featured in the lead photo, above, is Arborite Berry Blue Linolite. I have a little chip — and oh my, it looks just like vintage linoleum. I quite like it! There are two other colors, but alas, they are neutrals — Cafe Au Lait and Creme Brulee. And double drats, it looks like there were several “real” colors discontinued in 2007: Grass Green, Mango Tango (?), Ice Blue and Peaches ‘n Cream. If you’re interested in those, maybe you could contact Arborite and see if they have any leftover stock… In any case, this blue linoleum style laminate would be good for a 1920s, 30s, 40s or early 50s kitchen as a replacement for linoleum. Linoleum is gorgeous, and there are a gazillion more colors, but it’s not specified for kitchen use. Folks like Dave and Frances used linoleum for countertops in their 1938 kitchen…interestingly, their lino is the same color as this Arborite laminate.

blue marble laminate for a retro kitchenMy second find is Palermo Cielo — a light blue granite (I think) style laminate from Arborite. I think this one could be a good choice for a bathroom tiled in light blue, or it could be used in a kitchen as well. I know there is a tendency to gasp at the thought of real granite in our retro kitchens… and I am in the camp that says, “Don’t do it,” especially if you’re in a mid-century modest rather than a mid-century modern. But laminate that looks like a marble-y granite: I’m okay with that. Lineoleum was made to look like marble, after all. Faux for sure can be “period authentic.”

red crackle formica laminate for a kitchen countertopI’m kind of thinking this is a Big Discovery, as well: Red Xabia laminate from Arborite. I know that a lot of folks want red crackle ice laminate – but that stuff is gawdawful expensive from places like Bars & Booth online — $400 for a 4′ x 8′ sheet. Heart attack prices. But, this Red Xabia, which has what I would call a “rag rolled” finish — it’s not solid, it’s lightly patterned — might make for a much more affordable substitute for red crackle ice. Get it with the Gloss Finish. There are a number of other Xabia colors, as well — the white, navy, gold, grey and taupe might be of interest, depending on the era of your kitchen and look you’re going for.

Before pulling the trigger on any of these choices, or anything I find and feature, be sure to get a large sample and test it under the light in your kitchen to make sure the color works for you.

I am not going to put in links to each laminate – in case those change over time. Instead, here is the link to Arborite’s product page, type the color name into their Search box to get to the laminate you’re interested in.

  1. Jackie says:

    Another possible option–not Arborite–is Formica Denim Canvas. I ordered samples of the Berry Blue Linolite, and found that it was just too dark for what I had in mind. The Denim Canvas has a similarly marled appearance, and it’s available from the big boxes. Online, the color looks very light, but seems more truly “denim” in person.

  2. Jimmy says:

    Hi Pam!

    I was deciding between the Palermo Cielo, and the Red Xabia for my countertop, but I was just on Arborite’s website, and Palermo Cielo has been discontinued.

    At least they added Sky Tulle, which is quite nice.

    I had better buy some ‘Red Xabia’ for my counter before it gets discontinued and replaced by ‘toilet water brown’. (no disrespect to any brown fans, I’m just tired of the lifeless cold options available to us retro renovators for the most part! haha)

    Since this is my first post, I wanted to say thanks Pam for all of the hard work you put in to this site! Much appreciated!


  3. Jennifer Bonner says:

    I have a red laminate with like a linen or cross hatch from 50’s. I think maybe pionite. Is there a place to get same laminate? thanks

  4. tear-down townie says:

    Wow, what a coincidence(?). If all goes well, I should hopefully have pictures of what a kitchen looks like with the Red Xabia and New York Metals Stainless trim in a week. My counter-tops and cabinets are in the works right now. If I remember right, we’re getting the “Cashmere” finish on the Arborite, hopefully it looks ok with the polished stainless. I’ll keep you posted.

    1. pam kueber says:

      tear-down, i think the cashmere finish will look great too. i only mentioned the gloss because that’s what crackle ice has (i think). a less glossy finish will be easier to maintain – won’t show the finish as much. YES: send me pics when your counter is in!

  5. shane walp says:

    I really like that red. I’ve seen more plain red in ’50s kitches than cracked ice. I think that red will go good in my kitchen with seafoam walls and whit Youngstown stuff!

  6. amanda mauck says:

    I just had to tell you, I’m totally in love with your blog. As a hard core fan of the 20’s to early 60’s, you just cant find anything as complete as your page.My husband loves antiques and the look of all things old and wonderful too, and when I told him I had been looking at your page for kitchen Ideas he was on board.

    Just wanted to send you some kudos for working so hard. Even if we don’t always comment, know that you are doing an amazing job.

    Amanda Beck Mauck

    1. pam kueber says:

      thank you, amanda, what a sweet comment – you have made my day! 🙂 let us know what you decide with your kitchen !

  7. Becky Leach says:

    I’m a total newbie when it comes to renovation, and I’d love to use something like this BUT, obviously, you need to add that metal strip thingie around the edges, once the laminate has been cut to size, right? Do you have a favorite site to purchase that chrome edging, as well? I’m thinking with a bit of research we can figure out how to replace our awful countertops ourselves (the Berry Blue is EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for) but I don’t even know what to *call* that edging, in order to start researching and learning.

    Utterly ignorant. 🙂

      1. Vic says:

        Really? That was your answer? – to tell her to search every category of the website? Are you paid by hits on pages or something? Why not actually help her and give her the name of the product she’s looking for?

        1. pam kueber says:

          Hi Vicki, I see what you are saying, I could have been more helpul. In general, I have found when first-time commenters ask questions like this, they are unaware that I have built a comprehensive category structure that can help them survey the situation in its entirety. That’s why I often point to the category — they usually really need to plow through it. Can I also admit: I sometimes get frustrated when it seems questioners don’t even TRY to find the answers first. I have spent A LOT of time and money setting up those categories — to be helpful, because it takes immense time to answer questions 1:1. I think most readers who take a few minutes quickly understand how the info is laid out, and are very grateful for all the organized research. All that said, yes, I will try to be more helpful and welcoming, even when I’m feeling cranky.

          Also, I often do try to give direct answers — as you have pointed out, that is a way to go if it’s possible for me to easily to so. Again, though, often the questions are general – there is no “single” right area, it’s in the categories. I do not get paid by the page, by the way. I earn money if folks happen to see a google ad that they like, and they click on it.

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