The history of laminate countertops

vintage-countertop-laminate-from-general-electricOne of the things I *think* I have learned about both interior and exterior design over the years, is that major shifts in visible consumer trends are often, or even usually, connected to advances in technology. For example, the tsunami of steel kitchen cabinets across America came after the industrial build up during WWII. Afterward, all that steel needed to go somewhere. It is all very fascinating to me to understand the “why” in why something was popular… so, I was very interested to hear from new reader Laura, who pointed me to a good article about the history of laminated surfaces. Why did everyone (pretty much) in the 1950s have a Formica, or Consoweld, or Textolite countertop? Why is laminate textured and metalized today? Read on…

Laura writes:

Hi, Pam! Just stumbled upon your site tonight (not using the Stumble Upon app, though) and love what you’re doing. I am in a strange position of having a kitchen similar to Betty Draper’s (except with honey oak cabinets and a linen-looking beige countertop without nails in my aluminum edging) AND being a writer for Surface & Panel magazine. This allows me to live the American dream in my 1953 ranch with a great husband and two toddlers while poring over story assignments about the latest and greatest in surface design … all from my mid-century eat-in kitchen. I work from home. Anyway, I want to pass along a resource from S&P that might interest some of “materialista” readership.

Thank you for the tip, Laura.

Readers, click over hear to read all about polymers and melamine and thermosets and thermoplastics… you’ll feel so smart after!: The evolution of laminate, melamine and other modern plastics for the home — link now changed, can’t find….

  1. Amber says:

    Aww we had White Spungold on our kitchen countertops in the house I grew up in (built in 1963)… as far as I know it’s still there, but my mother absolutely hated it and often talked of getting it ripped out.

    I’ll forward her this article and hopefully entice her to replace it with new rather than remove it and upgrade it entirely!

  2. Judi says:

    Saturday morning, the perfect time to catch up past posts such as this one. How interesting. And Laura, your job and life and home sound pretty great.

  3. MrsErinD says:

    I Love textolite!!!!! I have the white spungold textolite covering my bathroom vanity (circa 1950) and the White gold one on my dinette tabletop from my grandparents (circa late 50’s early 60’s) and my kitchen countertops look similar to primrose twilight.

  4. Paul Kaplan says:

    I sell a lot of mid-century houses in Palm Springs- and I have to say, some of the Formica countertops that are 50 years old + are in excellent condition still! I like your idea of the Vetrazzo- but check out Modern Home- perhaps you can find a simlar tile that isn’t as expensive, for an accent! Good luck.

  5. Denise Cross says:

    I agree Amy! It’s time for countertop replacement in my galley ’57 Atomic kitchen. The formica is 60 years old! And it looks darn great for its age. I’ve been all over the options and I’ve decided to replace white formica with white formica. I’d love to have one 2 x 6 slab of Vetrazzo for the bar counter but that’s impossible. They only sell slabs 5 x 10 $$$$ and then I guess you figure out where to use it all after they tell you how much they will sell you. This is called ‘pricing yourself out of the market’? Good old Formica… I’m in. But if anybody in the Palm Springs area has a spare 2 x 6 piece of Vetrazzo… can I make a bid?

  6. Amy Hill says:

    Interesting reading! This really caught my eye…
    ” In addition to its aesthetic appeal, the performance of laminated surfaces was getting more attention during this period. HPL countertops offered consumers a viable option to solid wood (which was said to crack, warp and hold bacteria) and stone (which was said to be heavy, costly and porous). Kitchens decked out in HPL and vinyl furniture, cabinets and counter tops were the height of fashion.”
    My old formica counter tops are still very functional…guess I won’t ever be upgrading to granite.

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