If you are looking for retro-style laminate for a kitchen or bathroom counter top, you have some blinding research ahead of you. Unless there is a home-run-out-of-the-park solution — like the boomerangs, crackle ice or dogbone still available — it’s going to be a hunt-peck-and-forage to find something that’s “close enough” to original laminates from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Here to help is a list of all the places I know —
eight nine 11 places — to look for laminate for your retro kitchen, along with some tips for your hunt–>
Where to find retro style laminate for kitchen and bathroom countertops:
- Abet Laminati — 195 solid colors… 136 woodgrains… 149 patterns… 33 metals… Easy-to-use website. If you need a solid color and can’t find it here — or at Arpa, below — it probably doesn’t exist.
- Arpa — Eye-boggling to search, but their colors look good, so may well be worth the trouble to pursue this brand for that reason.
- Wilsonart — Don’t forget to also check out their Virtual Design Library for a growing number of custom, digital-printed options — including several recent revivals from Wilsonart’s 1960s and 1970s archive.
- Where to buy the Wilsonart digital designs: I suggest starting with A Moment in Time — Specialist provider of retro-vintage styles. This is a new company on my radar, and as of Sept. 2011, their prices for 10 shades of boomerang laminate and crackle ice laminate are better than Bars & Booths’ prices. Best price for a number of these specialty designs is at A Moment in Time, which charges $325.50 for a 4’x10′ sheet (vs. $328.79 at Vitro and $425 at Bars & Booths). Shipping is going to be extra. Disclosure: A Moment in Time became an advertiser after I first wrote this story, but this mention is not part of the deal.
- UPDATE 2016: You can also buy the new Retro Renovation by Wilsonart collection affordably (I think) with shipping included via Home Depot!
- Pionite — Be sure to check out their linen-look laminates in Abstracts; colors are greyed out – more suitable for 60s and 70s than 50s, but overall, I quite like them.
- Formica — Boomerang in charcoal (the only color still available from Formica) is in Homeowners. But, Dogbones, Wefts and Warps are in To The Trade. Tip: Formica lets you see All Swatches once you get yourself on the correct page — look for this feature, it’s easier.
- Arborite — They have some patterns I like, including a blueberry that looks like linoleum and some almost-linens. Easy-to-use website.
- Nevamar — Check out their abstracts.
- Decotone — Added to our list in 2015.
- Laminart — Added to our list in 2015.
- Lab Designs — Added to our list in 2013, they have some retro-modern styles worth considering.
- No substitute for seeing an actual sample — Of course, there is no substitute for seeing actual samples in the flesh. If you can order the samples in an 8″x10″ size, all the better. Smack it down in your kitchen or bathroom — and look at it in all lights during different times of the day. This is a prime opportunity to torture your spouse in the decision-making process.
- Do not become enraged by prices for the specialty laminates — Laminate must be stored flat, in a climate- and humidity-controlled environment. Specialty providers often also must invest more to hold inventory, and they do not benefit from the economies of scale possible in mass market production.
- Searching is going to take time and will blind you — Some of these websites are better organized than others. Be patient and be sure that, once you find a product page, you look at all the links to ensure you have not missed any sections.
- Look in the Commercial section of the websites, too — Look in both the “Residential / Homeowner” sections and the “Contract / To the Trade / Professional” sections. So many of the popular consumer patterns today look like granite. More abstract designs may be over in the Commercial section. Generally, as a consumer you can get product from either section. You *may* have to go to a real countertop fabricator to get Commercial selections — BUT, with the internet now, you likely can also find an online source at a good price. (Just check everyone out.)
- Good-Better-Best — Manufacturers have good-better-best grades for a variety of requirements. For example, see this Pionite page showing the different grades possible. Check out the options, and make your decision accordingly. On stuff that requires professional installation, all the more so, because that means replacing the product has two costs.
- Buy a matte finish — Keep in mind that shiny finishes show scratches. I have glossy in the two bathrooms, and they are doing just fine. But I would never put glossy in a kitchen. Watch the specifications — if it says “for vertical surfaces only” it means not for countertops, duh.
- Share your experiences — Readers, do you have any more tips of your own, or questions?
I have LOTS more research on laminate options here:
- My complete Kitchen Help: Countertops subcategory