Carrara marble laminates – 4 choices – an authentic retro choice

Cararra-Bianco-laminate-FormicaFor either kitchen or, especially, bathroom countertops, I believe that Carrara marble laminates are an authentic vintage choice. I blinded myself searching for them among the 8 retailers of laminate in the U.S. today.

Several points of interest:

  • Grace Jeffers, the materials expert who advises Wilsonart, wrote about the use of laminates that imitated marble in her write up for Wilsonart on laminates in the 1950s. She also shows laminates that mimic travertine, and points to the influence of modern designers. Moreover, in her thesis, Grace says that Formica introduced “Classic Cremo Marble” in the late 1950s — and that it “instantly became one of the company’s all time best sellers.” The pattern, she said, was discontinued in 1983.  You can also get Formica White Onyx – which we know for a fact has been on the market in its present form since at least 1969.
  • Researching this story, I learned about the difference between Carrara marble and Calacatta marble. Both are named for areas of Italy. Carrara has denser, smaller, lower-contrast veins and is light-grayer in its overall effect. Calacatta has much larger veining and, as a result, a grey-on-white effect. The larger-scale Calacatta is being pushed for contemporary homes today – both Formica and Wilsonart have it, part of the appeal seems to be that it has a huge repeat – 5′ – which means that in a kitchen it will be even less evident that it’s not real marble (real marble would have no “repeat”). Don’t ask me why, but I am guestimating that Cararra — not Calacatta — was what we had in old-skool times. Part of this guess is based on the fact that carrara marble has been in my conscientious forever — it’s been around. The big veining of Calacatta? I think that must have become “a thing” with McMansions.
The four choices for Carrara style laminate today — but note, I have not necessarily seen all these samples in person:

formica-carrara-marble-laminateAbove: Formica 6696-46 Carrara Bianco — I actually have seen a large sample of this one. The sample I have has the “46” finish, which is etched — that is, pitted. I love the patina!

carrara laminate from wilsonart
Wilsonart’s White Carrara laminate

Above: Wilsonart’s White Carrara laminate — Get samples via their website here.

carrara laminate
977 Rocks Carrara (laminate) – Abet Laminati

Above: Abet Laminati’s 977 Rocks Carrara laminate — On their website here.

marmo sierra biege laminate from arpa
Marmo Sierra Beige (laminate) – Arpa

Above: Arpa’s Marmo Sierra Beige — On their website here.

  1. DJ Shoepe says:

    We have what looks like the Carrara laminate in our master bath and laundry room, circa 1968. I LOVE it and wish it were in the kitchen, as well!

    It probably was in the other two bathrooms, but was replaced with boring beige stuff by the former owner, who had no taste whatsoever, He Who Took Out The Awesome Square Tub!

  2. Jenny Rynders says:

    Thanks so much for the wonderful research and pictures! Does anyone know if laminate can be used for the bath tub/ shower wall? I have terrible grout in my current house and would love to avoid it in my next place. The marble laminate is sooo pretty.

    1. Chad says:

      I’m getting ready to tile my bathroom walls, and what I’ve learned from my research is that tile isn’t waterproof. I’ll need to build a waterproof substrate first and then tile over it. And I’m doing what I believe is the best thing possible, not just the code minimum. Because I can. I would imagine that you could do the same thing and glue laminate onto a substrate that’s suitable for tile. I’ll be writing about this in a month or so when I get around to actually doing it, if that’s any help to you.

      I have a feeling that if you’re not imagining this as a DIY project, contractors will think you’re crazy for wanting it. And general contractors may not waterproof it right, while tilers may not want to do the job because it’s not tile.

      1. Rob L says:

        Chad, you are correct. The downfall to laminate failure is water, and it’s not actually the laminate itself but the substrate in which it must be bonded. The home my parents built in the mid 70’s, like many other homes, was built with laminate shower/tub surrounds and there were no issues with proper care and maintenance. If there were any issues, they would most likely come from the moisture penetrating the substrate at the edges/corners/seams and thus the substrate swelling/rotting. The corners and edges had metal molding (chromed) that were glued/caulked into place to prevent moisture from penetrating to the substrate. It would make sense to go ahead and bond to a moisture-resistant particle board or mdf, as these are approved laminate substrates. Moisture can be the failure for many products.

  3. Daleth says:

    I ordered a sample of the Wilsonart Carrara. It has a really nice texture–I forget what they call the texture, but it has “velvet” in the name. A lot of laminates that imitate real stone have a shiny surface but the Wilsonart Carrara is matte and actually feels about as close to marble as a laminate could. There’s a warmth to it that I like. I’m going to uncover the original tile on our sink wall (we have a 1930s home) and might end up using the Wilsonart if it looks right with the tile.

  4. Rob L says:

    Please note: All Wilsonart Laminate in the USA is manufactured in the USA in Temple, TX and Fletcher, NC and has been since 1956. Support American jobs.
    Rob L

    1. Rob L says:

      Tami, did Forbo recently aquire Arborite back? Last info I could find is that Arborite was aquired by Wilsonart in 1999 and they are both now under the ITW umberella.

    1. MCM is Grand says:

      Thanks for posting the photos! I was wondering how to deal with seams, Amy has found a solution. Cute house!

    2. Ann-Marie Meyers says:

      Amy’s whole house is gorgeous! Not my style at all, but I certainly can appreciate beautiful work when I see it. It looks very welcoming.

  5. Jordanna says:

    So doing this. I love the fun/funky laminates too but our kitchen is tiny compared to many ranch homes – this is an apartment – and I’m going to, I think, keep bright colours to cute accents. Because NO I am not giving up Fiestaware and geraniums – though my sister is now teasing me those should be white too.

    White cabinets and white marble laminate is going to be good I think (nervous as I come down to decision time) no, not as outright sugar-confection adorable as some Mid-Century looks but easy to live with. And I can still do full on Suburban Modern colour scheme on the walls, right?

    Because EVERYTHING goes with white! 😀

    1. Ann-Marie Meyers says:

      Jordanna, I have a tiny kitchen, too, so I know what you are talking about. I see so many fun things I would love to do that would just overwhelm my space. I have pretty much decided to go with a new Arborite laminate and am going to paint my plywood cabinates a complimentary color, leaving the funky stuff for small accents here and there.
      Just waiting for the tax refunds so I can start.

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