For 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.
Above: 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!
Above: Wilsonart’s White Carrara laminate — Get samples via their website here.
Above: Abet Laminati’s 977 Rocks Carrara laminate — On their website here.
Above: Arpa’s Marmo Sierra Beige — On their website here.