1960s Formica Girl adToday, I present 1960s polka-dot Formica Girl in a catfight smackdown against Medusa, the gorgon sister whose monstrous gaze turned mortal men to stone. Guess whose side I’m on? Warning: Uncharacteristic and generally-frowned-upon rant follows.

Medusa by Carvaggio

I have been looking at vacation condos in Florida recently. Everywhere you turn it’s: Granite on the countertops, bigggggg slabs o’ faux stone ceramic on the floors and backsplashes and even UP THE WALLS and not just on the bathrooms walls either. Shoot me.

All these baked surfaces are hard, cold, and they echo. The scale is usually way off. Moreover, the mass of stuff I’ve seen is just cheap crappola Applied All Over the Place. Sorry for my french and for breaking my rule about “not making anyone feel bad for their decisions.” But this mass hypnosis of the American public — which seems to go hand-in-hand with the Greige Nation — is just a crying shame. I am Very Tolerant about design choices. I really truly am. But this fixation on putting granite, faux-stone ceramic, stone and marble on every surface is Not Good. It is Not Attractive. I was not really aware of how bad it was, until I went condo shopping. Stop, America, stop!

I am a big fan of “mixing things up” when it comes to surfaces. Ceramic and/or marble and/or even some granite in the house is fine — in appropriate measures. Wood floors, cork, linoleum, VCT, carpet, rugs = Yes, there are so many choices, mix it up, have some fun! For midcentury modern and modest houses alike, laminate countertops are what’s *authentic* to the period. They usually suit the unpretentious character of the house.

Close your eyes to Medusa. Embrace Formica Girl and all her life-giving polka dot loveliness. Thanks to Formica blog for giving me permission to use their lovely photo. I’m sure they weren’t expecting this.

  1. Logan says:

    While I agree that the excessive overuse of fake is certainly unwarranted and cheesy, I’m going to stick up for granite here. Though I love baking and cooking, I am a klutz. I drop things, I set hot pans down on the counter because I burn myself. I spill stuff. Etcetera ad nauseum. Formica simply doesn’t stand the test of time for me! A well-sealed granite helps prevent stains and burns that I otherwise incur on unsuspecting and undeserving counters.

    Do I need unique pieces of marble/granite to seem “cool”? Heck no. Do I want to put in a solid black granite counter in my pastel-yellow bathroom reno, where I keep all the original yellow floor tiles, yellow sink and yellow tub, and add black liner tiles and some more yellow around the walls? Heck yes!

    To each their own style, and I think this is the point I’m trying to make. I don’t want to see every house be totally remodeled and sterile, but I do like having sturdy accents of stone here, hardwood there, etc. Make a place your own, not someone else’s.

  2. Carl says:

    I have a 70’s mod “ski lodge” house under contract and I told the seller (the dreaded fix-and-flipper”) to leave the inside ALONE. Since it wasn’t under contract at the time, he decided it would be wonderful to rip out the white laminate counters and put in….beige granite, Ugh. I can’t wait to rip them out. They belong in a suburban condo. He also thought it was a great idea to paint every room in the house mint green (great taste huh?) so first I re-paint the entire house, then I rip out the counters. Most people have no taste.

  3. Chelsea says:

    I completely agree with this. I think laminates can look cool but they’re just not my thing. I like a mixture of styles, and granite or marble countertops are really appealing to me when mixed with quirkier retro styles.

  4. pam kueber says:

    Terrazzo is THE BEST. Definitely on my list of desireable features! Funny to hear, when we were out looking, that there were interim generations who though it was hide*** and ug**.

  5. pam kueber says:

    I really do some of the manufactured counter top materials – Silestone, Caesarstone (sp?), etc. Even granite, too! I am ranting about seeing this cold hard stuff in EXCESS like Everywhere, un-Artfully designed…

  6. Nicole says:

    I know that this is over a year later, but I just had to share that my great aunt has this floor in her custom build 1957-59 house! She also has red linen laminate countertops with metal edging. It breaks my heart to know that when she leaves that house, I’m sure the new owners will gut it. But the floor is fantastic: one of those things that you would never think to do but looks fabulous. It’s especially cool since the rest of the room is really colonial feeling.

  7. Chad D says:

    Once I learned the hard way how important it is not to insult other people’s taste. I made a snide comment about an oddly configured picture window on a Victorian rowhouse without noticing that its owner was sitting on the front step some 10 feet from me!. That said, the ranting feels good. I’m gonna go broke this year because I refused to buy anything that had been rehabbed into a McRow. Is it worth going through all this so I can have 19th Century porcelain doorknobs, 1930’s inlaid flooring, a flashy 1960’s chrome chandelier, and 1970’s esque exposed brick and beams? You bet! On top of that, I know the plumbing, electric, and insulation will be done right.

  8. Gordon T. says:

    Totally agree! This trend is especially obvious on HGTV, the Stainless Steel and Granite Countertop Network.

  9. Linoleummy says:

    Aaahh, home at last! Love you, Pam & all your friends! Looking at flooring last year I wondered if I was the only one who didn’t want “wood” or “stone” floors, even if I could get great fake ones. The colors and creativity possible with linoleum is where I was drawn. And now good-ol laminate for countertops! So THIS is where the other lovers of fun color hang out. Everybody come over to my house for drinks & gimme kitchen ideas!

  10. Lisa says:

    Pam, your website gave me the motivation, fortitude, and information I need to attempt a complete restoration of my MCM 1961 kitchen. I rejuvenated my Formica, uncovered some beautiful copper (?) cabinet hardware, and am in the middle of stripping down decades of paint to restore the gorgeous wood cabinets. I would like to bring the kitchen back to its original glory! The only problem I’m having is that I can’t figure out whether the kitchen floors are original (in which case they stay!) or were part of a previous remodel (in which case they go!). I suspect the latter, but I’m not positive. The floor tiles are 12×12 beige/cream/white stone that is flecked/mottled/swirled. They don’t photograph well, but here’s a close match to something I found online: http://t.homedepot.com/p/Daltile-Euro-Beige-12-in-x-12-in-Natural-Stone-Floor-and-Wall-Tile-10-sq-ft-case-L76012121U/202646786/. I think the floor is some kind of marble. Nice quality, but seems 80s looking somehow. I looked through your posts to see whether marble floor tile was prevalent in 1961. I’m not sure, but it doesn’t look like it. If not original, I think Terrazzo is in my future! I would really appreciate any thoughts on whether I should keep researching or whether the odds are that the tile is not original. Thanks for all the wonderful and inspiring info!

  11. Lisa says:

    …and to dovetail, the tile I have has a high polish on it (unlike the glazed tile I linked to). Thanks!

  12. pam kueber says:

    Hard to say especially without a photo. But I tend to think: If you have have been reading the blog for a while and are into decorating, you probably have developed a pretty good “eye” and probably are right about the tile being put in later. Question: Is there a pantry — or place under the stove — where you can chip up a piece to see what’s underneath? In any case — yes, sounds 80s ish to me, too. And remember: Be sure to renovate safe, especially as you disturb old layers of who-knows-what. Be sure to take lots of before during and after photos to send us when you are done! How exciting!!!

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