Making your own furniture? Use laminate instead of wood veneer — examples from the new Formica 100th anniversary collection

orange-halftone-formica-used-on-retro-tableFormica-Anniversary-Collection-Chips-HalftoneDo you make your own furniture? Or do you need to refinish old furniture to replace the veneer? Here’s an idea — use kitchen counter top laminate — instead of regular wood veneers — to create a durable, easy-to-clean — and if you like, very colorful — surface. Here are terrific examples of furniture covered with colorful new laminate designs from Formica’s 100th Anniversary laminate designs. When Formica introduced this 100th Anniversary Formica collection, they also showed some glamor shots of how you can use these new patterns to laminate furniture. Check out these new photos from Formica’s Facebook page — showing the new collection giving a retro modern spice to classic mid century furniture as well as modern looking children’s’ furniture.

Formica-dotscreen-on-mid-century-tableThe new Formica patterns mint dotscreen and citrus halftone appropriately add vibrant color to these traditional mid century looking end tables.

kids-table-and-benches-made-with-new-formicaWhen the new patterns and colors are used together for this children’s activity table and stools the results are striking. What kid wouldn’t love to play on these bright (and crayon-resistant) surfaces?


formica-used-on-children's-furnitureYour imagination is the only limit to the ways Formica can be used — giant lizard wall decorations — check.

wilson houseThe Formica lizards-on-the-wall reminds us of the way that laminate was integrated right into the walls of the Wilson House — above.

Which reminds us of this fabulous video featuring Grace Jeffers talking about the Wilson house. OF COURSE: Formica was not the only company making laminate in mid century America. There was Wilsonart…

textolite… as well as GE Textolite


… and Consoweld… and a variety of other brands. The 1950s and 1960s were the glory days of gorgeous laminate designs!

Formica “White Onyx” laminate — in production since 1963 — still available today.

Hey, here’s another story –> 54 Formica laminates that have been in production for several decades — including White Onyx, which goes all the way back to 1963.

Kids-play-area-with-new-100th-anniversary-formicaSomething tells me this waiting area would me much less exciting if they used greige laminate.

formica-use-in-bar-restaurant-settingAnd here’s another one for the adults — tangelo dotscreen used and the front of a bar seating area.


formica-dotscreen-tangeloEven if you wouldn’t put this bar in at home, it would be fun to sit around and sip cocktails, no?

library shelf with formica Library shelves…

cafeteria tables

And cafeteria tables. Yum.

So there you have it, further proof that this retro material (in these colorful new varieties) can find itself at home in today’s modern spaces.

  1. paul coggins says:

    i use formica constantly for sets/furniture that i build and must admit that its a joy to see some “new” laminates out .
    My clients sort through the laminate samples in seconds and ask of more (just sayin )
    Would like to suggest to formica that they don’t stop here but continue with more new laminates.
    I dislike having to go to really expensive (really thin) laminates like Abet Laminate but their patterns are more exciting
    Keep it up formica my clients will love the new ones and i might just make some new retro furniture with it +)

  2. Kelly Wittenauer says:

    We replaced the worn original laminate counters in the house where we lived in the early 90s with new laminate. My husband used the pieces that were cut out for the sink & drop-in range to make a child size table & two chairs for our son. They fit in an empty area in our kitchen that was too small for a regular table. By using the laminate cut-outs for the tabletop & seats of the chairs, they matched the kitchen. He built the legs and framework from solid oak, stained to match the golden birch cabinets. The laminate areas were edged with the oak, and the edges well rounded. They were sturdy enough that I could sit at the table with our son – me being rather short. He used fasteners that allowed them to be disassembled/reassembled, so the parts could be stored flat when our son outgrew them. That was 4 houses ago & I had forgotten about that little set, until I ran across the parts in the basement last week.

  3. Marta says:

    In the late 80’s, we bought a Tell City trestle table and 7 matching chairs from a farm family in Montana. It’s the biggest table Tell City made, from the Andover line, 8 feet of solid maple. And, that solid maple is topped with Formica.

    The people we bought it from had the table for 20 years. We’ve had it for 25. It’ll probably be passed on to one of the kids eventually. I wasn’t thrilled with the Formica at first, but within a few months of ownership, I was its biggest fan.

    I did ask the originial owners if one of the chairs had broken, since 7 seemed a funny number. They laughed and replied that there was always a highchair where an 8th chair would go, and by the time the last kid was out of a highchair, the first kid was out of the house.

    Tell City was a great company. Wish they were still making that furniture.

  4. Jody says:

    These are great ideas. We’re looking to create a kitchen island–one side for prep work, the other for dining–and I love the idea of a butcher block/Formica combo.

    And the furniture and decorations are ADORABLE. I’m going to keep my eye out at the ReStore for leftover Formica–I’m dying to de-beige our primary bathroom (bathtub: beige plastic; floor: beige linoleum; baseboards: beige vinyl; cabinet: a Home Depot special) and maybe that’s a way to start with decor instead of gutting.

  5. Scott says:

    Dang, these pictures make me wish I’d taken more than just one year of wood shop in high school!

    The Wilson House in particular made me let out a little yelp, those diamonds on the wall are fantastic.

    And boy oh boy did I just date myself by saying “wood shop” LOL!

  6. Jeanne says:

    Great idea, and I’ve done this! My dad was a school teacher. In the 60s, his school got new cafeteria tables, so he got to nab two of the “old” ones…a 6 ft and a 4 ft long one. They are SOLID WOOD heavy tressle tables! I’m not sure what type of wood they are…could be oak or walnut. The tops were a brown, pre-laminate finish (I forget what it’s called) that had initials carved in it. 😀 Anyway, I inherited the tables back in the 80s and had black formica put on the tops over the brown finish (after scraping the gum off the bottoms and cleaning up the wood). They look fantastic and I still use the 6ft one as my dining room table. It’s a little narrower than a regular dining room table (2.5 ft) and fits my space perfectly.

  7. Robin, NV says:

    Kate – you’re killing me with those Textolite samples. Every time I see them, I pray to the laminate gods that someone will reintroduce them.

  8. Kate H says:

    My grandfather made a set of floating white formica shelves (still in use 35 years later) as well as some formica-clad cubes that were used as display units, low tables, etc. These were great and very versitile. They never looked worn or ugly, not even after 20 years; you can put wet stuff (like planters) on them with no problem; perfect for messy people who can’t remember to use a coaster, or children who need to dance on a table while wearing their tap shoes. I think on one of the shelves the edging began to peel up, but we just glued it back with wood glue and moved on. He also made a console table which was behind their couch out of honey colored woodgrain formica. I don’t remember, but he probably used 3/4 plywood to construct them (that’s what he liked to use, regardless of specs — shelves, cabinets, dollhouses, tables — all were 3/4).

  9. Nita says:

    Still wish they had included more yellow patterns, but only one yellow option does make choosing a new laminate for my yellow kitchen that much easier…

    1. Robin, NV says:

      I’m in hot pursuit of a yellow laminate for my kitchen. So far, I Iike the Nevamar California and Pionite Orville. Neither are the pastel yellow of my dreams but I do like them and think they’ll work great.

  10. Diane in CO says:

    The children’s furniture is adorable, but those corners look very sharp. It’s something to think about…. especially with rambunctious kids.

    We recently had a WilsonArt laminate countertop made for our cottage bath and the corner is extremely sharp and uncomfortable to touch. I had expected it to be made like our 1969 condo kitchen countertops, which upon close examination has an ever-so-slight radius to the top section of laminate at all the corners. A much more elegant fabrication technique, IMHO, and is NOT sharp to the touch. I wish I had thought to question the cabinet company about whether they would make a slight radius on the corner — or that I had done a rounded corner altogether.

    If you are making furniture, or doing laminate countertops, it might be a good thing to consider. Our condo countertops look like a right angle corner, but that slight radius reduces the potential for injury. Hindsight for me was 20-20!

    1. Mike says:

      If you take a fine file, you can polish down the sharp edge until it feels smooth. Remember: forward strokes only, push down (not up) on the edge so it doesn’t lift the lam, and go easy on it.

      1. Diane in CO says:

        That’s interesting…. what sort of file? Metal? Our corner is sooo sharp I might just (gingerly) try that.

        You sound like you know about laminate fabrication. Don’t they ever cut it these days with the slight radius? I’m very impressed with the technique that was used on our older countertops.

        1. Mike says:

          Hi Diane,

          I like to use a file intended for meta because it has fine teeth. I’ve had the best results by gliding the file down the length of the edge while moving it in a downward direction with the file canted at 45 degrees. It’s hard to explain but easy to do. During fabrication, the Formica is cut with a flush bit or a bevel bit in a router. The old timers took extra time to “round off” the sharp edge but most guys won’t do it anymore.

    2. paul coggins says:

      yes, i like this furniture but running a router around all edges with a 45degree bit would make it a lot safer

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