My new favorite laminate for a 1940s kitchen countertop

In the 1940s, you could have any color of kitchen countertop as long as it was black. I exaggerate, but only a little.

A couple of years ago I wrote a small e-book, which I never published, all about how to get the look of a 1940s countertop.

In short: Use black.

Like this: Arborite St. Laurent laminate. Three large samples just arrived in my mailbox (I was hunting and pecking what’s new on the interwebs again, and spotted it.) 

I like it. It looks like close enough old Cusheen see here or

or see here, to make me happy.

Get the IM finish, that’s the one I recommend.

Edge it in metal, either aluminum or stainless steel.

Live happily ever after.

My 1940s kitchen design boards:

The 1940s could be so sweet… at least the idealized version we have!


  1. Kathy says:

    Arborite has some other great patterns – I just ordered a sample of Stella Yella – doing a 1962 kitchen remodel.

  2. Neil says:

    For many of us who are hooked on Golden Age of Hollywood movies…..the kitchens in those 40’s, and 50’s, movies are THE seminal influence of our kitchen taste. Those 40’s dream kitchens are to die for; so cozy, inviting, comforting, cheering, and endlessly reassuring. (And yes, I spent my childhood being nurtured in hard-used but still vibing 40’s kitchens…)

    And in those days, when American husbands and wives inhabited separate but overlapping planets, the 40’s kitchen was the sole realm of women, and were spectacles of what was deemed feminine then: Frills, color, sparkle, sensory seduction; all tarting up the sweaty under-story of cycling, hard hand-labor (leavened with male-invented gadgets to keep the “little woman” happy).
    But boy, they were tres charmant.

    When we remodeled our 1925 San Francisco kitchen, in our comfy Spanish stucco house, we kept the built-in wood cabinet bodies but updated the drawers and doors, adding more to match, and installed charming tile countertops of the period. All in (tasteful, mind you) ivory, green and yellow. I couldn’t resist making some gathered, overlapping, white-sheer swagged 40’s curtains, edged with Loretta Young frills and poised with matching tiebacks, on the generous window over the sink.

  3. Kathy says:

    A lot of old illustrations of kitchens circa 1930s-1950s had deep red to salmon red counters, and I’ve seen pictures of such counters in the wild. The earliest were linoleum.

    My mother had a time working around salmon red laminate counter in the 1970s in our Tudor style house. I wish I had pictures, but she ended up painting the cabinets green and antiquing them, and found a very vibrant vinyl wallpaper of oversized geraniums with matching fabric for the curtains. The breakfast nook was white with green trim to offset all that color, with the matching curtains, and plain white curtains over the sink. It was pretty fab, and of course the first thing that was removed by the next owners.

    1. Ms. Vel-Vida says:

      Kathy, this sounds amazing. You had me at oversized geraniums! I love big bold prints on wallpaper and curtains. It’s sad to think how many of these wonderfully vibrant kitchens were lost to remodels when people seemed to become afraid of bright colors and patterns. Live out loud I say.

  4. Ms. Vel-Vida says:

    I’m loving this black marble laminate! I’ve been mulling over bathroom remodel ideas and I’ve been thinking the contrast of black marble on the vanity countertop would look sharp against the pink, white, and green tones I’m planning to to put together. This would look snazzy with the Shirle Wagner swan faucet I have been pining over.

  5. Allison says:

    OT, a little, but I’m noticing how pretty and feminine these 1940s, 50s and earlier 60s kitchen were.

    Plenty of ruffles and frills, flowers and fancy touches; sweetheart kitchens indeed.

    Not a vestige of that decorating ethos left; nothing in a modern decorating scheme is allowed to be feminine It can be clean and minimalist, or calm and spa-like, or bright and spacious, but sweet and ruffly? No way.

    1. CarolK says:

      The most recent Elle Decor (April ’18) has a story about English interior designer Kathryn M Ireland’s home and studio in Santa Monica. Kathryn’s home looks like it has a good bit of chintz in it. Most of the fabrics are her own design as is the wallpaper. In the studio kitchen. she doesn’t have cabinets but shelves hidden with curtains which is very retro. Her studio kitchen range is a red AGA.

      Martyn Lawrence Bullard is another English designer based in LA. He lives in either Gloria Swanson’s or Tallulah Bankhead’s old home and still has her beautiful vintage gas range in the kitchen. Not all designers are minimalist and not all mid-century design was frou-frou. In fact, much mid-century design had very clean lines.

  6. CarolK says:

    I have a green laminate similar to that black laminate in my kitchen now and my daughter’s ex-BF’s grandparents had it in their kitchen as well. The laminate looks like marble to me and, if I were going to have something that looks like marble in my kitchen I’d rather have the real thing. (Don’t shoot me!) I’m not saying that it’s not pretty, though.

    Some Caesarstones have patterns that look like old school laminates. I’d consider one of those for my reno if I were going to use Caesarstone. (I want an inset sink as they are easier to clean around.) My top pick for a countertop would be soapstone, though, and I think it’s pretty old-school.

    Some of these ’40s kitchen tableaus need a vacuum coffee pot. I do love these 40s inspired kitchens. It reminds me that I need to save the cabinet pulls (like in #2) off my cupboards before we send the decent ones to ReStore. The bottoms are shot, but the uppers are still good. I also want to manage to save that little carved cornice above the kitchen sink. I think it’s charming.

    1. Phyllis says:

      To me it looks like soapstone rather than marble….we have soapstone counters in our MCM and the veining is very similar. This is a good looking laminate.

      1. Evan says:

        I wanted soapstone when we took out the white Formica in our 1936 Tudor home. Couldn’t swing the price (gasp!) so I settled on a Formica called “soapstone”. It’s very pretty with subtle veining and a nice matte finish. We are currently gearing up to restore a 1947 ranch style with its original kitchen in tact…except for the countertops. So I’m in a quandary again!

    2. Nikki says:

      I have and use my stainless steel vacuum coffeepot! Makes the best coffee ever!

      I really enjoyed the “boards” Pam! They are very inspirational!

      1. CarolK says:

        I could kick myself for not getting that vintage vacuum pot I saw at an antique shop a few years ago. I do want to add one to my coffee maker collection when I finish my kitchen renovation. I already have a Chemex, a French press and a percolator.

        I’ve spied vacuum pots on the counters in Leave It to Beaver, the original and best version of Father of the Bride and, IIRC, Merrily We Live among other films. The most classic appearance is in Woman of the Year where Katherine Hepburn tries to make coffee in one.

  7. nina462 says:

    my favorite time period for a kitchen. I have a red ‘china’ cabinet (from JC Penneys) as an accent. It’s not vintage, but fits right in with design.

    Where are the geraniums on the kitchen sink?

  8. Carolyn says:

    So when we say 1940’s, does that mean pre- or post- WWII? I know we spend a lot of time here discussing the ’50’s & ’60’s with little side trips into the ’70’s (and why not, right?!) but, except for colored bathrooms, have we talked about the beginning of Mid-Century? My ideal home would be a 2 story farmhouse with the laundry in the basement along with the jars of canned goods and the washline outside. But what I’ve experienced has been that Ma “updated” with Formica counters, maybe painted the birch cabinets white, and serviceable linoleum floor tiles. (Both my grandmas had outhouses well into the 1970’s.)
    If you have links to previous posts, that would be nice but if we could revisit them this summer, it would be better.

    1. Pam Kueber says:

      Post-war design starts, generally, after or around 1953.

      1940s style would be, in my general use of the term, 1930s through 1953.

      1. Lynn-O-Matic says:

        Can you please explain the significance of the 1953 date? My Beauty Queen Deluxe Lavanette, for example, is marked 1949, and I would have considered it postwar.

          1. ineffablespace says:

            I would say yes to early 1950s for a transition in interior design (look at early television like I Love Lucy)–with the exception of actual Mid Century Modern, which took off immediately after the war with the Eames and the Knolls and Herman Miller
            Womb Chair (1946) with prototypical antecedents back to 1940; Risom Lounge Chair (1943) using surplus parachute straps; Eames LCM and LCW(1946) ; Noguchi tables (1948); Nakashima Straight Back Chair (1946); Nelson Bench (1946).

            Of course it took some time for the influence of these pieces to make an impact on popular culture. And still, many people think these iconic pieces were designed 20 years later, in the MAdmen era, rather than a generation earlier.

  9. Lynne says:

    Hey, ya know, I think I have that old McCalls curtain pattern, and few similar in my stash…or hoard, which ever you want to call it.

    1. Mary Elizabeth says:


      It’s all in the connotation, not the definition of words. “Collection” connotes a discrete assemblage of some sort of similar items, such as 1950s Pyrex casserole dishes. “Hoard” implies you collect stuff indiscriminately, such as old grocery flyers, Madame Alexander dolls, beer can pop-tops, fur balls from your 10 (or at least more than 3) cats, and Swarski crystals. “Stash” implies something you save for when you want to get high using it. I think those of us who collect mid-century stuff have stashes. 🙂

    1. Pam Kueber says:

      Hi Alison, yes, start with the Contact form — link is at the bottom right of every page, in the footer.

    2. Kristin says:

      This is an older post but seems like the perfect place for my question. I have a 1947 home with sparkle laminate countertops. It seems sparkle laminate didn’t come out until later (1960s?) and yet it seems too soon for a “remodel.” What do you think is up with this? Thanks!

      1. pam kueber says:

        Hmmm. I don’t know the year when sparkle laminate first came out. Yes, 1947 seems early. That said: We adore sparkle laminate! If I had a 1947 kitchen with sparkle laminate, I’d be thrilled, I think!

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