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The Formica Monologues.

So, I posted about Formica counters and a bunch of you had thoughtful comments on the topic ranging from "Ew, gross" (I am paraphrasing) to "Good grief. We need to get over ourselves. Not everyone can afford Carrara marble. It was an affordable solution at that time, just as paperstone is today."

True. But that kitchen was ugly. I suppose it's less about Formica itself, and how you use it in the kitchen.

So, let me ask this:

Do you have Formica that is working for you? Send a photo and I will post. (I remember, actually, a Domino photo that showed a happy pink & brown kitchen with Formica counters and, well, I was impressed how cheerful and successful the room was. It certainly put my then-Formica counters to shame. But what didn't, really? Nothing. Nothing, is the answer. They were horrifying.)

And then let me ask this:

For the money, what counter material presents the best value for the look, in your opinion? And what IS paperstone? What would be your counter of choice on a budget, and then if money were no object.



R said...

Formica is my budget choice. With all the colors and textures available it can be attractive.
Money no object...soapstone.

Anonymous said...

I have black slate 'look' formica counters. They are decent and cheap. I'd show a photo, but it seems there are none on this computer.

paint it. black. said...

I'm getting ready to switch from hideous fake wood formica laminate to a solid color formica laminate from Ikea. I can't beat the price (+/- $400) and installation is easy.

I figure it'll get me through a couple years before I can afford to renovate the kitchen entirely.

Anonymous said...

I have just installed Paperstone in a small cottage I have in Maine. Paperstone is a paper plus resiny type ingredient. Unfortunately, the color I wanted was a wonderful brown and that paper used in it is not recycled(all the other colors were) but at least a renewable resource. I picked it really for the look and cost and there might be others out there that really know if it is environmentally what it is cracked up to be.
I love it..looks like polished leather and feels wonderful. The only negative is that it shows water left on it but you can clean it with any vegetable oil soap and it looks like new.

Condo Blues said...

I think it depends upon the Formica. Fake granite Formica? Ugly and pointless. Neutral color Formica? A better budget choice.

I like the idea of paper stone being a more environmentally friendly option, but I wonder if it would hold up if you actually cook in your kitchen a lot? It seems most successful for those people who like the look, want to go green, and eat lots of takeout.

David said...

Our new place has it's original 1952 kitchen, the counters are shiny and black with aluminum trim. No idea what it is other than it seems to react badly to spray cleansers. Looking forward to a total gut.

If there were no budget, I'd have soapstone with R.

What we'll likely end up with is Zodiaq. I like the Bianco Carrera in the OKITE collection.

Jules said...

I have soapstone counters. I love them, but I occasionally wish I went with walnut. (I debated between those two materials.)

If budget were an issue (and it would be if I was remodeling today), I would do formica or low grade wood counters from IKEA. I live in a mid-century home, and I don't think Formica looks that bad when done correctly, meaning, it's not trying to imitate a more expensive material.

I don't have a picture, but I once saw a Formica counter in Atomic Ranch, complete with metal (aluminum?) trim. It looked FABULOUS.

Decorno said...

With the shiny metal trim, all Airsteam style? I would love that. In fact, I could live in an Airstream. But that's another post.

Anonymous said...

I saw a painstakingly renovated Palm Springs kitchen on (don't vomit) HGTV, and the homeowners had countertops fabricated from (I believe) a super-high-density acrylic. It was spectacular--like a solid slab of lacquer. Have never seen it since.

Sparker said...

I think that when done right, concrete countertops are a very good looking budget option.

Butcher block can look great too, but it does require some upkeep.

My name is Laurie Jones. said...

I chose LG High Mac for my kitchen remodel, I live in an older mid-priced home that just didn't warrant granite or anything crazy expensive, if money were no object I'd do marble, I know its hard to care for but I love how its cold to the touch and I think it looks timeless and beautiful!

Anyone use cement? I think that's a great look too and probably not terribly expensive!

Anonymous said...

I'd use butcher block from Ikea to save money.
I have very dark granite and it holds up fine and I've never sealed it. If I were to stay in that house, I'd have it honed. In my weekend home I have formica from the fifties. It has metal trim I really like it.

ellen said...

I'll take a picture of my Formica kitchen tonight. Actually, I'm not 100% sure it is, in fact, Formica - but it's definitely some form of laminate.

Paisley said...

decorno, my brother DID live in an Airstream for a while and it was awesome! He still has in the backyard of the home he now shares with his fiance. It's his "man cave". Thanks for asking this question. We are coming up on a remodel and i'm not sure what to use for countertops, so many options ahhhhhhh!

home before dark said...

I like maple for work surfaces (I use plastic cutting boards for knife prep that I can pop into dishwasher). I like the softer surface for all the banging stuff that happens. I like stainless close to hot and wet areas (stove/sink). To me stainless is timeless. Both surfaces are easy to maintain. Neither are perfect over time. I like the patina.

Anonymous said...

"To me stainless is timeless. Both surfaces are easy to maintain. Neither are perfect over time. I like the patina."

I thought the point of stainless is that it doesn't form a patina.

lucitebox said...

One of my dog walking clients just re-modeled her kitchen. She used a deep gray, very subtle marble-y looking Formica. It looks fantastic.

Honestly, if you can't afford marble, I think Formica is great.

I would rather have my heinous Formica countertops (woo, they are ug-lee) than granite any day of the week.

And if I had a '40s/50s kitchen straight out of a vintage magazine, I'd probably pee my pants with glee. If it was in an Airstream, I'd have to be hospitalized for the coronary thrombosis I'd have from over excitement.

Anonymous said...

Formica would be my budget choice and with all the many options available one could get nice "custom" look cheap.

Money no issue I would do marble.

I am wanting to do some cement table tops for outside. I am wondering how it is to work with and how it could be manipulated for indoor use.

Edward said...

My counters are Formica Mineral Metalcraft - Matte (7208-58)

Had it for several years and am quite satisfied - everyone is always surprised to find it is Formica

The color goes great with the walls - Benjamin Moore Dorset Gold - with cream cabinets and blond bamboo floors

Decorina said...

Stainless only forms a patina when you refuse to clean it and the ick builds up (this is addressed to YOU, my former renters).

I plan to remove my plastic laminate (whatever brand, Formica, Wilsonart, etc) and replace with butcher block (check out Julia's kitchen in the Smithsonian).

If cost were no object I would combine zinc counters in sink areas with butcher block elsewhere.

Cha Cha said...

I love boomerang patterned formica! It reminds me of my gram and it holds up over time EXTREMELY well.

Marble countertops would be dreamy, but they're unrealistic for busy people who don't have the time to guard and nurture them. Some of us actually use our counters as WORK surfaces...not to make a statement.

Anonymous said...

"Stainless only forms a patina when you refuse to clean it and the ick builds up"

That isn't patina. Patina is a thin coating of chemicals, like oxides, reacting to the metal. You're just describing dirt.

Anonymous said...

I've lived in a couple of homes circa late 1940's. The original counters (very modern for the time): linoleum! It curved up to make a seamless splashback, and had aluminum front edges. Unfortunately, very soft, and nearly worn out. Also, one of the houses had a faux ceramic tile design for the linoleum---ugh! Couldn't wait to get rid of that!

I replaced the linoleum with formica in the 80's--very functional, and met the budget needs of the time. Looks kinda dated now. I would replace it with a higher-end laminate when the time comes, because there are just so many options for color and texture.

Real stone is lovely if you live in a magazine, but not functional for the way my husband bangs on, hacks at, and drops things.

Stacy said...

I think it depends on the style of your house...marble can look great in a modern kitchen for that old/new tension, and it can look good in a traditional kitchen. Concrete, paradoxically, isn't that cheap, unless maybe you manage to do it yourself. Same with real, quality butcher block.

I think there are definitely ways to make formica or laminate look good...I'm thinking of marmoleum for my floors, personally.

Something that feels more solid than formica, but still has a clean look is quartz. Pental, here in Seattle, has a great product called "chroma"--I would do the solid white.

For these modern times, I think honed finish looks the best. Polished is starting to look dated...especially if it's a yucky blotchy granite! I'm starting a revolt against granite (unless it's solid-colored, and honed) because I think we can be more creative that just trying to get the "luxury" look that apartments are already sporting.

And, anything is better than tiled granite.

Cynthia said...

We chose Ceasarstone for our kitchen. It's a man made composite stone, incredibly durable, comes in tons of colors. Ours is a dark gray that has the look of concrete.

Paperstone and similar eco-friendly countertops don't hold up if you really cook on them. I have it in my bath, wouldn't risk it in the kitchen.

Tamisha said...

Budget choice: Formica - like I said previously, I am installing it in my new/old kitchen. I think it will work find for a 5 yr fix. My option for money is not an option counters would be soapstone. It's impervious to heat, non-porus so it doesn't stain and the only "upkeep" on it is a yearly application of mineral oil. It is also completely time appropriate as it was used frequently in the 1920s.

Tamisha said...

Oh, and in my last house, we had old yellow boomerrang, which I did love. It was amazing stuff. it had the aluminum edge too. If I ever get to redo an Airstream, I'm putting in tourquiose boomerang everywhere!

SmilingJudy said...

I used Richlite in my kitchen reno. It's similar to Paperstone .... may be higher quality depending on who you ask. Anyhoo, to the person who was wondering how it holds up, I never order takeout and it's holding up great. You have to like patina, but with all the marble lovers here I'm guessing that's not a problem. The difference between Richlite and marble is that a simple scotch brite pad, oil, and elbow grease will return the Richlite to new condition. And anon is right; the stuff FEELS wonderful.

Cyn said...

We have honed absolute black granite because we didn't have the budget for soapstone and zebra wood for my island (those would be my ideal choices). But many people think that my honed granite is soapstone, so we have that going for us.

For the person who mentioned concrete - It is much more expensive than you would think, especially if it is around 2" thick or more (when it really looks great!)

SkitzoLeezra said...

Formica works when it looks like Formica. Laminate will never look like butcher block or stone or any other organic surface so it is silly to try to pass it off as if it were. AND laminate countertops should never show the brown kraft paper cut edges. Optfor rolled bullnose fronts or real wood trim on the front. It is a nice finished look.

Anonymous said...


Comes in lots of colors.

S. said...

my apartment (a rental) has the exact counter tops in the 50s picture, but they're turquoise. And you know what? They're funky looking and weird and stain easily but they're functional.

tula said...

Best title ever.

Anonymous said...

Zinc, like a bar in france. Some kind of matte white marble. No slick looking granite, looks like a dang tombstone.

home before dark said...

What I meant about the patina on stainless is that is does scratch. There will be wear marks over time. Technically not a chemical reaction, but still showing signs of use and age. Some people hate that. I personally like it. By the way, I am not describing dirt.

miriam said...

When we moved into our 1909 house (with the original 1940s cabinets et al.) I was pretty sure the kitchen would be our first big project. Almost 20 years later, the original kitchen remains--including the bright yellow "crushed velvet" look formica with a raised stainless edge that needs to be cleaned with a toothbrush.

I've decided to embrace the retro funky look (at least the cabinets are real wood!) rather than spend countless thousands on a neutral rehab.

Besides, I hate granite--it's just too hard--and I drop things a LOT!

Anonymous said...

"Patina" is to decorating what "previously owned" is to car-salesmanship.

Tara Dillard said...

My formica, cannot believe I'm starting a sentence with that, I chose when I built my house 22 years ago. It's off white with solid wood cabinets stained cherry.

Thru the years, as a professional landscape designer, I've had many open gardens. People see my interior and ask for that help too.

They are all told NO to interior design. Four were dogged, and lived in older homes, and were on tight budgets. Fine. Did it. They loved my work.

You must know your limitations.

About to take a section of kitchen cabinets out; traveling to paint, counter tops, ceiling lights, flooring & probably the mailbox at the curb before all is done.

Anyway. I've hired a professional. There are too many choices.

If I weren't taking the section of cabinets out of my kitchen? I would keep my existing formica counter tops. Ha, starter house, starter husband, starter countertops they're trends lasting decades.

So, all of you responding. Thank you. Love the help.

Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

patience said...

Let me tell you about my fabulous & functional counters that look like a million bucks yet cost equivalent to formica. One caveat that kept the price down: I installed them myself(still would have been low-priced even with professional installation). Our kitchen reno is in our 1873 second empire farmhouse. I considered ALL countertop options and was leaning towards a quartz composite like silestone. Since we cook everyday, I opted to put my $ towards good appliances. So,here's what I did. The countertops on the stove wall are stainless steel, and the countertop on the sink wall is black slate. It was originally blackboard from a turn-of-the-century private girls school. The slate is approx. 3/8" thick and I forget what gauge the stainless is but it's nice and unwarpable. We installed both the same way you would tile: the substrate consists of counterboard, moisture barrier, mortar, and then counter materials. Then the edges were finished with a ceramic edge tile that coordinates with the backsplash. The edge treatment visually ties the two dissimilar counters together, it looks charming, works great, and this way of doing it vs. fabrication of both stainless and slate counters was WAY cheaper. Everyone asks us about the slate, and they are always impressed that we recycled blackboards to such dramatic effect. Still, if I had more funds? Quartz composite in RED.

billyhacker said...

Thanks for the great discussion so far. It's very interesting to hear preferences, but I wish people could link those to the why. Appearance seems pretty high up on the list.

I like to cook often and big and not infrequently for lots of people. The counters must have two properties: they can't break my ceramics or glass, and they must absolutely disinfect easily. So, 1, no cement, no granite, and no super hard synthetics. 2, no grout lines, no natural softer stone left unsealed, no unsealed wood, and no reactive metals like aluminum. And what I'm left with are laminates over wood (like formica) and stainless steel.

I'm not especially enamored with the look of stainless - it's cold gray, but there's simply nothing as easy to cook on and then to disinfect and clean especially when the sinks are integrated into the counter.

To whoever discussed "patina" and stainless: after a lot of use and scouring, you get microscratches that I find visually rich. Light catches the variegated surface and gives the impression of depth (you shouldn't see this on an appliance - there's just not enough wear).

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