FORMICA AND ARBORITE…WHAT A LOVELY SIGHT

 

Republic Steel kitchen ad from 1954 Better Homes & Gardens.

Republic Steel kitchen ad from 1954 Better Homes & Gardens.

 

Planning our new kitchen has been on my mind a lot lately and since we’ve decided on glossy white cabinets and chrome hardware I have started to think about what type of counter tops I’d like. I’m hoping to find something that would give some retro flair to simple white cabinets similar to the ones in the image above. I’m not thinking of red, but wow – those red Formica counter tops and table really pop!

To begin my search I wanted to check out Formica. Home Depot had many Formica samples including the well loved boomerang pattern in a few colours. My eye went straight to the aqua boomerang sample (below left) which I think would look great with white cabinets, grey walls and my chrome and aqua accents. Unfortunately, I was informed that the aqua had been discontinued but the grey version (below right) is still available. I might keep the grey boomerang on the maybe list but it is definitely not my first choice. 

Formica boomerang pattern in aqua (no longer available) and grey.

Formica boomerang pattern in aqua (no longer available) and grey.

After visiting the Formica blog and reading countless comments regarding this subject, I know I am only one of the many retro loving renovators unhappy that the aqua boomerang (also known as the Skylark pattern) is no longer available. And from the company’s responses it doesn’t appear that they will be bringing it back any time soon. They did introduce an anniversary line in 2013 that has a few styles that may appeal to some…although nothing in the line really catches my eye.

Formica's Anniversary Collection

Formica’s Anniversary Collection – www.formica.com

I liked the idea of going with Formica because of its history and quality. I knew the company was big in the 1950s and 60s for kitchen cabinets, table tops, counters and vanities but I didn’t realize it has been in business since 1913.  

Formica ad from 1959 Canadian Homes & Gardens magazine.

Formica ad from 1959 Canadian Homes & Gardens magazine.

A Canadian company that had a similar laminate product was Arborite who started making decorative melamine laminate in 1945 and were also very popular through the fifties and sixties. Like Formica, Arborite is still in business today www.arborite.com.  

1950s Arborite ad

1950s Arborite ad

Check out all these fabulous patterns. I wish I could choose one of these for my countertops. It would be hard to choose if I could. I love gladly have Whisper in aqua, Golden Glitter in aqua, Fiesta Classic, Spring Melody or Fantasy in white. If only…

1965 Arborite ad.

1965 Arborite ad.

Another laminate product available in the fifties was Panelyte which I had never heard of until I came across this ad in one of my vintage magazines . Apparently the company originally started out offering laminate boards to furniture makers and other businesses before becoming available to the general public for counter tops.

Vintage Panelyte ad

Vintage Panelyte ad

Over the last decade I’ve picked up two  tables and a matching buffet in the grey cracked ice pattern. It seems to be the easiest colour and pattern to find although it is not as fun as brightly coloured versions like red or yellow. 

Formica 'cracked ice' pattern in grey.

Formica ‘cracked ice’ pattern in grey.

We have used the tables for dining and also as a work desk, painting surface and craft table and also a kids table when it needs to be. These tables that have already been around for many decades, like most products from days gone by, are sturdy and built to last. The matching buffet currently houses some of my vintage glass ware.

My vintage arborite buffet.

My vintage arborite buffet.

 I’ve been keeping my eye out for a table in yellow cracked ice but haven’t found one yet. I am a nostalgic kind of girl and I believe my fondness for Formica and Arborite might have stemmed from memories of my family’s own yellow Formica cracked ice dining table my parents bought second hand in the seventies. I’m not sure where it ended up and I was regretfully too young to have had my parents save this table for me…along with the amazing 1960s wool sectional my parents had which is also long gone (I’ll try to find photos of it for my future sofa post.). It would have looked so good in our new living room (sigh).

But back to the topic at hand. Both Formica and Arborite offer quality, long-lasting counter tops and have for decades. They carry lots of patterns but unfortunately not much in the line of fun vintage designs that would look great in a mid-century renovated or retro inspired kitchen. I am still hopeful that Formica or Arborite might announce one day soon that it is bringing back colourful classic designs like aqua boomerang or fantasy starburst but until then I will continue to search for other options. I’ll update this post with any that I find that might end up in our kitchen.

 

 

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