Formica Corporation and the mainstay material it created — laminate — have a 107-year story that in its highs and lows is somewhat of a mirror to the experience many have felt in manufactured housing.
It’s always been there, it’s always been valuable, it’s always been affordable, and through intention and necessity, it’s always been in a state of reinvention.
Swap out the phrase laminate and Formica for manufactured and mobile homes, and the accuracy remains uncanny.
Leanne Ford is a Pittsburgh-based interior designer who has been featured in some of the top style and design magazines, and stars on the HGTV show “Restored by the Fords”. She also is a spokesperson for Formica’s bent toward utility, design, and versatility.
“My favorite question is ‘That’s Formica?’,” Ford said during a media tour at the International Builder’s Show in Las Vegas earlier this year.
“Formica really had its heyday in the ’60s, and though it’s always been here and been relevant, it seems to be making a comeback in the popular consciousness,” she said. “People have largely had this pre-conceived idea about what Formica is when really it can be anything you want it to be.”
All for $3 per square foot.
Find the Look with the Value
Renee Hytry Derrington is the Formica Group’s vice president of design. She said the company has long been known for residential kitchens, though approximately 70% of the company’s global business is in the commercial sector.
“It was a clean surface, it’s a bright surface,” she said, one that really caught on in the post World War II boom in America.
They started by photographing or scanning natural materials — like different kinds of wood and stone — and have moved to artists creating watercolor designs, for instance, that they then scan and turn into a laminate surface for horizontal or vertical use.
Hytry Derrington started at Formica in 1989.
“We were strong in manufactured housing in the 80s,” she said. “At that time, color was coming into the kitchen more readily, and it was being used on countertops as well as cabinet finishes. That’s coming back with some of the FENIX® Collection, which is from a partnership out of Italy, in very sophisticated, soft touch colors,” she said.
Real scale versions of exotic granites and marbles came into the market in 2009, with the 180fx® collection, to help designers and contractors who yearned to maintain a certain look but were working on a reduced budget.
“For me, it was the perfect storm from the technology side and how that translates to print,” Hytry Derrington said. “And now, 10-plus years later, it was time for us to further express our individuality.”
Recent editions of the line include Watercolor Porcelain and Watercolor Steel, which are handpainted by an on-staff artist then scanned in full-size and high resolution before being printed, pressed, and finished.
“Formica laminate is an iconic solution for stylish, creative looks that can go in any home on any budget,” Ford said.
“The amazing array of patterns and colors offered allow us to showcase fresh ways to use laminate beyond the kitchen and throughout the home,” she added.
In June of 2019, Formica was purchased by Broadview Industries from the Netherlands, Owen Serey, head of public relations and communication for Formica, said.
“Broadview is also the parent company for Arpa and its industry-leading FENIX, from Italy, and Trespa, which is a Dutch company that does exterior cladding and decorative facades,” he said. “It’s been wonderful to share our combined design knowledge and innovative technologies to further strengthen each company’s place as a global design leader.”