brightly colored kitchen making use of various types of laminate
Photo: John Granen
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All About Laminate

Plastic laminate is the chameleon of the building world, able to give the most mundane surface the look of polished granite, exotic hardwood, vibrant enamel paint, or patterned wall-paper. And though not much thicker than a credit card, laminate is as tough as rhino skin and virtually impervious to water, staining, scratching, fading, or cracking.

Laminate, made of thin sheets of heat-fused paper topped with melamine plastic, gained widespread popularity after World War II, popping up everywhere: in kitchens, bathrooms, restaurants, and high-end furniture. Embraced by famed architects like Charles and Ray Eames, Joseph Eichler, and even Frank Lloyd Wright, this modern material—sleek, economical, low-maintenance—captured the very essence of the modern lifestyle of the 1950s and '60s.

Laminate is now enjoying a renaissance of sorts as a new generation rediscovers its practical virtues and fun looks. Laminate has been improved over the years with sharper, more realistic images; new textures; greater scratch resistance; and more color choices than ever.

Similar to shown: Verde Acido and Blue Valencia, about $1.30 per square foot; Decotone Surfaces
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