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The great return of a material from the past: Formica®

26/02/18

The great return of a material from the past: Formica®

There are objects, memories and emotions that seem to be part of the collective unconscious of a population or a generation. All of us have a memory of Formica®, the material and its colours. 

Formica® is a plastic invented in the United States in the early 20th century. In 1913, two American engineers, Herbert A. Faber and Daniel J. O’Conor, were working on electrical insulation. They invented a laminate intended to insulate electrical appliances: Formica® was born and would soon become a trademark. Its name comes from the phrase “for mica”. 

The “Formica® laminated plastic” is an assembly of sheets of kraft paper impregnated with hot-pressed phenolic resin. This creates a coated canvas impregnated with melamine resin which is plastered onto the piece of furniture or object. Decorative images and colours are then lithographed onto the laminate. 

Soon valued for its properties and its ease of use, it entered the world of interior decoration in the 1930s. It arrived in Europe in 1946, at the same time as nylon and chewing gum, and was met with great success thanks to its modernity, uncommon robustness, its many bright colours that did not deteriorate as they were integrated into the resin, good resistance to heat and light, and an affordable price. Formica kitchen fittings, tables, chairs and credences became standard, and that era’s housewives swore by the materials which could then be found in every household. The oil crisis of the early 1970s caused resin prices to rise exponentially, and the same fate befell Formica®. The material began to fall out of favour in 1975/76. 

Formica® is now making a comeback in our interiors! Surfing the wave of the vintage trend, the decorative laminate so adored by the housewives of the sixties is no longer considered passé, quite the contrary in fact. It is trendy, affordable, vintage thanks to its flashy colours and soft curves, and customisable. Manufacturers have refined the material and are launching technologically-advanced surface finishes. Research and trend analysis have led to creating a renewed product that is more durable and decorative with customisable versatile colours and patterns. Trends still favour colours. Thanks to sophisticated, yet simple, lines, kitchens now combine Formica® and chrome, the essential trends found in the latest collections. 

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