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Laminated Benchtops

Can you remember the Laminex benches of your childhood? Your grandmother’s kitchen benches? Your mother’s benchtops? Are you thinking about using Laminex for your new kitchen project?

Detailed shot of sleek cabinetry drawers in a recently remodeled contemporary kitchen with a fresh white color scheme.
Vignette of pot plant and ornaments on kitchen benchtop

Designer Interviews

I remember a sixties red laminate flecked with white that worked so well in my grandmother’s no-nonsense kitchen. You can still see that pattern in fashionable cafes. It adds charm and a little soul. How well these surfaces perform! My mother had olive green benchtops in the old farmhouse. It’s still there! Those incredible benchtops look as good as the day they were installed.

Laminated benchtops are a favourite with two of our favourite Perth interior designers. They say the products are even stronger, and the colour range is extraordinary. Here they share with us the secret of using Laminates well.

Jess O'Shea

Jess O’Shea

Why are laminates popular in home design and renovation?

There is a brand of laminate that people refer to as Laminex. There is also a brand called Polytec. Both companies have a laminate product. It’s just layers and layers of a laminated sheeted product that is then pressed onto a board. This is used for doors, drawers and benchtops. It’s a thicker material, so it’s a bit more durable.

These come in solid colours. The world’s your oyster with all of those. Then you’ve got timber look prints, and then you’ve also got stone look. There’s quite a massive product range

Types and Qualities

What are the different types of laminates available for benchtops, and how do their qualities differ in durability, maintenance, and aesthetic appeal?

Image: Adobe Stock

Until recently, most of our projects would only ever have used laminate on a desktop. As engineered stone is temporarily complicated, I can see laminate benchtops making a small comeback. We all had them in our old homes in bathrooms and kitchens for a long time, and they were great. Laminates are a hard-wearing product.

Brands like Polytec have brought out a brand called Matera, which emulates stone, has a beautiful feel, and is durable. There are finishes like a gloss that wouldn’t be suitable for many benchtops, but timber, especially for desktops, works. You wouldn’t use stone for a desktop because it is quite cold in winter.

Application Areas

In what areas of a home are laminated benchtops most effectively used, and why?

The thing to consider is the finishes. You wouldn’t have a textured timber laminate for a desk because if you’re writing on paper, you’ll get marks through the paper. You wouldn’t choose gloss because it will scratch. Matte is a better finish for work areas. Dark finishes will always fingerprint a lot more, so avoiding those in a kitchen is worth it.

Heat & Light

Is strong light a consideration?

Quality brands sell durable products. That said, anything exposed to strong sunlight can change over time, so it’s something to consider. With joint placements in front of certain windows, you have to be conscious of where they go because if you are getting sunlight, the movement of the laminate or the board below can change in temperature. Those joins in the laminate can kind of pop out. It is worth considering light and heat.

Cost-Effectiveness and Budgeting

How do laminated benchtops compare cost-effectively with other materials?

Well, in most cases. If you get a top-end brand laminate, it could be more expensive than, say, an entry-level engineered stone could be. So they could be quite comparable, but mostly laminated benchtops would be priced on the lower end.

Maintenance and Longevity

How durable and long-wearing are these laminated benchtop surfaces?

They’re durable. All the houses I grew up in had laminated benchtops. My grandparents have laminate benchtops; they’ve had them for 40 years, and they still look great.

Personalisation and Style

How can homeowners personalise their space using laminates, and what advice do you have for matching laminates to a home’s overall style or theme?

I like consistency personally through a home. So we would choose your main, say, timber laminate and complimentary colour, and you’ve got the same tap finishes or fittings that go through the whole house.

When you walk into a home with these connections visually, you know that the whole house has been planned and considered. I think for a while, when I was drafting years and years ago, each bathroom in one house would have different colours and finishes. I think from a decision point of view, from a client’s perspective, it is nice to make one choice for this one selection of materials rather than considering four or five different rooms.

Favourite Style

What is your favourite style of laminate for benchtops?

We don’t have a house style or favourites. We love immersing ourselves in our client’s style. The satisfaction comes from finding solutions that achieve the look and feel that our client is after.

Annie Benson

Annie Benson

Laminates Are Popular

Why are laminates popular in home design and renovation?

Laminates are much more cost-effective. They’re great in walk-in robes and dressing tables. Great in laundries, pantries, and providores. I use them sparingly in prep areas, but they’re great in commercial projects, office divisions, reception areas, toilet cubicles and desks. I have used laminates for my kitchen and all my bathrooms.

If you want that wow factor, it’s about choosing the edge, whether you have an aris edge, a sharp edge or a square edge. It can look like stone. But you can achieve a wow factor by using colour or finish, whether it’s a soft finish, a stone, a stone lookalike, or a wood grain, or it can be just a bold, plain colour. There has been much leaning into greys, the stone, and the wood grain. You can get a finish in a wood grain that has a grainy feel. There’s a lot to choose from—gloss finishes for benchtops I prefer to steer away from because they tend to scratch easily. Matte finishes are much better.

Choosing The Right Laminate

How do homeowners choose the right type of laminate for different areas?

That’s where we refer back to the suppliers because they have the latest knowledge on what is available, or we go directly to the manufacturers for their recommendation. Information is there to help us choose the right product for the right area. You wouldn’t choose a high gloss finish in a kitchen where it will be a prep area. It would end up being scratched. There are products suitable for wet areas, balconies and alfresco spaces that are exposed to UV elements. There’s now a limited range for these challenging spaces.

Image: Adobe Stock

“If you want that wow factor, it’s about choosing the edge, whether you have an aris edge, a sharp edge or a square edge.”

Durability

How durable and long-wearing are these laminated benchtop surfaces? How do they compare to the other cabinet surfaces?

They are stronger and better. I have had mine for 12 years, and it’s in good order. It’s about trying not to scratch it like any surface. Even stones will scratch and burn. You must be slightly more conscious of not putting hot saucepans on it. They’re getting better and better. All the companies are producing improved products all the time.

Laminates used to have an issue with the edging. The old style used to have edging on drawers and cupboard doors that were glued on. And now there’s the ABS edging, which is much more user-friendly, doesn’t peel off, and is fantastic. And they’ve matched all the ABS edging to all of the colours in the ranges now, and it gives you lots of flexibility with colours, plus you’re not worried about it being damaged by heat. They’re fine near dishwashers and ovens.

Affordability

How did laminate benchtops compare cost-effectively with other materials, and what are your tips for budget-conscious renovation planning?

Laminates are much cheaper than your natural stone and your manmade stone. There’s an issue at the moment with changing over from the silicon content, but there are also other products like Xenolith, a polytech product, that give you a visual a little bit like a high-end stone top. There are some great products out there. You can use natural-looking laminates that are wood grains or stone-looking marble. There’s a plethora of choices for laminated benchtops out there.

Design

How do you effectively combine laminates with other materials to get a cohesive look?

I often work with a colour scheme, like a palette, so that if they’re working, say, with a travertine limestone, a creamy scheme, I would use light woods, natural woods, and some stone with it. I’d consider all those natural colours, driftwood, and beachy colours, working with those together. If you’re choosing a bold colour, continue with that bold palette. If you’re going for a black, whites are a good contrast. It depends on what you’re trying to achieve, but that’s what I encourage the client to share if they prefer muted colours, then I try to bring darker, moodier colours together. You could use a timber, but maybe something that’s stained within that palette as well. You can use almost any surface or product and bring them together. It’s the palette that dictates the colour scheme of the laminated benchtops.

What advice do you have on matching laminate to the overall style or theme of the home?

I visit my client’s home. I get an idea of the home style and the style they want to achieve. I often encourage my clients to clip images from magazines. This gives me a sense of the styles they love. If they have an eighties-style home and want to make it more Hamptons, we run with that look, or if they have a beach house, we try to use the surroundings as the inspiration for the palette.

What are your favourite qualities of using laminate for benchtops?

It’s just a very easy product to work with. There’s a great range of colours and finishes; I’m not drawn to one in particular. It’s all about my client. It’s not about my style, and I don’t have a particular style that I work with. I’m not just Hamptons or ultra-modern or country. It’s whatever the client wants. I work around their furnishings, style and how they use their kitchens and other home spaces.

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