During the eight months we’ve been dealing in mid-century vintage items, we’ve run across a baffling bias in the industry. No one wants mid-century furniture that has a laminate top. It doesn’t seem to matter how well the furniture is built underneath that laminate top (and much of it is incredibly well built, especially in comparison to today’s furniture). People demand all wood or nothing.
What’s odd about this bias is that one of the major features of mid-century design was the use of new materials, including plastics in the form of laminate tops. Post-World War II was a prosperous time for the United States and people were socializing and hosting cocktail parties. Laminate topped furniture allowed partiers to set down their wet glasses without ruining the finish. Historically, much of society has worked toward easier living, particularly during the mid-century era, and a laminate top met that need.
In doing some research on laminates, we ran across an informational video on The Wilson House, built by the founder of Wilsonart International, Ralph Wilson, Sr. The company manufactured decorative laminate starting in the 1950s and Ralph used laminate throughout his home in order to see what he could do with the material. According to Materials Specialist, Grace Jeffers, who has extensively studied the history of laminates, many of Ralph’s uses of laminate were experimental. The Wilson House is on the National Register of Historic Places precisely because of the use of laminates throughout its interior.
Laminates are bona fide, particularly because of their revolutionary uses in mid-century furniture. It’s time we give laminates some love by inviting them into our homes. We’ve invited a six-drawer Dixie lo-boy dresser with laminate top into our living room and a Chromcraft laminate top table into our dining room.