Home Design Find - Interior Design, Architecture, Modern Furniture

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Design Dilemma: No more lamenting laminates!

contemporary kitchen how to tips advice

Laminate has come a long, long way from the cheesy material we associate with cheap 1960s kitchens. The laminate of yesteryear would crack easily, harbor dirt and grime at joints, and was pretty limited in terms of style and color. Well, times have changed, and today, you can find laminates for every look and every budget.

Plastic laminate countertops are actually a wafer-thin finish adhered to a plywood or particleboard substrate. The thin finish is a high-pressure laminate (HPL) made of three layers of material bonded together by high heat and pressure: a clear melamine top for protection, a decorative layer and a backing made of phenolic resin-coated kraft paper. Well-known laminate manufacturers include Formica, Wilsonart and Nevamar. You can expect to pay $8 to $30 per square foot, substantially less than what you might pay for granite, quartz or marble. The best thing about today’s laminate is that the edges have substantially improved. You are no longer stuck with that ugly brown line at the edge of countertops.

In addition, laminates are much more sustainable than they used to be. Manufacturers like Formica and Wilsonart have boosted the sustainability of their products with the use of FSC-certified wood. And several manufacturers can boast of GreenGuard certification, which indicates that their products contribute to improved indoor air quality.


Let’s take a look:

High definition laminate

contemporary kitchen how to tips advice

Although the above countertop may look like stone, it’s actually a new high-definition laminate from Formica. In person, this laminate has a glittering, prismatic effect that makes it look even more like natural stone than it does in this photo.


 kitchen how to tips advice

Above, is a laminate that looks just like travertine. It’s 3458 Travertine Silver with Ogee IdealEdge™ (180fx® laminate).


modern kitchen how to tips advice


 kitchen how to tips advice

This is Formica’s 3420-46 Dolce Vita in Etchings™ finish with Bullnose IdealEdge™ (180fx® laminate). The great thing about this sort of edge is that it looks like natural stone and lacks the edges where dirt and grime can collect.

About edges

Your options have improved dramatically from the edging of yesteryear. Today, you can choose from:

  • Profiled edge: Laminates have advanced to now have beveled, ogee and bullnose edge profiles, which vary by manufacturer.
  • Edge band: These thick and dense veneers are adhered to the cabinet edge and are made for abuse. Choose ABS plastic edge bands over PVC whenever possible, as ABS is recyclable and chlorine free.
  • Metal edge: A retro detail harking back to the 1950s; a metal edge is fastened to the edge of the counter. There is a downside — crumbs and food particles can get stuck in these edges.
  • Exposed plywood: Some modern designs showcase the thin laminate veneer and adhere it to premium plywood, leaving the thin veneer edge and plies exposed.

Here’s an example below on a wood-look laminate with an exposed plywood edge below:

modern kitchen how to tips advice

Laminates are virtually maintenance free but that doesn’t mean they require no care whatsoever. They can easily be cleaned with just a damp cloth or sponge and mild detergent. However, avoid bleach, as it can cause discoloration. Be sure to use a cutting board, since knives can leave irreparable scratches and marks. Be sure to use trivets, since lamination is only resistant up to 150 degrees.

So there’s no reason any longer to feel embarrassed about your laminate countertops. Laminates can be just as stylish, sophisticated and sustainable as other materials. There’s no longer a reason to lament laminates!

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A Renaissance Piazza – Contemporary Portuguese Minimalism

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Here’s a lovely house in Portugal from Intergaup with the timeless serenity of a Fra Angelico piazza in a Renaissance painting.

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The design pays homage to traditions that go back to medieval architecture.

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Traditional materials like the terracotta tile roofline integrate the house into its rural context near Villa Boim.

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Blending strict traditions with a contemporary architectonic approach results in beautiful and almost surreal spaces.

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The body of water, the retaining wall and the stair exemplifies the drawing and the purity in the details,.

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The main house has only one floor in a “U” shape. The U has its back facing against the slope, creating an inner courtyard.

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The view from each angle is perfection.

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Yet the plan shows no indication that every view is perfectly drawn.

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An iconic white stairway connects the courtyard to the higher ground above the house on the hillside.

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Rustic twigs provide protection and shade from the hot Portuguese sun.

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The deeply shadowed interiors stay cool the old fashioned way.

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A dark interior with stone floors provides relief from the blazing heat outside. Read the rest of this entry »

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Former WWII Arsenal Transforms into a Cosy Mountain Retreat

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A Swiss arsenal from WWII is transformed by Ralph Germann architectes into a warm and comfortable mountain chalet.

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Keeping the historic nature of the building with the use of simple materials, like larch, slate, glass, and metal, a cosy mountain cabin retreat is created.

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The key to the design is an entirely glazed interior box – with full height sliding doors – within the original army building.

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The glass box makes it possible to entirely open the barn doors outside, while a glass box keeps the interior cosy, while preserving the historic building shell.

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The generous exterior barn doors - and the glass interior door – can be open when the mountain sun is available.

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But in cold weather, the interior sliding glass door in front of the barn door opening is closed. Read the rest of this entry »

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An Austere Masterpiece – the Redgen Mathieson Bondi House

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A three story beachfront house with a pure, elevated facade of glass and marble on Sydney’s glorious Bondi Beach by Redgen Mathieson is squeezed vertically by its narrow infill site but capitalises on views across Icebergs to the beach.

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It is an elegant house with pure spaces, bold designs, subtly modelled interiors and details that makes the most of its heavenly view and its client’s needs.

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Three massive sliding glass panels and multi storey sheer white curtains emphasize its austere vertical marble and glass facade.

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A two storey curtain billows in the marble-cooled breeze off the ocean.

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It is the embodiment of the peace that comes from a focus on aesthetic qualities such as beauty and simplicity in the use of space and light.

“Out of it comes the calmness you can feel from some of the most beautiful spaces,” say the architects. Read the rest of this entry »

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Design Dilemma: Alternatives to Marble Countertops

traditional kitchen how to tips advice

No doubt about it, Carrerra marble countertops are gorgeous! Classic and classy, they’re also very high maintenance and easy to stain. That’s because marble is a calcareous stone composed of mostly calcium carbonate. It is extremely sensitive to acidic foods, like lemons, tomato sauce and wine, in addition to acidic cleaning products.

So are there  any alternatives where you can get the look of white carrera marble without the maintenance?

Here are a few other options:

White Granite


contemporary kitchen how to tips advice

You won’t get off scot-free with white granite.  Granite is a siliceous stone composed mainly of silica or quartz-like particles. It is usually very durable and relatively easy to clean with mild acidic cleaning solutions. However, just like marble, white granite requires care and some protection, mainly in the form of a sealer applied every few months to protect from stains and acids. Use coasters under all glasses, especially drinks with alcohol or any type of citrus juice. A lot of common food and drink contain acids that can etch or dull the surface of granite. Do not place hot items directly on your countertops, use trivets or mats under hot dishes and placemats under dishesMost importantly, seal your granite every one to two years to keep it from getting cloudy or stained due to extensive use. And if your stone takes a beating, you’re better off sealing every six months. If your granite does get stained with organic stains of coffee, tea, fruit, etc.,  you can remove the stain by cleaning with 12% hydrogen peroxide (hair bleaching strength) and a few drops of ammonia. If your granite gets etched by acids you can clean off any stain and re-polish the stone by sprinkling a small amount of marble polisher on the area after wetting it with water. Use a clean, dry towel to rub the powder into the stone, or you can use a buffing pad on a low speed power drill.



transitional kitchen how to tips advice

Quartz, which is also known by the brand names of Silestone and Caesarstone, is one of the best options for a low-maintenance countertop that can have the veining that gives it the look of marble.  Why is quartz so resistant? Because it’s engineered in a factory, where the primary ingredient is ground quartz (about 94 percent), combined with polyester resins that bind it and pigments to give it color. For some designs, small amounts of recycled glass or metallic flecks are added to the mix. The resins also help make these counters stain and scratch resistant—and nonporous, so they never need to be sealed. This gives quartz a big advantage compared to granite.


modern bathroom how to tips advice

This is a concrete material made by a company in New York called IceStone. IceStone counters use a combination of cement and recycled glass to make what is the one of the most sustainable surfaces on the market.  While there is no mistaking Icestone for marble, it can come in lighter colors and retains a pleasing natural look. And you don’t have to worry about sealing, polishing or etching!


contemporary kitchen how to tips advice

Would you ever think that the countertop above is a laminate? Over time, laminates have become increasingly sophisticated and resemble more and more natural stones. If you can’t have the real thing and you’re concerned about maintenance, this could the best, most economical way to go!