History of Formica® Brand

Formica® Brand is synonymous with laminate countertops for many people, and while other companies now make laminate, Formica Group was the original. Have you ever wondered where the name “Formica” comes from or how laminate was invented? Read on to learn how the Formica® Brand has evolved over the past century and why laminate countertops are looking more luxe than ever.


1912-1927

In 1912, two young Cincinnati electrical engineers, Daniel O'Conor and Herbert Faber, discovered that high-pressure plastic resins could replace the mineral mica in insulation material for electrical parts. A little resin 101: Pine sap is a type of resin found in nature, while plastics are synthetic resins made from petroleum.

How did the name “Formica” come to be? O'Conor and Faber needed a substitute "for" mica, so they swapped in the plastic resins, which led to the company name – you guessed it – Formica.

The material was patented in 1913, and they started their own business.

By 1930, Formica Group shifted its focus from industrial applications, such as electrical parts for electric companies and automotive parts for carmakers like Chevrolet, to the decorative laminate products for furniture and countertops you recognize today.

1931-1949

Thanks to its colorful appearance and durable, cigarette-proof design, Formica® Brand became a popular option for the interiors of cafes, nightclubs, railway cars and luxury ocean liners, such as the RMS Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth 2. Formica® Brand even outfitted the Library of Congress annex and Radio City Music Hall furniture.

As the United States entered World War II, the company focused on military production, creating bomb parts and wooden airplane propellers, until the war ended in 1945.

1950-1958

After the war, Americans enjoyed a new prosperity. In the housing boom that came with it, Formica® Laminates popped up all over the country in suburban kitchens and dinettes.

Sales soared to $24 million. The company ramped up advertising to promote stylish new laminate designs, such as the iconic "Skylark" pattern by Brooks Stevens, the "Sunrise" line by Raymond Loewy Associates, and the classic "VirrVarr" pattern by Sweden's Prince Sigaard Bernadotte. Check out these vintage advertisements.

1960-1983

During this period, Formica® Brand Laminates became symbolic of a modern lifestyle and began expanding worldwide. The company continued to establish its design prowess and created the Design Advisory Board in 1977, which included 17 top designers who helped lead the development of laminate color systems, new textures and new designs. Formica® Brand's relationship with designers has continued through the decades, and the company continues to utilize the Design Advisory Board and designer research to qualify new designs.

Also during this time, Formica was deemed museum-worthy, with an exhibition of ColorCore® laminate artwork called "Surface and Ornament" at the Art Institute of Chicago. (ColorCore® laminate is a solid color throughout so it doesn’t have the “brown line” usually visible on laminate countertops).

Formica History

1985-1999

In the challenging economic climate of the 1980s and 1990s, Formica Corporation underwent several changes in leadership, while it continued to expand it global reach.

During this time, the company continued to launch innovative new products in a range of colors, patterns and finishes for both residential and commercial projects. One of these products was Formica® Solid Surfacing, which joined the lineup in 1989.

2000-2012

In 2007, Fletcher Building, Ltd. became the parent company of Formica Group's North American, Asian and European divisions. As Formica Group combined with Fletcher's Laminex® brand, it became the largest brand in the industry.

Going green: During this time, Formica® Brand achieved significant milestones toward becoming a more environmentally friendly enterprise, using paper from recycled sources and sustainable softwood forests.

2013-present

In 2013, Formica celebrated its 100th birthday and a new tagline: Formica®. For Real. With more than 100 years of design under its belt, Formica isn't your grandmother's laminate anymore. It's the same great durable and affordable product, but it's more attractive and versatile than ever.

Formica History

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