In the interior design industry, high pressure laminate (HPL) is a practical yet stylish surfacing material. Colour, pattern, wood or stone looks, finish and texture — absolutely any visual can be recreated or designed as a laminate. This allows endless visual solutions available for the designer to create their own ideal interior brand.
Laminate is affordable, durable, impact and scratch resistant. It can be used in any interior space, on horizontal and vertical surfaces, with many unique applications. Not only does laminate look good and perform well, it is also easy to fabricate using common woodworking techniques. And new breakthroughs in resin technology allow additional functional features beyond just style.
Emerging social, economic and design trends from around the world influence interior designers as well as producers of surfacing. What impacts the end user drives interior designers to create spaces and that needs viable style solutions. Some of the biggest trend drivers for consumers are:
- Responding to the new digital world with a need for a more balanced lifestyle and interior spaces;
- Appreciation for craft and looking to art for inspiration; and
- Personal responsibility for the environment, health/well-being and relationships.
Personal sanctuary and bringing the outdoors in
Personal space and time is more limited in today’s hectic world. In public spaces such as offices, hotel lobbies, airports, designers are carving out places of refuge to reduce stress. Style tools that enhance these spaces are timeless and familiar. A back-to-basics trend is to bring the outside in. Recent wood-look laminates appear natural and untouched, not overly rustic. Wood grains in light unstained finishes are key, as they represent the raw wood cut and milled. It’s a pure representation of nature that pairs well with honest materials such as metals, mesh, denim and fabric looks.
Spectral and colour pop
Bright colour cuts through the technology-driven aesthetics of recent times; it’s a low-tech approach with an artistic hand. Interiors that need a bold punch for impact use adventurous patterns, vivid materials and unexpected textures. Laminate technology can create daring designs with bright colours to provide designers another option to counterbalance nature-inspired trends.
Smart organic and functionality
The trend of smart organic marks a much more scientific approach to surfacing. Designers are looking for materials that are more environmentally conscious as well as perform more functions. New surfaces manipulate desirable qualities of both natural and synthetic materials to create never-before-seen smart surfaces.
Well-being and cleanliness has impacted the interiors market. Antimicrobial surfaces are practical for home, healthcare industry and public spaces where there is a concern for wellness. Solid surfacing and new laminate technology are available today for a technical solution beyond visuals.
Chemical-resistant surfaces add additional protection for hard-working interiors where harsh chemicals are used, such as healthcare facilities, hair salons, labs and more. While some chemicals and cleaning solutions can damage materials, special laminates have integrated resin technology to withstand harsh cleaning and chemical products. Always be sure to check the manufacturers’ product details before using cleaning or chemical-based products on a surface.
Laminate has always been a durable choice. Improved surfacing technology has added extra scratch-resistance, making laminate surfaces easy to maintain. Scratch-resistant laminates are ideal in interior spaces where surfaces receive heavy use, such as education, retail, hospitality, healthcare and offices.
As part of the natural trend, very matte surfaces are enhancing raw wood and stone looks. When made to be very matte, typical laminate technology is vulnerable to burnishing and fingerprinting. Emerging technology features thermal-healing capabilities to pair with soft-to-the-touch matte surfaces. The smart-surface healing technology allows easy repair, as simple as using an iron and a wet paper towel.
Super matte anti-fingerprint surfaces are now available on the market. They are low-maintenance, which makes them ideal for industries such as hospitality, restaurants, and any high-traffic area or places calling for a clean look.
Eco-friendly products are continuing to evolve. Today’s responsible laminates are tested and certified through various third party organizations. As examples, GREENGUARD certifies for low chemical emissions and the Forest Stewardship Council, or FSC, certifies responsibly managed forestry products.
The number of surfacing options that have incorporated smart organics trends are growing. These options create beautiful visuals from recycled materials. Examples include recycled leather used to make new surfacing, reclaimed denim fibers used as additives in laminates and post-industrial content used to compose solid surfacing.
Laminate is an ideal surfacing material for many commercial spaces, from offices to hospitality, healthcare to education, to retail and more. There are great laminate options for every interior design style or functional need.
The latest design trends show the versatility of the surfacing material with colour-infused and nature-inspired applications. At the same time, the latest functional trends show how technology is enhancing the inherent properties of the surfacing material by addressing practical considerations such as ease of maintenance.
With more than 30 years of experience in the design industry, Renee Hytry Derrington is the group VP of design for Fletcher Building’s Laminates & Panels division, which includes Formica Canada inc.