by Formica Corporation
Metropolis Books/Formica Corporation
2013, 408 pages, 6.5 x 9.4 x 1.2 inches (softcover)
This handsome book on Formica is really a love letter written to itself. Formica Forever celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Formica Group with interesting histories, rich visuals, a little chemistry lesson, and cleverly excerpted quotes from literature all in a witty format designed by Pentagram. You'll learn of Formica's origins as an industrial material developed as a synthetic electrical insulator (substituting "for mica"), its evolution to a durable and decorative finish material in ships, trains, and, most famously, its use in post-war American homes. That's when and where the "wipe-clean world" reached its pinnacle, with Formica saving mankind from eons of grime, crud, germs and smells – and looking great, too, due to its indestructible beauty. The spectrum of colors, foils, wood grains, patterns and finishes are well represented in these gorgeous graphics. As a bit of an inside joke, the images of ads, ladies magazine photo spreads, pattern sample chips and endless uses of Formica are printed on pages that have been perforated, just like a tear-out catalog or sample book.
I'll leave it to you to pick your favorite of all the images of Formica in action. I loved Lee Payne's giant Neapolitan ice cream and Frank Gehry's illuminated fish sculpture. Sprinkled throughout are short quotes (printed on the back of Formica "sample chip" cartouches) from famous authors who have used Formica in their writing: John Updike, Sue Grafton, Ian Flemming, Harlin Ellison, and Margaret Atwood. Formica is everywhere!
America's taste in kitchen countertops has largely moved on to marble, but these classic Formica ads and colorful swatches are still a treat for any fan of mid-century modern design or Americana.