Countertop Update Ideas: High-End Ideas, Low-End Prices
Do you want your countertops to look like travertine, marble, or concrete without the MAINTENANCE or cost? Some of my most POPULAR bathrooms and kitchens on my INSTAGRAM are those with laminate countertops – not quartz, not granite, but LAMINATE! And while I’ve already done a blog post on how AWESOME the new laminate countertops are, I want to go in a bit closer with a few of my faves…
And just so you know, I’m not getting paid to promote any of the products I’ve shown you on this page. I pay myself in wine, Starbucks, and self-high-fives.
PROS & CONS OF LAMINATE COUNTERTOPS
- PRO: CONSIDERABLY more affordable than quartz or granite, often 3-5 times less expensive
- PRO: TONS of options that mimic the look of marble, stone, and more
- PRO: you can keep your existing sink if it happens to be standard (not under-mount)
- PRO: can be combined in a kitchen with a quartz island (mix and match, as shown below)
- PRO: look awesome with a subway tile backsplash for a modern look
- CON: will stain or scratch if you work at it (but are made to be pretty hardy for the price)
- CON: isn’t heat-resistant (very basic resistance)
- CON: any open ends will have a visible seam
- CON: while some have installed an under-mount sink, it’s generally not recommended
- CON: while a NEW laminate pattern is better than an outdated one, overall, laminate doesn’t always add to the RESALE value of a home
See this whole project HERE
LAMINATE COUNTERTOPS THAT LOOK LIKE MARBLE
I LOVE the look of an authentic marble countertop; I DON’T love the maintenance of it – momma wants to put her red wine glass down wherever she wants! And while quartz countertops offer GREAT-looking alternatives without the maintenance, they still come with a hefty price. Sure, laminate countertops aren’t as HARDY as quartz, but they’re a fraction of the price and WICKED pretty in the right space.
Formica Calacatta Marble is one of my faves as it gives a SUPER modern look, similar to marble without the MAINTENANCE. With the square wrap profile on the front, it’s got the look of marble for under $400! If you want the reverse look, so black base with white/gray veining, check out Formica Jet Sequoia.
See all of this bathroom HERE
The Best Paint Colours for Kitchen Islands or Lower Cabinets
A well-chosen laminate countertop can look stunning while coming in at a FRACTION of the price of quartz or granite. And I’m not talking about hundreds of dollars; I’m talking THOUSANDS of dollars (particularly in a kitchen). While there are some ‘affordable’ lines of quartz and granite out there, they don’t come ANYWHERE near the reduced price of laminate.
REMEMBER, countertops usually come in a VARIETY of finishes (matte, etched, honed, etc…) Check out your OPTIONS before you order!
FORMICA CARRARA BIANCO
If you don’t love the more graphic veining in Calacatta Marble, you might like the subtler approach of Carrara Bianco. You’ll see it has less/black gray and a subtle gray veining with a violet undertone (remember, every gray has undertones!). Again, this countertop looks a HECK of a lot like marble!
Paint Colour Sherwin Williams Pure White
3 Steps to Picking the Best White Paint Colours
LAMINATE COUNTERTOPS THAT LOOK LIKE CONCRETE
It’s hard to beat the organic look of real concrete countertops, but they stain easily and require yearly maintenance. For MUCH less money and stress, you can get the look without the work!
ARBORITE INUKSHUK GRAY
Inukshuk Gray is one of my fave concrete-look countertops for an organic, natural look. While this next project shows Inukshuk Gray in a matte finish, you can also get it glossy if you prefer a more polished look. I’d also love to see that edge a bit more squared off…
If you look at a sample of Inukshuk up close, you’ll see that it has small white flecks for visual interest.
Cabinets painted Benjamin Moore Cheating Heart / Walls Sherwin Williams Pure White
Sure, laminate countertops can stain too. But show me a concrete countertop and a laminate countertop that were both installed ten years ago, and I BET the laminate countertop is in better shape.
LAMINATE COUNTERTOPS THAT LOOK LIKE STONE OR TRAVERTINE
I know that MANY of you curse your early 2000s travertine tile, but if you ask me, travertine is a GORGEOUS product – warm, textured, and a great way to add interest to a space. In fact, I’d go so far as to pick up that look on my countertops…
5 Ideas to Update Your 1990s Home
SILVER TRAVERTINE BY FORMICA
Formica Travertine Silver is a beautiful laminate with a range of greige and warm tones. This countertop often works with bathrooms with almond and bone fixtures as it has some of those colors in its pattern.
I’ve had clients want to use Silver Travertine in kitchens, but because of the strong linear veining, it doesn’t look good on countertops that aren’t one piece (where the slab meets in the corner, the lines/pattern of the countertop gets pretty mismatched). However, in a bathroom with its straight-run of countertop, it’s a beautiful choice, particularly if your floor tile is more subdued.
Vanity colour Benjamin Moore Kingsport Gray
The 6 Best Paint Colours for Bathroom Vanities (or Kitchen Islands & Cabinets)
LAMINATE COUNTERTOPS THAT ARE VERSATILE FOR THOSE TRICKIER PROJECTS
When updating a home, replacing every surface is not always feasible. This means you’re often working with tiles, fixtures, or finishes that aren’t EXACTLY what you had in mind. Luckily, a few countertops help transition outdated finishes into a new decade.
FORMICA EBONY OXIDE OR WILSONART OILED SOAPSTONE
Black is often a popular choice for those wanting to update a space without having to do EVERY surrounding finish. Ebony Oxide and Oiled Soapstone are great examples of black countertops that still have visual interest.
FORMICA SOAPSTONE SEQUOIA
Soapstone Sequoia is one of my favorite laminate countertops. To save money on our kitchen remodel (in our last home), we partnered Soapstone Sequoia with quartz on the island – saving THOUSANDS while adding some serious style to the island…
With its subtle veining and WARMTH, Soapstone Sequoia is great for those who prefer the warmer end of things without dipping hard into the beige or cream pools.
Is Beige Back? Is Beige…TRENDY?
See the BEFORE & AFTERS of this budget-friendly remodel!
Because I rely 100% on my Online Paint Color Consulting clients for their photos (REAL HOMES with REAL BUDGETS), I don’t have photos of all my faves. So, if you’re looking for a flexible laminate countertop that’s a WARMER, check out…
Now, let’s check out some of the most common questions about laminate countertops…
WHICH IS BETTER, FORMICA OR LAMINATE?
Formica is a BRAND of laminate countertop, so when you talk about Formica, you’re talking about laminate! The same goes for Wilsonart and Arborite – they’re brands of laminate countertop.
HOW LONG DO LAMINATE COUNTERTOPS LAST?
This is up to you. I’ve seen laminate countertops 30 years in that are still in great shape. However, the more cutting you do ON your countertop and the more hot pots and pans they see, the more you’ll reduce the lifespan of your countertop. In the average kitchen or bathroom that receives normal wear and tear, 10-20 years is a good estimate.
WHAT TYPE OF COUNTERTOP LASTS THE LONGEST?
The answer would definitely be quartz. However, with proper maintenance, granite is also a great countertop product.
CAN YOU PUT HOT POTS & PANS ON LAMINATE?
There’s a difference between CAN and SHOULD. While you CAN put somewhat hot pots on your laminate countertop for a short period (as I have), you SHOULDN’T, as you risk leaving a burn mark/discoloration.
Outdated laminate countertops can look MUCH BETTER surrounded by the right paint colors!
The Best Paint Colours for Kitchen Islands & Bathroom Vanities
HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN LAMINATE COUNTERTOPS?
Unlike granite and marble, which require sealing, laminate countertops are EASY to maintain and keep clean with soap and water!
CAN YOU PAINT LAMINATE COUNTERTOPS?
You DEFINITELY can, and this is a great solution if you’re on a budget and your current countertop needs some TLC.
While this blog post isn’t SPECIFIC to painting laminate countertops, here are the basics…
- CLEAN WITH A DEGREASER
- LIGHTLY SAND TO BREAK UP THE SURFACE WITHOUT BREAKING IT ‘DOWN’
- WIPE WITH A TACK CLOTH TO REMOVE ALL SANDING DUST
- USE A HIGH-ADHESION PRIMER – TWO COATS (you might consider a food-safe one)
- USE QUALITY PAINT THAT’S MADE FOR THIS PURPOSE – TWO COATS (your local paint store will have a suggestion based on their particular lines of paint)
- AS FOR A TOPCOAT/RESIN, IT DEPENDS ON THE PAINT YOU USE, AS SOME PAINTS MIGHT NOT NEED A TOPCOAT
The 8 Best Countertops for Coming Trends
Quartz vs. Granite Countertops: What’s the Difference?
4 Tile & Shiplap Ideas for a Small Bathroom
4 Ideas to Update Your Kitchen on a Budget
The Best Bathroom SINKS & FAUCETS on a Budget
How to Make a Small Bathroom Look FABULOUS
CHECK OUT MY ONLINE PAINT COLOR CONSULTING
WRITTEN IN 2017, COMPLETELY CHANGED & UPDATED IN 2023
Lovely work here! I just discovered linoleum for my kitchen and am totally in love with my marble look floor but am digging the comfort, as II have severe osteoarthritis and can’t stand for long and real marble would have been intolerable. These countertops remind me how lucky I am. Any one interested should dive right in without hesitation.
Can you share what cabinet brand you used in the bathroom with the dark stained cabinets? I really like them. Do they make that vanity cabinet that sits on the counter or did that require custom modification?
Hi Susan! It was several years ago and I believe it was Mid Island cabinets. And yes, they make that center tower but it is a custom type of piece 🙂
Just wanted to tell you how utterly perfect I think the bathroom is that you designed for your client, Laura.
And thanks bunches for your recommendation of laminate/Formica. I’m going to check it out online right now!
Thank you Amber, it did turn out pretty wicked! And she has a fabulous sense of style and was a key part in the decision making process too!
Those sure are lovely countertops! I would prefer them to my granite countertop- which just developed a rather large crack in front of the kitchen sink-!! When I choose the granite about 8 years ago, I really preferred the look of marble, but knew that it was too high maintenance and delicate (etching easily) for our home. I sure wish that these were available then! And most granite is really not that popular anymore– but most of us spent so much money on it that we ‘d feel guilty replacing it! With laminates, at least it won’t hurt so much financially to replace it when trends change!!
Thanks for another great post! I always look forward to reading them.
Hi Kylie! 🙂 Thank you so much for this article! Now I have great ideas to show my hubby for our bathroom.
We’ve been checking out Formica 180fx for about a year because we have a kitchen remodel coming up. It’s so reassuring to see an interior designer use it in her own kitchen . However, reading this raised a question in my mind. We love the look of the Formica Dolce Vita and had pretty much decided on that. But your comment about linear patterns and corners is making me wonder if we should choose another pattern. Am I worrying unnecessarily?
Hi Celia! I would worry about Dolce Vita. It has a pretty strong linear pattern and you may find that the lines don’t match up where they meet on the 45 degree corner. If it were ME…ya, I would worry about it getting a bit busy in the corners – sorry if I’ve burst your bubble, but I also don’t want you to be disappointed with the end product. If it’s just 1 corner, life will go on, but if you have 2 corners it might just be too much 🙂
Thank you, Kylie! I completely agree. We only have one corner, but it would REALLY bother me if the seam was extremely visible due to the pattern of the laminate, Thankfully, there are many beatiful choices out there, so I don’t mind saying goodbye to Dolce Vita????.
We are doing a vanity remodel soon, and I love the sinks you showed! (Formica not so much….we’ll go with quartz) New to your posts and are liking them a lot.
Thank you Amy! There are some gorgeous quartz products out there. Not sure what colour range you’re going for, but check out Bianco Drift by Caesarstone. It’s an amazing light gray with other neutrals in it, making it SUPER flexible. If you go into my Portfolio, under Kylie’s home, you’ll see it in my main bathroom reno as well as the bar area – MAD LOVE!
I’m looking into the 180fx countertops for my kitchen in either the marble or the soapstone. What kind of edge is that? I’m wondering what to ask for.
Loooove the blog!
Hi Kathleen, I believe that was the square wrap!
I don’t know if I’m just not looking closely enough, but I can’t for the life of me find where you say what brand of sink you used in this bathroom. Please tell me. I love it! Thank you so much!
Hi Joyce! Assuming you’re looking at the white/gray bathroom, it was American Standard!
Thank you so much!!
Girl! You have got some mad skills!! Would you mind sharing what color the gray vanity is? I love love love that bathroom! It’s crazy that the counter is laminate!!
Well thank you Stephanie, the homeowner was a big part of it too! We chose BM Chelsea Gray for that bad boy 😉
Love your blog.. I was looking at the formica in the bathroom photo (calcutta marble). Their website lists gloss or etched.. I’m try to get my bathroom to look like your.. Which should I get? And, did your contractor round that corner for you to make it look like one piece?
Thanks for your website, I love your helpful links.
Hi Alice, I believe it was the etched finish. And that’s called a square wrap around these parts! So it’s not rounded, yet isn’t so square that it has an edge/break in the surface – hope that helps!
I really like the look of an undermount sink. Is it possible to have a laminate counter top with an undermount sink?
Hi Sarah, yes it is! The only negative is that a lot of countertop suppliers will void the warranty if it’s installed this way. Talk to your local supplier and ask them how they feel about it, it does look WICKED cool. Here’s a photo of one (you can type in undermount laminate on Pinterest and get some nice images). https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/93871973463482437/