Laminate Table Tops are fast becoming the most popular choice for restaurateurs, hoteliers and coffee shop owners in the UK. The reason being they offer far more resilience to heat and scratching than their counterparts, also as time goes on laminate producers are finding ways to make them look much more authentic and attractive. We wrote a great post explaining the differences between commercial table tops back in May 2015 and laminates are covered in depth there. But where do they come from, who supplies them and what other options are there in addition to the standard walnut, wenge, oak, white and black laminate colours? In this post, this is what we explore;
UK Laminate Suppliers
1. Egger are probably the largest laminate supplier in the UK and certainly offer the most choice. They have a vast selection of Woodgrains, many of the decors contained within this collection are so lifelike it’s often difficult to tell the difference between them and real wood, especially the ones with textured finishes. However if you are looking for something a little different to wood effect laminates then you may want to explore Egger’s range of Metalic, Textile, Concrete, Ceramic or Granite Effect coverings as these contain some interesting decors as you will see below. Finally if you just want to keep it simple then take a look at their Uni Colours these range from warm earthy tones to bright colour palettes.
2. Formica invented laminates back in 1913, which is why they are often the first company that springs into peoples minds when buying laminate table tops. Originally the material was developed as a new type of electrical insulator before its true properties were realised. Initially the material was made from fabric bound together with resin, this was later replaced by thick layers of paper covered in melamine and that’s when Formica stated getting creative with different colour paper and also printing prior to the melamine coating being applied. These days however the laminates are formed by compressing composite materials under extremely high pressure. Similarly to Egger they have a broad range of colours, woodgrains and patterned finishes with a variety of surface textures.
3. Polyrey is perhaps a less known laminate supplier, especially compared to Formica and Egger. However that’s not to say that that their ranges of high pressure laminates (HPL) are somewhat inferior, in fact that have a great range of decors suitable for all kinds of commercial applications. The company started in the late 1800’s with their headquarters in France producing chemicals used to tan leather, now the company’s focus has shifted to the production of high pressure laminates.
4. Woodlam are a Lancashire based manufacturer and supplier of laminates, they differ to any other company featured on this page because they produce real wood laminates as an alternative to using synthetic materials. The result is a truly authentic looking table top that still encompasses the durability aspects of ordinary HPL tops. Needless to say however that real wood laminates come with a price tag, but this isn’t necessarily a problem for some projects.
The Best Laminate Ranges Available in the UK
Now you know who the top laminate suppliers are, its time to look at which ranges are available. Each supplier has compiled a range of decors and finishes specifially for the UK market, fabricators then manufacture products such as table tops, counters and wall pannels etc. which are then sold to end users. Generally speaking the ranges below are stocked in the UK which negates the need to import them on a project by project basis.
Egger Zoom – this is our favourite range becuase it is the most expansive and is beautifully presented in a folder containing swatches of each finish.
Formica Fundamentals – as the name suggests Formica have pulled together the most popular decors for the UK market.
Polyrey Durion – an interesting range of woodgrains, metalics and coloured laminates all with matching edging.
Giving your hospitality venue a ‘unique’ appearance and feel is one of the key elements of a successful business. The interior design of your restaurant, cafe, bistro, bar or dining area speaks volumes about both your business and the customers you want to attract – another speaks louder about your choice of style than the use of statement furniture.
Often the preserve of very high end or boutique style hospitality businesses, the use of statement furniture is a fantastic way of differentiating yourself from standardised, homogenous chair and table selections and creating a look which is unique to you.
But what is statement furniture and how can you use it to add a splash of colour and character to your dining area?
Making a Statement
Statement furniture is anything which cries out “Look at me! Look at me!” – A table made from tinfoil, a chair modelled from parts of a motorcycle; a footstool in the shape of a giant ladybird… the list is endless. They are the items that make people stop dead in tracks – mesmerised with the wonderful uniqueness of such a standout piece of furniture. Of course, by their very nature, statement furniture is not for the faint-hearted but a choice for those who like to push the envelope – the rule breakers and attention seekers. Nothing provides a wow-factor reaction better than the unusual, incongruous or starkly different.
That being said a restaurant filled to the brim with oddly mismatched furniture carries with it the danger of merely appearing as disorganised chaos – rather than a bold design idea. To get the best results statement furniture should be used sparingly, like a dash of Tabasco in a recipe: adding spice and colour to enhance the dish – not to overpower it completely.
Using Statement Furniture in Your Restaurant
Statement furniture tends towards ornate – even glamorous – styles. Hence it tends to work best in surroundings where there is a heavy artistic influence. Elegance is the watchword here with designs for chairs and tables which accent the sophistication of your dining area being of prime importance.
While statement furniture is there to stand out, maintaining consistency of design in your commercial furniture choices is also important. In addition, you should never lose sight of the fact that chairs and tables are – first and foremost – for customers to use in comfort. Therefore, statement furniture should be seen as a balance of design and practicality.
A simple but highly effective way to achieve visual impact in a dining area is through the use of contrasting colour. For example, a single red dining chair in a setup with a plain ivory table and chairs is an easy but powerful way to draw the eye without it being functionally any different. Another idea might be to use rustic wooden bench style seating in place of individual dining chairs or, for the truly opulent feel of Arabia the use of sumptuous cushions surrounding a low level table.
When it comes to statement furniture in your dining area the only limit is your imagination.
The choice of seating for your cafe or bistro is likely to be governed by three critical considerations: cost, practicality and style. For those who are looking for commercial furniture which provides the best balance between all three of these elements there are two clear options for your selection of cafe chairs: plastic or aluminium.
But which of these is most suitable for your needs? While Harry Hill might decide the matter with his usual cry of “Fight!” we’ve outlined below a few of the prime considerations for each of these cafe seating heavyweights:
Plastic Cafe Chairs
Polypropylene seating has a number of benefits for those looking for a hardwearing and practical cafe chair choice – especially if your bistro or eatery has an outdoor seating area.
Firstly, modern plastic chairs are highly robust – able to happily shrug off knocks, bangs and impacts that commercial furniture is far more likely to receive while in constant usage. Forget those memories of the flimsy plastic garden furniture of yesteryear – polypropylene cafe chairs are a far cry from the wobbly and breakage-prone seating you remember. With high density construction these are a seating option that can take a beating and still come out looking good.
Polypropylene plastic seating is also both lightweight and naturally water-resistant – the latter of which enables it to shrug off the effects of the kind of sudden downpour the British weather tends to specialise in, while the former means that they can be moved, rearranged and stored with ease.
Available in an array of colours, attractive styles and practical finishes there’s sure to be a plastic cafe chair to match your interior (or exterior) design ideas. If there’s a downside it tends to be in the fact that plastic has somewhat of an image problem – frequently being considered a ‘cheap’ option. However, with modern manufacturing techniques and stylish designs this is fast becoming a non-issue. If you’re looking for a great balance between practicality, cost and longevity then plastic cafe chairs are a serious contender.
Aluminium Cafe Chairs
Somewhat of a stalwart for outdoor seating areas, patios and Al Fresco dining spaces, aluminium chairs are a familiar sight in the hospitality industry. Popular for their robust, yet lightweight construction, metal commercial furniture is the ‘go-to’ choice for many cafes and bistros when it comes to chairs that look equally good inside a venue as outside.
Aluminium chairs are available in a range of styles – either with an all metal construction or incorporating other materials, such as wood, fabric or rattan, when it comes to the seat and back rest. This allows for a wonderful ability to tailor your choice of appearance to achieve a look which elevates your cafe and bistro from a casual eating place to something a little more individual.
With such a range of positive advantages in their corner drawbacks for aluminium cafe chairs are few and far between, with only their slightly more expensive cost and lightweight nature in windy conditions counting against them.