The latest batch of laminates and solid surface materials to hit the market include some real winners for the hospitality sector.

Now that the COVID-19 is largely behind us, it appears that one of the few positives the pandemic delivered was an increased emphasis on hygiene.

For example, Laminex, an organisation with a track record of commitment to innovation and the latest in product development, announced in May 2023 that after additional testing, its innovative range, Protec+, is now certified for covid resistance. 

Food and Wine - Cello Marble. Designed by Claire Kneebone. Photography by Travis Higgs / Supplied

As specified at Robata, a Japanese grill restaurant located at the corner of Exhibition and Flinders streets in Melbourne, Laminex Protec+ is an antimicrobial technology that inhibits the growth of a variety of microbes, such as, bacteria, fungi, mould, and COVID-19. This additional layer of protection means that the creation of safer, cleaner environments is possible anywhere.

The active ingredients in Protec+ are silver ion additives, which inhibit the growth of bacteria, fungus, and mould, thus mitigating the risk of potentially harmful growths. Crucially, these additives are deployed into the resin used to produce the laminate, so they are integrated into the finished product and cannot be wiped away or otherwise depleted. As a result, Protec+ continues to provide the same level of protection for the life of the product.

Robota (above), a Japanese grill restaurant in Melbourne using Laminex Protec+ and Lombra Bar -- Rosso Trentino Marble. Designed by The Tailored Studio. Photography
by Travis Higgs (below)

Safe to work with

Elsewhere, and continuing the healthcare theme, the presence of quartz crystalline silica found in some engineered stone products and its links to serious health conditions, including Silicosis, has seen some changes in the market.

Austaron Surfaces, for example, has reported increased interest in its Staron Solid Surface designs, which is not just silica-free but also Group 1 Fire rated to AS5637.1 (AUS) & Group 1S Fire rated to C/VM2 (NZ).

Originally developed for the benchtop market, Staron has been used in diverse range of application and sectors, including hospitality.

According to the company, one of its standout features is its joining method, which ensures superior strength when bonding multiple pieces together. This technique seamlessly conceals joins during the manufacturing process, eliminating crevices that could trap dirt. By combining this attribute with its thermoforming properties, Staron is the ideal foundation for achieving limitless design possibilities.

An additional advantage of incorporating Staron into projects is its surface restoration capability. When other materials become worn and tired, requiring replacement, Staron only needs a simple re-sanding to restore its appearance to a brand-new state. Unlike timber and stone materials, these solid surfaces do not require any sealers, reducing maintenance requirements and costs.

An old favourite

Natural stone has remained a favourite amongst architects and designers for years, particularly because if its capacity to create one-of-a-kind interiors. According to Tony Victor, Director of CDK Stone, the hospitality industry is no exception.

“We are finding a wide range of marbles and quartzites being specified on a regular basis within the hospitality industry, bold colours like Rosso Levanto and Calacatta viola along with your more traditional marbles, Bianco Carrara are still some of the more popular options being used,” says Victor.

“The use of natural stone on dining tables makes every table a unique piece within the restaurant as being used as features on bars, splashbacks, and cabinetry with the spaces.”

Making use of bold, red coloured stones like Rosso Levanto Marble and Calacatta Viola Marble, Fugazzi produces a riveting experience with such stone decorating the entirety of the restaurant. With guests dining amongst works of art that each have their own personality and appearance, this is a one-of-a-kind experience that cannot be replicated by any other.

As Victor explains, CDK Stone is constantly looking to add new and exciting stones to its range.

“Once we find these new and exciting options, we complete extensive and rigorous testing to ensure they meet the demands of the Australian market prior to importing them,” he says.

High Pressure Laminate

Another product type worth considering for hospitality applications is High Pressure Laminate (HPL). In fact, according to George Fethers & Co., the general durability, scratch, dint, and moisture resistance of HPL makes it the most suited of all laminate classes for hospitality applications.

Significantly, George Fethers & Co. offers all 16 of its laminate varieties in both Low Pressure Laminate (LPL) and HPL options, known as Cellupal Plus and Cellupal respectively.

According to the company, HPL’s main disadvantage when compared to other less durable forms of laminate is that the melamine resin in the top layer of the product reduces its aesthetic appeal.

Having a dual offering allows the designer to opt for the more refined LPL with its Polyurethane coating and 3D wood grain texture on low-wear areas such as ceilings, overhead cupboards and wall panelling in low traffic areas and then utilise the HPL on horizontal surfaces, bar fronts and wall panelling in high traffic areas.

Matt and finger proof d├ęcor

As Mark Thomson, General Manager of HVG Decorative Building Products points out, surfaces that are easy to clean remain popular. “From our perspective at Interzum [the furniture supplier sector and interior design industry event at Cologne in May] we saw a strong focus on matt and finger proof decors and finishes. This trend is still well and truly alive,” he says.

According to Thomson, HVG’s Traceless Collection of laminates, which was developed on the back of needing a clean and less maintenance product offer is a good example of this. Laminates in the collection offer designers an ultra-matte texture that is ideal for high-touch areas in any commercial space.

The unique technology ensures that finger marks are almost never seen thereby substantially reducing the effort required for care and maintenance. Available in two types – TS Traceless Standard for vertical applications, and TP Traceless Premium for both vertical and horizontal applications – these highly durable yet smooth surfaces are impact, scratch and heat resistant.

Wilsonart Traceles Collection from HVG Decorative Building Products / Supplied

All round effectiveness

As ever, when considering surface materials, the key priorities include sustainable, durability, and hygienic. On top of that, products should contain no dangerous chemicals, be easy to maintain and be suitable for use with both vertical and horizontal applications, and therefore lend themselves to the creation of attractive, unique spaces.

Nover, a wholesale distributor of quality products to the kitchen, joinery, and furniture manufacturing sector, offers products that fit this bill perfectly. According to the company, two of the most popular of these are Evostone and Fenix NTM.

Comprised of 33% polymers and 66% natural minerals, Evostone features colour all the way through its 20mm thick pre-finished slabs. Waterproof and unable to penetrated by harmful germs and bacteria, it is available pre-finished and ready to install. Easy to cut and trim, it features zero Silica content and comes with a 10-year limited warranty.

Meanwhile, Fenix NTM is billed by the company as the original Nanotech matt material for interior design.  Suitable for vertical and horizontal surfaces, it is caharacterised by low light reflectivity. Featuring anti-fingerprint material, it also features a capacity for thermal healing of superficial micro scratches.

High-performance solutions

Porcelain surfaces, which been around since at least the 16th century BC, are at the forefront of sustainable, high-performance solutions for interior and exterior hospitality fitouts.

Caesarstone introduced its first collection of Porcelain in late 2022, with a collection of 17 designs produced collaboratively by the brand’s inhouse design team and Li Edelkoort.

This ‘Light Collection’ comprises marble, stone, and concrete-inspired designs in either a Honed or beautifully tactile Ultra Rough Finish. The colour palette of this initial offering ranges from the virtual pure white of Whitenna through warm whites, taupes, greys, and russets to the dramatically striated surfaces of Archetta and Striata, and the patinaed concrete surface of Concrita.

In keeping with Caesarstone’s commitment to sustainability, Porcelain carries the Greenguard, HPD (Health Product Declaration), Green Building Council Australia Green Star certificates of approval.

While more designs will be added incrementally, this initial entry into the porcelain surface sector aims to achieve the ‘impossible dream’ by combining beauty and resilience in a 100% natural material.

According to the company, extreme heat resistance; UV resistance; scratch resistance; stain resistance and general chemical resistance place this virtually indestructible surface at the forefront of design choices for food preparation areas, wet areas, and outdoor venues – not only for worktop surfaces but also freestanding furniture.

Seamless joinery

SCF Interiors, a specialist in residential and commercial design, as well as the fabrication and installation of solid surface products, reports a trend towards the use of solid surface for tables in hospitality, on the grounds that they are not just easy to clean and maintain, but also very hard wearing.

An example of such a project in which SCF Interiors was involved is Grana restaurant at Hinchcliff House in Sydney. An Italian-inspired restaurant with an open design by SED, it features an 18-metre benchtop that winds through the restaurant. The unique seamless joining ability of Corian solid surface means that the entire benchtop is seamless. 

In the wake of COVID, effective hygiene is a key consideration across the hospitality sector. On this score, Meganite AcryMed, available from Forestone, is a wise choice. In accordance with ISO 22196 and JIS Z 2801, it has been tested to be 99.9% effective to reduce bacteria and fungi within 24 hours. The AcryMed technology protects the product itself against stain and odour-causing bacteria.

According to the company, the antimicrobial additive that Meganite AcryMed incorporates is integrated into the raw materials during production, and works through the whole body of material.

As used to great effect at the newly-built Grand Bayan Hotel in Tainan, Taiwan – in the restaurant, the beverage service area, the Sushi Bar, the washrooms, and elsewhere – the non-porous surface material is chemical-resistant and easy to clean. Environmentally stable and thermoformable, it will not warp, rot, splinter, or delaminate.

Meganite solid surface can be used as shelving and bench top to provide a durable and functional solution for furniture. The solid surface can be cut and shaped into various sizes and shapes to fit the specific needs of the design.

Image: Fugazzi Bar / CDK Stone /  Fugazzi Bar - Rosso Levanto Marble, Calacatta Viola Marble. Designed by StudioGram. Photography by Travis Higgs Supplied

Suppliers

George Fethers & Co

Forestone

Ceasarstone

Austaron

HVG Decorative Building Products

Laminex

CDK Stone

SCF Interiors

Nover