Did you know that one of the icons of mid-century modern home materials is right up the road in Temple, Texas? Wilsonart is a global manufacturer and distributor of High Pressure Laminates and other engineered composite materials, used in furniture, office and retail space, countertops, worktops and other applications. You may know it from vintage homes and its famous “lamé” glitter (read about it on Retro Renovation) or boomerang countertops.
One of the things the Moxie Ladies love most about their job is that they are often out and about with clients. They get to see lots of awesome things every day. But sometimes they get to take special field trips. This was one! A friend and client arranged a tour of The Ralph Sr. & Sunny Wilson Historic House and Museum, commonly known as the Wilsonart House, and the Wilsonart Factory. The Moxie Ladies were nearly overcome with excitement!
After a quick drive to Temple, we met our guide at the home, which is featured in the National Register of Historic Places based on its use of materials. There, we were treated to a tour of the Wilsonart founder’s home, a hybrid of ranch and modern-style home architecture. Not too surprising that Mr. Wilson favored those styles, since he was from California. It is believed that the island style kitchen was the first of its kind in Texas!
Wilson used his home to showcase his product and ideas, and what a showcase it was! Entering into a great room with a gorgeous fireplace, you might think the main living and dining areas don’t feature much in the way of laminate beyond the artistic geometric rendering on the far right wall. Until you learn that those walls are not, in fact, painted paneling–they are sheets of laminate that were routed to look paneling-like. This is about the lowest maintenance surface you can imagine. Even the doors throughout the home were covered in laminate!
Off the kitchen is a laundry room with a cabinet that must be seen to be believed! And the bathroom in that area is a study in the use of color and material!
We couldn’t believe the amazing aqua bathroom with built ins and cantilevered drawers in the master bath! Swoon!
And what mid-century home is complete without a pink bathroom? This one, in between the two non-master bedrooms, fulfills many pink bathroom fantasies! And it has an unusual feature in its bathroom sink. Placed in a non-standard place, it is double sided, with mirrors on both sides. That way two teenagers can use it and not fight over placement!
The home holds Wilsonart‘s archives, including the surfboard that was used in their campaign “Surface Safari” and old ads and sales boards. There are also two outfits, made out of laminate paper, that were designed for charity galas. Can’t imagine wearing these gorgeous princess outfits, but loved the ingenuity and cheekiness!
On our way out, we took these pictures of the bullet planters and lighting in a nod to our friends at Hip Haven, who brought them back to life.
After Mr. Wilson‘s death, some of the design was lost in the 1960s when his widow, Sunny, Ralph’s wife, decided to remodel, covering over the living room’s hip geometric patterns with blue wallpaper. Additionally, when Sunny decided to sell the house in the ’90s, Wilsonart removed the kitchen cabinetry and shipped it to their Dallas division for preservation. Sunny had been told by her realtor that the place would never sell with the kitchen “as is.” Wilsonart ultimately decided that keeping just one room wasn’t enough and, in the end, bought the entire house. They shipped the kitchen back where it came from and began a restoration effort that resulted in preserving this great piece of Texas’ and America’s past.
But don’t think that Wilsonart relies on nostalgia to stay in the market. We toured its clean facility, which strives for zero waste and incorporates many other green features. The Moxie Ladies were also impressed with Wilsonart‘s commitment to its employees–the facility has a wellness center for illness, vaccinations and the like and a gym! On site!
Entering the customer center, we were treated to seeing many modern uses of Wilsonart‘s materials. For example, these walls were examples of commercial applications.
We put on our safety glasses and entered the factory, where we learned how digitally printed paper is turned into laminate for a huge number of uses. For many products, Wilsonart uses recycled components and is committed to sustainability. It was particularly interesting to learn that these products are considered more sustainable and better for our environment than cutting down rare trees to decorate our homes.
Although Wilsonart has automated many of its processes, some of the work of layering the sheets is done by hand by two person teams.
Of course, if you like the retro look, check out Wilsonart‘s gorgeous collaboration with Retro Renovation.