Home / Interiors / Decorative Surfaces

Decorative Surfaces

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

No more boring and plastic looking, the new age laminates now come with either an authentic look of natural materials, hi-tech metallic finishes or in vibrant colour pallete to give debonair feel to any space. The latest trend in interiors is the use of laminates with rustic or historic wood grain patterns and textured metal as a design feature. The new options in wood print laminates present distinctive features as knots, chisel markings, saw cuts, knots and other realistic characteristics not previously available. Lately, metal laminates in tones of bronze, burnished copper, gold frosted and nickel are being used on everything from walls to furniture.

Competing with decorative laminates is the natural wood veneers. Considered an alternative to solid wood as well as non-wood-based substitutes, veneers are getting popular because of improved backings, finishes and more durable surfaces. It combines the natural beauty and classic richness of real wood with the superior durability of laminate. Ash a modern alternative to oak, ribbonwood, black walnut and fibrous-looking wood pattern with subtle ticking and graining are the newest looks for simple yet stylish interiors.


The sheer versatility of decorative laminates makes them an influential choice among designers that can be used in range of applications from furniture, cabinets, walls and even floors. From subdued to dramatic, rustic to refined, naturally warm to uber chic, the latest range of laminates help create the desired mood for home, office or retail interiors. Special custom laminates too are being produced to match the theme or décor of commercial environment. What’s more, there is also available Vaastu inspired range of decorative laminates for those who chose to follow Vaastu Shastra in their interiors.

High Pressure Laminates (HPL)

HPL developed from the original plastic laminate is one of the most durable decorative surface materials and is available with special performance properties including chemical, fire and wear resistance. HPL is produced by saturating multiple layers of kraft paper with phenolic resin. A layer of printed décor paper is placed on top of the kraft paper before pressing. The resulting sandwich is fused together under heat and pressure (more than 1,000 PSI).

Particleboard or MDF are the preferred substrate because they provide a stable, durable, consistent and economical foundation. Due to its durability, HPL is a common choice for horizontal surfaces including flooring, countertops and desktops and vertical applications for high traffic settings such as hospitality, healthcare, commercial interiors and educational facilities.

Post Forming Laminates

Special grades of HPL can be post formed around curved edges by application of heat and restraint. Maximum thickness is approximately 0.038” (0.97mm) and can normally be formed to radii as small as 3/8” (9.5mm). Special purpose high pressure laminates include cabinet liners, high-wear, fire-rated, electrostatic dissipative and chemical resistant laminates.

Thermally Fused Laminates

Thermally fused laminate (TFL) is made by fusing a resin-impregnated sheet of décor paper directly to a substrate. There is no kraft paper used in TFL, and the resulting panel is ready for finishing. Particleboard and MDF are ideal substrates for TFL because they are consistent, uniform in strength and free of defects.

TFL decorative panels can be manufactured with enhanced visual and performance characteristics. Surface textures are created with steel press plates that emboss the decorative overlay to heighten the realism of wood grain, stone or abstract designs and to create or control the gloss level of the surface. TFL decorative panels have excellent scratch and wear resistance. They are widely used in laminate flooring, office furniture, closet system components, store fixtures and cabinets in healthcare, hospitality, commercial and retail settings.

3D Laminates & 2D Laminates

Known as rigid thermoformable foils (RTF), three-dimensional laminate (3DL) and two-dimensional laminate (2DL), are thermoplastic film overlays. They provide end users the freedom to design components with contoured surface profiles and seamless edges without requiring edge treatments.

Designers can also use film overlays to customize shapes and incorporate punch-outs, logos and concave/convex surfaces.

3DLs are primarily made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyester (PET) films. They can be seamlessly membrane pressed or vacuum formed around contoured components, including edges. 3DL can also be used in 2DL applications such as profile wrapping and flat lamination. 2DLs are generally made from vinyl, polypropylene (PP) or oriented polypropylene (OPP). They are designed to be flat laminated or profile wrapped.

As 3D laminates can be embossed with specific patterns to improve realistic aesthetics and are resistant to chipping, cracking or breaking they are a popular choice for retail store. In addition, as their application seals the core panel substrate from bacteria and moisture, it makes them appropriate for healthcare settings for over bed tray tables, furniture and cabinetry.

2D laminates provide excellent water and chemical resistance with varying degrees of scratch and stain resistance. Common uses for 2D Laminates include retail store fixtures, cabinets, commercial flooring and residential vertical surfaces.


Another common decorative surface overlay used in interior design is natural wood veneer. Veneers come from two basic sources of wood – trees that are available in solid stock and the exotic trees where solid stock is now almost impossible to find. Today, veneers are available in a variety of wood species both domestic and imported in India such as teak, mahogany, walnut, ebony, ash, birch, burl and oak. The preferred substrate for veneers is the composite panels, like particleboard and MDF due to their superior surface qualities of being flat, smooth, uniform and dense. In addition, their dimensional stability, strength properties and cost advantages further increase the advantages of using these substrates.

Wood veneers are getting thinner as the technology to process them is improving. The veneers are thinly sliced between 1/50” to 1/25” (0.51 to 1.0 mm) and are available plain or with a paper or fleece backer that has range of flexibility options available. Bent and curved panels are readily fabricated by gluing up veneer between shaped forms or in a vacuum press. The backers provide stability and strength to the veneer and minimize splintering, cracking and checking. Veneered composite panel constructions are mainly used in high quality furniture and cabinetry.

Environmental advantages of Veneers

• Veneer makes for economical use of hardwood, the thin slices delivering the maximum surface area from a log.

• Veneered panels are less prone than solid figured timber to shrink, check, warp.

• Less expensive timbers can be used in the cores of veneered panels to provide stability and strength.

• More extensive use can be made of figured timber by matching consecutively cut sheets of veneer to produce effects impossible to obtain with solid construction.

Nowadays, furniture is most often a combination of solid wood and veneers. For areas such the sides of desks and entertainment centers where solid woods would likely to crack and warp mostly due to fluctuations in humidity, a veneer glued to the top and sides over a solid substrate such as plywood or MDF (medium density fiberboard offers an advantage over solid wood piece as both of these materials are extremely strong and stable and resistant to warping.

Furniture makers use veneer because it allows them greater freedom with their designs and at the same time makes the finished piece more stable and cost effective to produce. To achieve perfectly matched grain and uniformly coloured areas on a larger piece of furniture, veneer from a single tree is used. Exotic woods such as burls for example are comparatively small pieces and can be expanded into color and pattern-matched surfaces only by being sliced into veneers to create the necessary larger areas. This is often referred to as a “book-matched” pattern.

Natural Veneer as we all know is the purest natural form of wood. Veneer by large is exotic in nature because of its grain patterns, structure, colour and natural appearance. Also, the special assembling & grouping techniques of different species such as mix n match, end match, woven veneer patterns adds a lot of charm to the veneer product. Then there are patterns derived or inspired by the slicing technique of veneer logs. Jagged wood or rough cut techniques on veneer are now very popular. Last but not the least veneers need to be properly polished to bring out the real beauty of the product. Each process redefines the way a natural veneer looks. Various finishes available include most commonly used melamine finish to polyurethane finish and the latest introduction, acrylic finish. The popular veneer species in India are American walnut & white oak, Sapeli, eucalyptus pomele, mahogany, teak wood, oak wood and maple wood. Our Green Decowood collection special offerings include Houdini veneers, (veneers species are darkened through a specialized fumigation process) and Impression on veneers (through a specialized plate pressing process). Another new offering in the pipeline will be the ‘Ink Wood’.

Veneers are visually aesthetic, reflect high end lifestyle because of their sophisticated finish and due to their natural feel & appearance add the beauty of nature to the space. Many new designs can be formed with veneer since it’s a very thin layer of wood in comparison to solid wood. As it is a surfacing product, they can be conveniently used on doors, furniture, table tops, wall panels and almost any surface.

Alex Joseph

VP – Marketing Communications, Greenply Industries

Leave a Reply