If your nightclub or bar design project is on a budget and you’re searching for a creative solution, consider using high-pressure laminates (or HPL’s). Some people may not know that another, less-familiar class of laminates exists (the low pressure variety), but for the sake of this conversation, I’ll simply refer to the former categorically as laminates.
Laminates, as decorative surfaces, are available in a wide variety of patterns and price points, so there’s something for nearly everyone. I specify laminates in nearly every project, and in many cases, for reasons other than cost. Today, I am covering what I consider to be the most relevant and common applications for laminates; this does not include bar tops because I simply do not think of this application to be a worthy investment for any nightclub or bar.
How to Use Laminates to Construct Custom Canopies
Have you ever studied a laminate countertop (who hasn’t)? Did you ever think that building something with tolerances as tight as a kitchen countertop could be easy? Just look at the seams: smaller than 1/64” (.04mm)! Nothing that appears that flawless could possibly be easy to construct, right? Maybe not for you or me, but believe it or not, to a skilled carpenter, working with laminates in the field really isn’t all that difficult – at least in the proper context. While casework, such as cabinets and reception desks, would be tedious and nearly impossible work in the field, there are distinct advantages in other laminate applications in that vein. For instance, custom canopies can be constructed on-premise and you might be surprised by the results:
- Very distinctive appearance – similar to countertops, and their clean lines and edges provide a unique visual.
- Efficiency of installation – in comparison to drywall many finishing steps (which require sanding) are saved; laminates require significantly less clean-up than drywall and this in itself should be one of the top reasons for nightclub and bar owners to consider.
- Flexibility – can easily assume most curved shapes.
The photo of the canopy shown above was built on-premise and the contractor did not have an extensive knowledge of laminates, but it turned out flawless. The framing consisted of metal studs and the Flex-C Trac™ I mentioned in my previous post (refer below). In the end, my client owned a unique and cleaver design with virtually no dust and in a fraction of the time, had it been finished with drywall.
Why Use Laminates for Nightclub Half-Wall Design?
If you are a nightclub or bar owner, this one is for you. One of the most effective uses of laminates in nightclub design is for half-walls (refer to the above photo). Many design professionals will specify laminates adhered to 5/8” (16mm) drywall – WRONG! I have been in nightclubs where the half-walls have been kicked to pieces (and a very short half-life, I might add). In an entertainment setting, if you use drywall as the underlayment you might as well pour your money down the drain. Although, by definition, laminates are recommended for applications where durability and impact resistance are concerns, it doesn’t make sense to me for the wear surface to be stronger than the underlayment – IT SHOULD BE THE OTHER WAY AROUND. The only proper long-term design for a half-wall in a nightclub or bar is to utilize ½” (13mm) particle board or MDF* . Ironically, the difference in the initial investment is only a couple of dollars. And by the way, don’t waste your money on upgraded patterns when selecting a laminate for a half-wall; something like the Wilsonart “Black Matte,” #1595-60** is a good value. Applying laminates with half-walls on-premise makes a lot of sense.
Laminate Applications for Reception Desks
If you want to impress your patrons, use a high-quality laminate for the reception desk in your lobby. Desks such as this should be built in a commercial cabinet shop. The reason I would never recommend something like this to be field-constructed is that it is just too complex. The entire finished assembly needs to be carefully built and fitted so the drawers open and close smoothly and squarely and this would be impossible to accomplish in a field environment. The reception desk shown at right utilized a premium laminate.
Laminates in Column Design
Columns are great at delineating large, open spaces. In some instances, especially where the columns are significant architectural design elements, we need to use something like a formal Tuscan column and Ionic capital and base. But within localized areas, where the columns are less significant and shorter, it’s perfectly acceptable to use a rectangular laminate column. These can be fabricated in the field, but it may be more economical to have them built in a commercial cabinet shop.
Laminates in Drink Rail Design
This is the application you will see most frequently for laminates in a nightclub setting. My design criteria for laminated drink rails looks something like this:
- The basic black laminate is perfect.
- 9” – 12” overall width.
- 4” backsplash.
- The height of the drink surface should be 42” above the finished floor.
- Gusset brackets (constructed from the same laminate) installed every 24”.
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* All underlayment in commercial applications should be flame retardant (FR)
** Product type 604 (FR)