Richlite kitchens

Design considerations

Date: 25.04.2024

Darkroom blue canyon kitchen

Richlite is a solid, through-colour composite material made from compressed paper. Super dense, highly durable and versatile, it's used in everything from tooling and mould-making to skate ramps, interior design, chopping boards and quite often - kitchen surfaces. 

As cupboard doors or a kitchen worktop, it's great for those who like the look and feel of materials like concrete, copper, brass, stainless steel, leather or linoleum.

Richlite's surface will change and transform over time, enhanced by the signs of wear and patina as it ages and is used. Although people often want to compare it to solid surface or laminate, it bears much more similarity to the way hardwoods behave - the colours get deeper and richer, it's incredibly dense and has a warmer, natural feel with a mottled texture that will change and patinate over time. Richlite has an interesting combination of characteristics that allows for it to be used in a wide range of demanding applications in the kitchen - from residential or commercial worktops and splash backs, to office tea points and cupboard doors.

Features + properties

Look + Feel
Richlite's surface shows wear in areas of greater use - similar to how metal, leather or linoleum behaves. Because of its composition of resin and decorative kraft paper, the colour goes through the full thickness and any marks will look burnished and warmer over time.

All of the colours get deeper, darker and warmer and this is most noticeable with Maple Valley which starts off as a light honey colour and will deepen into a rich amber colour, or Grays Harbor which starts as a mid-grey, shifting to a darker green/brown gunmetal grey like in this boardroom table showing Grays Harbor after 5 years.

Thickness + Weight
As a material, Richlite has twice the density of marine grade plywoods and three times the strength, and you can generally use half the thickness as a result. For example 6mm thick Richlite is used for splash backs and upstands or 12mm for cupboard and cabinet doors, kitchen worktops and other horizontal surfaces.

Machining + Curves
Rounded or bevelled edges and drain grooves are no problem at all. Richlite's density means intricate details can be routed and the material has incredible screw retention strength. Richlite is a thermoset panel, so it cannot be formed to a radius, however some designers have gotten clever with machining the back to achieve a curve fixed into place.

It's not a seamless material, but good joins are like a fine hairline, similar to the seam you'd have with wood. The sheets have a direction, so seam placement and orientation are important, but the oversized sheets up to 3660 x 1525mm mean long spans can come out of a single run of material without joins.

Richlite is a semi-finished panel product that needs fabrication and finishing by an experienced joiner. Once installed, Richlite is a similar price point to other premium surfaces like solid surface, compact laminates or granite.

Kitchen Applications
Richlite is heat resistant up to 176 degrees C (350 F) and is non-porous so won't harbour bacteria and is often used in places like splashbacks, worktops, food preparation areas, hot servery counters and cabinet and cupboard doors.

Richlite Stratum Birch Ply uses a premium Finnish Birch plywood core faced with colours from the Heritage Collection. At 18mm or 24mm thick it's reduced weight is ideal for kitchen doors, drawer fronts and shelves like in this residential kitchen. Solid Richlite can also be used for doors, 12mm thick can be hung with hinges for glass or wood based materials, like in this Swiss project. Thicker solid doors work too, but will need more hinges, as in this kitchen by Studio Rhonda.

Surface options

Richlite can be fabricated to three main surface options, depending on the application and desired finish. Once the material has been buffed or sanded, you cannot go back to achieve the texture the original Mill surface.

Richlite straight out of the press and onto your application, no fabrication or surface finish is applied. This is incredibly matte and so will show natural oils from your hands very quickly and any scuffs will appear chalky - this surface option is predominately used in exterior cladding or industrial applications like skate ramps and chopping boards where the surface texture isn't important, but can also be used in all types of internal joinery. This will perform similar to an uncoated steel.

A fabricator or joiner takes the Mill finish material, keeping most of the original texture, with a slight buff and an applied finish. The Leathered surface shows wear more evenly than the Mill or Honed options. This finish will develop a patina, a little more slowly and behaves similarly to a really dense hardwood, leather, linoleum or concrete.

The Honed option is sanded and buffed with a finish applied. Honed Richlite panels have a very flat smooth finish, making it look almost polished. Starting with a slight sheen, it will dull with use over time somewhat like a polished metal - scratches will stand out to begin with, but over time will develop a nice lustre and patina. Its performance is similar to Stainless Steel, Brass or Copper work surfaces.

Looking after Richlite

Care + maintenance

Like all materials, Richlite does scratch and will wear and mark with use. Its patination is often the main reason why people choose to use Richlite. Richlite is non-porous and antimicrobial and can be cleaned with warm water and sponge day to day, and mild soap or non-abrasive cleaners can be used if needed. Bleach and abrasive cleansing powders should not be used on Richlite.

High alkaline foods like papaya, beetroot, red wine and products like soap, dishwashing tablets, oven cleaner and grout can stain when left on the surface for extended periods. Richlite will last for a very long time and does not need to be refinished, but can be spot repaired or refinished by a fabricator if desired. Richlite spray cleaner is an easy to use polish that can be applied lightly to enhance the finish of the material periodically.

Nothing will give you a better sense of a material than holding a piece in your hands, learn more about Richlite, download the Care + maintenance info and request samples.