A brief history of DuPont™ Corian®
Corian® is our bread and butter, here at Riluxa. We sell more bathroom products made of it than we do of any other material. It pre-dates its best-known copy (Krion™ by Porcelanosa Grupo) by 50 years and, yet, has continued to evolve at pace. Always one step ahead of market trends. More and more popular with lovers of luxury materials with each passing year. Never out of fashion.
What is it about Corian®, though, that has seen it ascend to the pinnacle of luxury design culture? After all, it started out, as most such innovations do, in a rather more humble environ: specifically, the laboratory of the DuPont™ chemical company in Wilmington, Delaware, USA in 1963, where a young scientist named Donald Slocum (b. 1930) finally synthesised the perfect surface material he’d been working so hard to manufacture.
Slocum had been looking to create a material that was:
- Stain and chemical-resistant
- Thermoformable (could be shaped in production by prolonged, direct exposure to high temperatures)
- Solid throughout
- Devoid of air bubbles
- Hard enough to create a viable work surface
- Easy to repair
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Consistent in its pattern and colour
- Workable with standard woodworking tools
Quite a tall order and Slocum worked long and hard to discover a compound that would enable him to tick-off each of his rather exacting demands. He eventually did so by fusing natural minerals with acrylic resin, which he heated and polymerised to form a material that would solidify when cooled. DuPont™ saw immediate value in the material and began producing it commercially in 1964, soon after it was first synthesised. They called it Corian® and such was the weight of their belief in the commercial potential of the material, that they applied for a patent in 1967, which was eventually issued on 8th October 1968, giving them exclusive rights to produce this beautiful solid surface material.
This was no small feat for Slocum. DuPont™ standards were high and only materials whose properties offered something of clear and immediate value to industry and, ultimately, consumers were considered for mass production. Flashspun high-density polythene fibre Tyvek®, one of the most commonly used housewraps to protect buildings during construction to this day, was just another of the DuPont™ company’s innovations. And you might have heard of a little fabric innovation called Lycra® that was also a DuPont™ innovation, patented roughly around the same time as Corian®.
Early domestic Corian® use
Because a primary ingredient in Corian is bauxite (a sedimentary rock with a high aluminium content, which is then dissolved in sodium hydroxide to create aluminium hydroxide), when it is fused with acrylic polymer (a polymer noted for its resistance to breakage and elasticity) to create Corian®, it becomes a kind of super-compound.
It has an uncanny appearance, almost identical to the textures found in nature, e.g. granite or marble, yet nevertheless distinctly engineered to human levels of perfectionism. This, of course, makes it an incredibly attractive material for domestic use and Corian® soon found popularity amongst affluent, design-conscious consumers in the kitchens of their luxury houses and apartments.
Bathroom products were already available in Corian® into the early 1970s, but the kitchen was where the material first found its real commercial stride. Because Corian® was produced in sheet form, it did not take a huge amount of manufacturing prowess to be able to create worksurfaces with it, which is exactly what increasing numbers of DuPont™ approved manufacturers did, as well as moulded sinks that elevated mass-produced kitchen design to new heights of luxury.
Corian® was – and remains – a fantastic material for kitchen surfaces, being that it is durable, solid, resists changes in colour and retains its feeling of newness even in the most hardworking kitchens. Customers loved the fact that you could install a piece of Corian® in the kitchen and, five years later, it might still look like it had never been used. And, so, its popularity grew and grew, especially in the United States, where it was invented and most aggressively marketed.
At the time, Corian® was manufactured in just the one colour – white. And it was, arguably, this fact that led to its natural gravitation to the other room in the house demanding of solid surfaces in white, the bathroom.
Corian® in the bathroom
It’s a wonder that it took until almost a half-century later for Corian® to become a must-have bathroom product for interior designers with an eye for luxury. It’s perhaps the legacy of early marketing drives that its place in consumer culture was distinctly rooted in the kitchen. Whatever the reason, early consumers were largely missing a trick. Because, as it eventually became apparent, Corian® is the ultimate material for use in the bathroom.
Today, of course, that has all changed and there is a greater demand than ever for Corian® in the bathrooms of the world’s most lavish homes. Its winning feature for the modern Minimalist is that it’s non-porous – in other words, it’s 100% waterproof. So it can be shaped into beautiful single-piece countertops with built-in moulded washbasins. It can be fixed completely seamlessly into hard-angled bathtubs for those with an eye for the aesthetic perfection of sharper corners. Or moulded into smooth curves to create luxurious tubs that just demand to be sunk into. And it can be laid flat on the ground to subtly define the space between the bathroom floor and the hyper-modern walk-in shower. If there’s Corian® there, you have a 10-year guarantee that no water is getting through. And that it’s not going to change colour with prolonged exposure to hot water.
The move toward colour Corian®
Being that innovation has always been at the heart of the DuPont™ company, it was not enough to have a product that performed perfectly and looked beautiful. It must also have variety. And, so, as the company grew, so did the scope of the material, which was first developed beyond its initial potential in 2002 so that it might resemble the random patterns found in nature – this became the Corian® Private Collection.
More collections came thick and fast as the 20th Century morphed into the 21st, including the Terra Collection, with colours made with high percentages of recycled content, the Illumination Series, which offered backlighting possibilities by being semi-translucent, and the Corian® Metallics series, containing particulate of gold and silver fleck so that it shone like metal. And it was at this point in time that interior designers, architects, luxury fitters and plumbers and consumers of high-end interior products really started to take notice.
Corian® was more popular than ever.
Today, that trend continues. In 2013, the company announced what it called its Endless Evolution initiative that would see them improving the material and developing “Deep Color Technology”, which was first launched in 2014. And in 2019, the brand new collection of new Corian® colours was launched and is already being turned into some of the most beautiful bathroom products available on the market by the likes of our partners at Galfia, who are creating washbasins, vanities and shower trays in everything from striking Citrus Orange and creamy Cocoa Prima to the interstellar swirls of Cosmos Prima and subtle Seagrass.
Corian® and the environment
Sustainability is, quite rightly, the hottest of hot topics in interior design and architecture, right now. So it’s vital that we look at the environmental impact of using Corian® in the field of bathroom design.
Because Corian® solid surface has low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), it has proven extremely safe for developing surfaces for over 50 years and has minimal impact on indoor air quality. What’s more, because it is guaranteed for 10 years, retains its new appearance and is easily repaired and renewed, Corian is far less frequently replaced and disposed of than a great many other materials used in similar environments – making it a sustainable choice.
As a result, Corian® Solid Surfaces has been awarded certification for environmental performance from a number of key bodies, such as GreenGuard®, NAHB North American Builders Association and Scientific Certification Systems, not to mention having been recognised for hygienic performance from the likes of The Royal Institute for Public Health amongst others.
This is all great, of course, but the company appears not to be resting on its laurels and going even further to ensure improvements to the industrial processes, such as choosing raw materials, suppliers and packaging evermore responsibly. Not to mention using pigments free of heavy metals, toxic or carcinogenic ingredients, reducing waste generation in production and recycling scrap and off-spec Corian® for new products.
The future of Corian®
A number of Solid Surface materials have sprung up in the few short years since the patent on Corian® expired, many of them excellent and offering a great alternative to consumers looking for greater variety of products to choose from. However, this variety has also had the impact of allowing people to understand the great value of choosing solid surface made by its originator. And so the growth of the Corian® business in the past three years alone has been phenomenal.
More than ever, people looking to create a real sense of luxury and minimalist beauty in their bathrooms and kitchens are choosing Corian® for their remodelling projects. Yet, still, there are relatively few manufacturers of Corian® products in comparison to those who work with more traditional, lower performance materials like porcelain, ceramic and granite. So, we predict, there will be huge growth in the market over the coming decade amongst those looking for the ultimate in interior design inspiration.