Companies like Formica and Wilsonart have really stepped up their product options and finishes in the last few years. Usually people have used this product as just an inexpensive countertop option to meet their budget; hoping to change it later down the road.
These companies have 'opened the can' on new looks and ways to use their product and it's now ok to think of these products as a long term economically priced option. The imagery on the new laminates look more like real granite than ever before.
Residentially speaking... Whether match your countertops up against the wall and island vs going with something more subtle against the wall and select one with more movement for your island; rest assured it'll look great.
Commercially speaking... I've recently worked with a countertop shop on the FSCB job in DeSoto, MO that is making the teller stations, free-standing and wall mounted tables, a drink station and some occasional end tables out of laminate. By using the same laminates over and over throughout the building it will seem unified and will coordinate to give more of a customized feel.
I've seen where different projects have used sheets of laminate for wrapping a furred out chase wall to look like stone. This is a good way to break up a long monotonous wall. I just suggested to the Discovery Playhouse board and director to use the laminate sheets as a waiscoting in the restrooms or down the hallways to ease the pain of cleaning or having to touch up paint.
A couple of months I made my way across the state to Joplin, to my surprise, I found a new way to use this fabulous product- wall art, dividers or just a dramatic affect.
Thank you to Formica and wilsonart for allowing all of us to stay in budget while looking good at the same time. Please do not hesitate to use a finish like this for your next project. One of the websites showed that you can now take a picture of an image, send it to them and they'll print it on the laminate for you. The possibilities are endless.