Ellen’s light-up fish panels from World of Tile, now restored and in place

vintage-light-up-fish-panels-2My good friend Ellen lives very close to the now-closed World of Tile, and during the liquidation sale two years ago, she was able to go multiple times to make her way through the seemingly infinite amount of New Old Stock tiles and accessories. Her most prized purchase: A set of reverse-painted, backlit fish panels made in Italy and imported by World of Tile who knows how many years ago. After a significant amount of effort, Ellen now has two of the three working panels installed in a condo she owns along the ocean in Oregon. Gorgeous!

vintage-light-up-fish-panels-2-2Above: That’s me, with owner Chippy, five years ago on my first visit to World of Tile. The visit that also resulted in the big New York Times story about Retro Renovation. To the far right of the photo, you can see two of the three panels that Ellen was able to buy, including the third panel not ultimately restored.


Ellen’s condo includes two stories. She put the panels right at the top of the stairs, so that you can see them from below and when you are going upstairs.


Aren’t they spectacular? I know from knowing Ellen that she had her eyes on these panels for several years. The price, when World of Tile was still fully operational, was pretty steep. But once the liquidation sale started, she was able to snap them up for a song. I won’t say how much, it seems crass. That said, Ellen still needed to spend some serious dough-re-mi to get them operational. An electrician needed to fix all the wiring and get it up to current U.S. standards. Only two of the panels could be made to work. The third one is for … parts. Then, she had to transport them from New Jersey to Oregon and have them installed. I still think the whole thing ended up costing a chunk of change.

Honestly, I don’t know who else would have had the creative vision, the patience, and the tenacity to bring these delicious, priceless vintage fish panels back to life.

vintage-light-up-fish-panels-1-3 vintage-light-up-fish-panels-2-3Above: Anyone else remember these all-plastic bathroom vanities with matching mirror cabinets? They were in the same room as the fish panels. They were fantastic. As far as I know, they never found a buyer and went into the garbage. It just makes me weep. I waaaaaaaanted to save them. But even I have a limit to how much room I have in my house to save lost puppies.

Thank you, Ellen!

See all the many fabulous stories about World of Tile here —
including a number of stories from readers who used WOT products

World of Tile now closed. NO UPDATE on any reopening anywhere else.


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  1. Jay says

    Spectacular! Thanks for sharing. There is something about the combination of glass and lighting that can make for some very dramatic interior and exterior effects.

  2. Carolyn says

    If it hadn’t been pointed out that these are only 2 of 3 panels, you wouldn’t know it to look at it. Most likely because you’d be blown away! “Whoa!” and “WOW” with slack-jawed wonder is my reaction and that’s on my computer screen!
    I have 23(?) mirrored tiles of a matidor scene in my LR – optimum furniture placement keeps it covered up – :<(
    I wonder why the plastic bathroom didn't take off – think how much weight could be trimmed in travel trailers or upper floors. I DO have a very ornate gold plastic mirror on my medicine cabinet and discovered the drawers in my K are all plastic (1974 House of Harmony mobile home).
    Pam and puppies – I'm hoping that not only we enthusiasts preserve these treasures but eco-conscious, Made in USA, quirky-ists, and the people who got no money, honey see the value in preservation.
    Or big warehouses throughout the land – ?! (How big a dent has nomodrama made in her dad's stash via ebay?)

  3. Debbie in Portland says

    I’m so glad that these were saved, they are amazing! I imagine there was much nail-biting and several sleepless nights while Ellen waited for them to travel safely across the country.

    I had to smile at your East Coast description of Ellen’s condo “along the ocean” in Oregon. Here in Oregon we would say that she has a place “down at the coast”. 🙂

      • Mary Elizabeth says

        Even on the East Coast, Debbie, geographical descriptions of waterfront property vary. In Connecticut, for example, the house would be “at the shore” or “at the beach.” On Long Island, you would specify “on the South Shore” or “on the North Shore.” Of course, in Maine most of the shore is “Down East.” In Massachusetts your beach house would be “on the Cape (Cod),” “off the Cape,” or “North of Boston.” A friend of mine who grew up on the shore of New Jersey would have you specify “ocean side” or “bay side.”

        And we wonder why foreigners get confused.

  4. Alicia says

    O!M!G!! There are no words for those painted panels!! I am so inspired. I’m going to expand the little 4’x7′ bathroom in my master bedroom. It won’t be a huge bathroom but now I see I can use painted glass to separate areas without completely blocking them out. Lucky Ellen for getting those amazing panels, but since we can’t go back to that well, I can work with the glass company that is doing the backpainted glass backsplash in my kitchen to hang clear glass panels between the bath, toilet and dressing areas and get an art student from the university a couple of blocks from my house to paint what I want on the glass. I love the fish!

  5. Mary Elizabeth says

    What a good job Ellen did seizing on her prize and having it properly installed. Way to RetroReno, Ellen!

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