wall-panel-081-2In mid-century America, people were frugal — and inventive. Ceramic wall tile — while fundamentally affordable — still may have been out of the reach of many Americans. So to bridge the gap, manufacturers came up with wall panels and even plastic wall tile to meet the needs of the DIY and super budget conscious segment of the market. Even so… paint is cheap… so their designs could be pretty spiffy. Today’s case in point: This set of Wallace Glitter Pre-Finished Wall Panel samples that I recently picked up. Glitter wallboard faux tile!

glitter wall panels

Wallace Manufacturing Company was located at 10th & Fayette in North Kansas City, Missouri.

The little samples in my kit are all 4″ x 4″ in size. They are scored, just as the wall board would have been. The wall board itself looks to be super sturdy, and the glossy paint finish looks very high quality and durable. The “glitter” on the glitter tiles looks to be painted — not real pieces of metal glitter, like we see on old glitter laminate. The grout on these glitter pieces also is painted. Overall — very nice!

Note: If you have stuff like this be aware that old materials may contain hazards – get with properly licensed pros to assess what you are dealing with so that you can make informed decisions! 

  1. Mary Elizabeth says:

    Wow, these look familiar. My father and my uncle both installed something similar in each of their houses. The one in our bathroom, redone in the 1950s, looked similar to the gray speckled sample shown. It was a kind of masonite, finished on the outside surface to be waterproof, so it enclosed our new shower-tub. It was still there when they moved out 10 years later. I have no idea how it lasted, but I’m sure it didn’t match ceramic tile.

    And is it just me, or does anyone else want to go into the old houses your parents and grandparents lived in to see what is different and what has remained as you remember it? When I was in my 30s, both my parents’ house and my grandparents’ house were for sale at the same time, and I was sorely tempted to pose as a potential buyer and snoop. I often drive by them on my way somewhere else, and I think, What would happen if I just rang the doorbell and introduced myself?

  2. Roundhouse Sarah says:

    I say go for it! I do this quite often with any old house I think looks cool. I’ve never been turned down and I get the full tour and usually some great conversation. I drove an hour out to find a round house similar to mine in Texas (from an article in a magazine from the 60s and the help of google earth). I just drove up unexpected and introduced myself. We’ve now become close friends and I’ve gone back several times to just hang out.
    I’ve also been back to my childhood home and I’ve had the children of the man who built my house show up at my door step. I was so interested in their stories about the house and details on what has changed and what hasn’t. But be emotionally prepared for things to have changed. It may bring up emotions you didn’t know were there. The daughter who visited my home cried when she saw I had painted the brick fireplace so…. Be careful, trust your gut and be polite : )

  3. JKM says:

    The home my grandparents built in 1949 in Austin, Texas had painted wallboard wainscot scored to look like tile in the laundry room, service hall, and back bathroom used by the maid and my grandfather when coming in via the breezeway or garage after working in the yard. I bet it was a similar product to this. I’d forgotten all about it. The floors were linoleum.

  4. Lynne says:

    We had a visit from the son of the original builder/owner of our house. I thought he was gonna cry when he saw that the people just before us had painted the custom oak kitchen cabinets. He described the entire original kitchen to me-down to the color of the flowers on the wallpaper. I was happy he came for a visit, but I knew he left upset.

  5. June Cahill says:

    As a realtor, I’ve been through several mid-cent mod ranch(50s) that still has this type of “tile” in the baths. I always wondered why the owners would put what seemed to me, as plastic tile – instead of a real tile – and, of course, the answer was thriftiness!:) –

    Regarding past home tours – after my Dad passed away in ’08, I had the strongest urge to go back to KS and see where I’d spent 5 years of my childhood. The first home, in Garden City, my parents had built in 1966. In spring 1967, the home (with us in in the basement) was ‘blown away’ by a tornado. After that, my parents had it rebuilt. My Mom had the most gorgeous custom built-in cabinets installed in the basement with the most beautiful pulls (I remember them from when I was 7!) – As we drove into town – even though it’d be over 40 years since I’d been there, I knew EXACTLY how to get to our home (and also to our church and grade school) – I knocked on the door and was met by a wonderful man – who didn’t hesitate to give me a tour. The home had changed, but the cabinets (and pulls) in the basement were still there! It made my heart sing!

    Our other home was in Harper, KS (pop in 1968 1200, in 2008 – pop 800). It was a 1907 Victorian with wraparound porch. I knocked on the door there, too. A retired couple who worked for the RR had purchased that old home for $35K and had been working on it for 10 years. They had made wonderful changes/upgrades while still adhering to the era of the home. I was able to give them insight to some things that’d been changed before they purchased the home and they were happy to know some of the home’s history. So, two positive ‘trip down memory lane’ stories.

  6. Pat says:

    My mother and sister drove by a house we moved out of in the late fifties and the owner was standing out front, so they stopped and said hello. She was THRILLED to meet them, and told them the house was still known as “the (our name) house” – fifty years on! She took them inside for a tour. Great fun to see what had been done with it over the years and what remained unchanged.

  7. lisa in Seattle says:

    Haha! You can still buy similar products today. They tend to mimic stainless steel, granite and other currently popular finishes, but I’d say there is still a big market out there for thrifty DIY solutions!

  8. Scott says:

    Funny how tastes change over time. What would have been a thrifty option back in the day would be envy of so many of us now.

    About 10 years ago I put plain white tile board surrounds in my shower as well and have often wondered if there was such a thing as paint that would stick. Besides being boring they have otherwise been perfectly durable.

  9. tammyCA says:

    Hate to be a real downer but I have mixed feelings about “touring” someone’s old home. I wouldn’t want some stranger on my doorstep asking to come in..sounds scary, who can you trust? we get warnings from the News & police neighborhood watch about not even opening the door to anyone because people push you in attack & rob. There’s even been fake uniformed utility workers doing that..’course I live in a big city so there’s higher crime than other places so we are more leary and cautious.
    I’d be curious about a past house but I’d never intrude and especially not make negative comments. If anything I’d wait til the old house went up for sale and had an open house.

  10. TappanTrailerTami says:

    Not sure I’m “sold” on the glitter tile, but I LOVE the green and pink marbled tile! Wow!

  11. ineffablespace says:

    While I am not sure I would use this particular finish material, I do miss the use of modest materials in well-designed rooms and houses. Nowadays, “luxurious” trumps honest and sturdy.

    I looked at a house on the market that had been designed by a locally well-known architect and preservationist that was in time-capsule condition, and the oval shaped entry hall with it’s suspended elliptical staircase was trimmed with Johnsonite rubber cove base, and had accordion doors on openings set into the curved walls. The bathroom vanities were custom, but laminate, and most of the light fixtures were simple and functional.

    Today, most people doing a custom project would turn up their noses at such simple materials and wouldn’t even want them in their basements. But designers and architects in the middle of the 20th century embraced these materials, not because they were cheap, but because they were innovative, and durable.

  12. Jason says:

    My Grandparents hipped roof Permastone ranch built in 1955, which I have commented on before had the plastic bathroom tiles. I do not understand their ability to be waterproof at the “grout lines” and indeed we had to put panels around the tub eventually in the 90s, but they were shiny and beautiful and I have mentioned them before.

    This wall board glitter tile is very reminiscent of what we had in the kitchen. They were scored panels that to my memory were just plain white as far as the “tile” portion with a dark, maybe black scored “grout” area. The top about 1/2 or less way up the wall – similar to bathroom tile height was capped with a metal trim piece, similar to what you’d see around old countertop corners. I remember the stuff not being securely stuck on the larger wall expanses and it would move or flex a little when you touched certain areas against the wall and seemed to me to be crumbly back there – old glue or plaster who knows. Also, I think it was the backsplash if memory serves me correctly.

    A fanastic house and memories, Frigidaire Flair stove and huge picture windows and pinch pleats, I could go on and on. Mommom to this day doesn’t understand why I miss it so much:)

  13. Mary Elizabeth Lang says:

    Hmm, I can see how that would be a concern for some folks. But if some middle-aged lady shows up on your doorstep and says, “Oh, I grew up in this ranch house in the 1950s; does it still have the knotty pine den?” I can’t imagine perceiving her as a threat.

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