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Formica wall tiles — rare vintage Sequin and Nassau 10 inch wall tiles

vintage formica wall tilesStarting the week off with a major historical discovery that I have never seen nor heard of before: Formica wall tiles. And not only that, they are New Old Stock in their original boxes, with instructions, saved in the nick of time from going into the garbage at the ReStore, two favorite patterns — Camellia Sequin (gold glitter on a pink background) and Nassau. Howdy hudee to Mike, who saved these rare and wonderful 1959 Formica wall tiles and is generously immortalizing them with us in our website “museum.” 

Formica wall tiles in their original boxes
 vintage formica wall tiles

Mike writes:

Hi Pam — Your site is definitely one of the best out there and I often refer to it when researching things. As you are such a great reference for vintage laminates I thought I would share a find of mine – 3 full boxes of Formica wall tiles from approximately 1959, one box is the pink with gold splatter, 2 boxes are the same color mix from the Nassau line. I’m not sure what I plan on doing with them yet, but if you would like a few pieces for your library I would be happy to send them. I have photos of the tiles (10×10″) and boxes if you would like them also.

install formica wall tile instructions

vinyl Lam-O-Tile wall tile
See the Lam-O-Tiles here

Oh my word, I about jump out of my skin, so excited about this find. I’ve never seen, heard or read about these Formica wall tiles. Although… remember those Lam-o-Tiles I featured in 2015? The Formica and the Lam-o’s seem like a very similar concept: An easy-to-install, easy-to-clean plastic alternative to ceramic tile or paint. They must have been something the industry tried, but discarded for lack of market interest.

Rare vintage Formica wall tiles — in their original packaging — saved from the dumpster!

 
Mike sends me more photos and the back story:
Hi Pam, here are a few more photos for you to choose from if you blog. It’s funny that something as seemingly common as laminate is more coveted than many pieces of quality furniture that I’ve found, but it’s so hard to find. We have a 1951 Boles Aero travel trailer that we are refurbishing, which is why I was looking for materials at a local Restore where I found them — they thought they were just trash and were headed to the bin!  Which I’m afraid is what happens to a lot of this stuff 🙁  Also, a question – I’ve seen some mention while researching the patterns that the Nassau patterns are a Raymond Loewy design, just wondering if you know if that is true or not?
 
Cheers, mike
Thank you, Mike — these are so wonderful! A million exclamation points for you! 
 
Regarding your question about Raymond Loewy and the Formica Nassau pattern, I think it’s a good bet that his firm did design this pattern. I don’t see the pattern shown on various brochures I can find immediately online, but Formica’s history page below notes his involvement during the 1950s. The design-y-ness of the patterns seems like it would be a fit for this famed industrial designer I’ll do some further checking — or perhaps a reader can dig and find out a primary source material that confirms it.
 
raymond loewy formica designs

  1. Barbara says:

    I’ll buy them!
    They will go beautiful in bathroom/trailer

    Pam ok to give him my email.

    Thanks!
    p.s. bathroom pink
    trailer blue

  2. Jean says:

    Mike- OMG- Great save!! I would be over the moon and protecting them like “the precious”! I just ate in an legit old diner that had pink abstract formica and matching grey colorways on the walls but that was sheet to go over the coved ceiling and rounded corners. Congrats and be sure to show off what you ultimately decide to do with them! I could see them as an accent wall. I had a piece of gorgeous aqua atomic barkcloth that was in pieces and created an accent wall with a grid at the bottom of my basement stairs.

  3. Cara Scopazzi says:

    I am new to this site and so this may have been discussed previouslynso Please excuse any redundancy on my part.
    Those tiles are great, I just love the colors. But is there a concern that there is asbestos in them? When I was renovating my parent’s house to rent (not really retro-it was built in 1965, California ranch) I had to replace the linoleum in both the kitchen and bathrooms. I went to the big box store and was told they would not install over the old floor and that the old linoleum needed to be tested for asbestos if they were going to remove the old flooring. By golly the bathrooms were positive for asbestos! What a mess! I had to call in an asbestos removal company. Looking back I am thinking it might have been overkill? I know asbestos is nothing to fool around with but?….
    How have other renovators dealt with this as I am sure they have all run into their fair share of popcorn ceilings and old linoleum?

    1. Pam Kueber says:

      Hi Cara, the only way to know what is in old products/materials/layers is to have them tested. On this issue, I advise readers to get with their own properly licensed professionals to assess what they have / are dealing with so that they can make informed decisions how to handle. For more info see my Be Safe / Renovate Safe page here (and it’s at the top of every page or in the hamburger on mobile and other places on most stories >> https://retrorenovation.com/renovate-safe/

  4. Amber says:

    I have that pattern on my countertops and backsplash, and window sill (original counters I believe, the house wasbuilt in 1951). They are not tiles, but same color way as the Nassau shown here!:)

  5. Jason says:

    My aunt’s house in Port Clinton, Ohio had these in one of the bathrooms. Still in perfect condition when she passed and we sold the house around 2007. This actually just solved a mystery for me as I always wondered if the builder actually cut the formica in squares and then applied it to the shower.
    My uncle was a realtor in the 60s and their house was a model home for the development, as near as I could tell. Every closet had a different style of doors, the kitchen cabinets and the vanities in each bathroom were completely different from each other. I think it was to showcase the different finishes available.

  6. Jay says:

    Missed this post, fascinating item; who knew!
    Back in the 60s my parents had heavy duty commercial Formica panels placed 3/4 up the walls. The tiles sound like a nice DIY project. I am not surprised that you would snap these tiles up. I am thinking that these wall tiles are would be more rigid then the normal counter/backsplash material.

    1. Jeannie says:

      My dad installed these heavy panels too, in the family bathroom.
      They were made of Masonite with laminate faces; ours had a faux marble look. I think they were 4′ x 8′ panels.

  7. la573 says:

    So were these installed like ceramic tile, with grout lines between them? Given that (unlike ceramic) laminate has unfinished sides and it wouldn’t look good for the side of a laminate tile to show, the grout would have to be almost flush with the tiles. I don’t see any mention of grout on the instruction sheet pictured, but if the tiles were intended to butt up against each other, why not just use a large sheet of laminate?

    The Nassau design reminds me of the “Betty” pattern that Wilsonart had a few years ago.

    I had no idea Brooks Stevens designed the Formica Skylark boomerang laminates. Guy was talented!

    1. mike b says:

      Probably difficult to read in the photo of those instructions, but these are installed with contact cement, not grout, with the edges touching. They are quite thin (approx. 1mm) and you can’t easily see the ‘sides’. After thinking about it, I suspect the exacting installation is why they were discontinued – The surface would need to be very flat and the contact cement application very thin and even, and since the edges touch there is no margin for error in lining them up as there is with grout lines. Probably fine for smaller areas but a larger area would be problematic.

      1. la573 says:

        I installed a laminate backsplash (full height from countertop to ceiling soffit) in a kitchen once, in a contrasting pattern to the countertop laminate. Most people thought it was wallpaper, however if was far more durable and easy to clean than wallpaper would have been. Unless the wall was perfectly flat the edges of laminate tiles would have complicated cleaning, with wash rags likely to get caught on the edges, and ingrained dirt grid lines eventually showing.

      2. la573 says:

        Also, what bad thing would happen if you opened the box before you were ready to install the tiles, which the box warns you not to do? Would they warp or fade from exposure to light or air?

  8. Karen says:

    And here I was thinking the pink would fill in the shower where I don’t have enough pink tile;) Awesome find! Two summers ago, an estate sale had boxes of tile in the attic and they said I could take all I wanted. Of course, there was a lot of dust, no a/c and those narrow thin stairs to the attic. And those suckers are heavy. I believe that they were salesman samples as there were not more than 2 boxes of a pattern. I managed to carry out about 10 patterns 15-20 boxes and there were at least that much left. Sadly not enough of any to do much. Anyway, I would up donating them and was concerned they would get tossed so grimaced when Mike mentioned he rescued them. Maybe we need to educate the thrift stores.
    Pam, you make my Sunday!

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