Mistlite Glass and Christmas Lights: An Eichler Holiday Tradition

Black Eye
'Weird' Wally's weird portrait, courtesy of Wallys.com.

Longtime Eichler Network readers will recognize a little holiday tradition we have around here, when longtime Network friend "Weird" Wally Fields (formerly the Eichlerholic columnist) shares his favorite Christmas decorating technique. He's been posting regularly on the Chatterbox Lounge for years, gently reminding us all of the magnificent effect that mid-century style obscured glass has when Christmas lights are placed behind it. It might be just the thing to add into the decorations many will be putting up over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

"Any time you have a light source behind the glass and you look at it from the other side, it produces this halo. When the lights are close to the glass, they produce these small halos, but when they're farther away they produce larger halos. And then there's this pin-prick in the middle," Fields told me. When the halos get large enough, they start intersecting and the colors mix, so blues and reds become purple, blues and yellows become green, and so on.

"I have fond memories of Eichlers as a kid," Fields says. "We were visiting this other family's Eichler at Christmas, and I remember walking through the atrium behind where they had their tree set up behind some of this glass, and I saw that effect and was just mesmerized."

So what's going on here? Dave Stellman, at Palo Alto Glass, explained that we were seeing a refraction effect caused by a certain type of obscured glass that was used primarily in Eichler models with atriums. "It's a pattern of opaque glass called mistlite...It looks like as if you had molten glass and you laid a screen on it, then peeled it off."

Mistlite glass is still available through vendors such as Palo Alto Glass and others, though Fields says he rescued some vintage panes from a custom Eichler that was being demolished in Atherton several years ago.

Ever since then, he's been setting up lights behind the panes and sharing the effects with us here. Some people look at a calendar to determine the holiday season. Some staunchly wait until the day after Thanksgiving. At the Eichler Network, we just wait until we hear from Weird Wally with his latest video and photos of dancing globes of color behind obscured glass.