vintage-sign-paintingI made three trips down to World of Tile during their liquidation sale. In the wake of this once-in-a-lifetime, bittersweet adventure, I was so exhausted that I never did write about all my loot. My favorite purchase: Seven (and there were 12 in all, read on!) great big, never-used vintage signs — all hand-painted by sign painters from back in the day. I recently had one of the signs framed, and I hung it up in my mudroom. The photos don’t do it justice, but here’s a try.

Viewing tip: Once page fully loads, click on any image and it should double in size on your screen. If the plugin is working, you also should be able to click the right or left of any photo to proceed forward or back in a slide show. To return to the story, click somewhere off the photo or hit Escape.

vintage-sign-paintingSo how often do you get to write: “I styled the mud room yesterday”?

vintage-sign-paintingAbove: The muddy coral colored chairs are vintage, nabbed out of an estate sale years ago. They are very comfortable and fit the space perfectly. As you can see, the sign coordinates the two principal colors in the room — the aqua of my Geneva kitchen cabinets and the coral of the seats — perfectly. Also, In all the years the mudroom has been in place (we carved it out when we renovated the kitchen about 10 years ago), I have never had any art hanging in that spot. Voila! The Retro Decorating Gods delivered this gift unto me.

vintage-sign-paintingThe chrome canister next to the mudroom seating holds Astro’s food. The vintage rag rug is estate sale loot, too. 

vintage-sign-paintingAbove: Hard to see exactly, but the frame is a simple L-shaped piece of molding that sits around the sign — the picture molding is wide enough that you can create a gap between the edge of the art and the start of edge piece of the sign. This is one of my favorite framing solutions for textural art. The sign has been laminated onto thick black board. There is no glass — we wanted to see the texture of the hand-painting. The friendly team at Miller’s Art Supply in Pittsfield, Mass., did the framing. I love them. It was a little under $200.

vintage-sign-paintingAbove: I recently found this Lagardo Tackett whale cookie jar at Finder’s Keepers, a wonderful little vintage store in Lee, Mass. If you’re nearby — even, driving along the Massachusetts Turnpike, it’s five minutes off Exit 2 — be sure to stop in. Have lunch across the street at The Starving Artist Cafe. Or, if it’s dinner time, the lasagna at Timothy’s is wicked awesome.

I keep Astro’s doggie treats in the Lagardo Tackett cookie jar. The jar makes me very happy, while the cookies makes him very happy. Dear Husband love the World of Tile sign. Everybody’s happy!

Above: Even the boots are vintage. You can find everything at estate sales!

The story of these wonderful signs

vintage-sign-paintingYes: There were 12 of these signs! Over the course of my three visits to World of Tile, I probably spent… 20 hours… going through all the rooms — an estimated 100,000 mostly underground feet of them (!) — multiple times, poking into every corner, nook, cranny, and even the rafters some times, too. During my second visit (I think it was), I met up with my friend Brie Dyas. She is a mega-fan o’ the vintage, so I had tipped her off to the sale, and she went multiple times, too.

vintate-sign-painting-1She and I were poking around a small, sort of hidden room full of lots of stationery supplies. Way up top of one shelf she spied something long and flat wrapped in kraft paper — it was almost invisible because the color of the kraft paper was the same color as the wood shelf. I hiked up, pulled down the stuff that was sitting on the bundle and handed it to her to move away, and then carefully brought the big package down.

We peeled back the kraft paper … and both had the wind knocked out of us. Pristine World of Tile hand-painted by sign painters signs! We bought them, of course, and split the stash between us. I accidentally got seven, while Brie has five. I may be up for selling the rest of mine, but shipping will be a PITA, since they are fragile — the substrate is some sort of heavy posterboard and the front will dent and rip and stain easily if not handled with care. In fact, on my seven signs, none of the fronts is “perfect”, there are scratches and what not. But you know me: I love me my patina, the imperfections are what make for the perfect!

vintage sign paintingvintage sign paintingI scored many other bits of advertising ephemera from the World of Tile sale. In addition, the images above were in a small four-panel brochure that Ben Sander aka Brini Maxwell found a hand full, nabbed and mailed. I was so excited about them that on his next trip to WOT, Ben nabbed me a big box full! Thank you B aka B — that was SO KIND of you! As you can see from the scanned closeups I made from the brochure, World of Tile was giving the sign painters lots of business back in the day. Oh, to have seen it in its prime. Give me a time machine — this place, circa 1960 — will be on my list!

  1. Mike says:

    A seriously cool mudroom you have there, Pam. The photos of the samples reminds me of a long-gone paint store that looked pretty much like that. They mixed paint before the days of computer technology… and always mucked it up a bit. But that was the charm of the place, and there were sales people who were always too happy to help you. Good old fashioned customer service, huh? Another mid century modern classic, that.

  2. Mike says:

    Know what gets stuck labels off? Believe it or not: coconut oil. Yep, just rub it in, let it sit awhile (5 minutes or so), and the sticky gook will come right off. Tried it myself on the advice of a video blogger, and it works!

  3. Kathie Weiss-Lefebvre says:


    [In] 1955, AT&T distributed a list of recommended exchange names that were the result of studies to minimize misunderstandings when spoken: DR was 37, as in DRake, DRexel.

    See also the photo (from a place here in Toronto) of a hairdressing salon’s sign that still uses the LE (Lennox) 2-letters+ 5-numbers format for the phone #.

    Google’s street view indicates that the sign was still there @ September 2014. Check it out by searching for 1399 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON, Canada.

  4. pam kueber says:

    “a pet peeve” hahahaha

    yes, that label has been there… five years. i hear ya. i’ll put it on the list. shoot me.

  5. Mary Elizabeth says:

    Great use of a vintage sign, Pam! It makes your mudroom fun and cool. Did a quick search to try to find the name of the exchange “DR” in Springfield, NJ, and couldn’t find it on the data base what it stands for or when it was replaced by the numbers. However, I was able to add other exchanges from the 1950s and 1960s that I remembered. If anyone is interested, search on “Telephone Exchange Name Project.”

  6. Joe Felice says:

    There’s still a World of Tile here in Aurora, Co, but they don’t carry anything vintage or retro. Bummer. I’m ramping up to installing the diner in my dining room, and need 4×4 turquoise tile.

  7. Alan says:

    Joe: Jasco tile, just down a ways from World of tile has 4 x 4 turquoise ceramic tile (other colors too). I’m about to go there to order about 200 4x 4’s myself in turquoise. I was there a few months ago. They have them. Alan

  8. CS says:

    Pam, Loveeee this sign. New to this site and didn’t see a contact email listed, so sent you a message on facebook. Please hit me back if you get a minute!

Leave a Reply

Commenting: Information

All comments are moderated, generally within 24 hours. By using this website you are agreeing to the site's >> Terms of Service, << which include commenting policies, and our >> Privacy Notice. << Before participating, read them in full.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.