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.

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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. midmichigan says:

    Geez, that’s a very cool sign and it goes well. Those boots were really popular and they were well made too. I had some for years. I think I remember the company embossing their “Red Ball” logo somewhere on the boot, maybe the back of the heel or on the sole.

  2. Jay says:

    Before I read your commentary, I looked at the photo of the mud room and thought, that Pam has the eye for stuff; the sign is well suited for the space it hangs in and the sign colors coordinated with the room colors which naturally you went on to explain like wise. Advertising and promotion was different back in the day before computer generated graphics. Your patience in waiting to come across something suitable to hang on the wall paid off.

    1. pam kueber says:

      Thank you! When I bought the signs, I wasn’t even thinking where they might go — I just wanted that World of Tile ephemera! When I got home and started contemplating where one might go — this location was perfect!

  3. Marta says:

    As great as the rest of your house is, I think I love your mud room best. Serious coveting going on here.

    Are the boots from the same company as Red Ball Jets? I remember coveting those back in the day, too.

    1. pam kueber says:

      Thank you! I actually have a little more decorating planned for the mudroom — stay tuned!

      I also need to dial up my photography skills / effort. These were all taken with natural light, which was actually quite dim. I added fill in Lightroom. I need to get out the light kit….

  4. lynda says:

    Looks great. The fact the sign lets you “relive” the thrill of the bargains you found makes it even more fun. It just works in the space.

  5. Those signs sure were a good find. I tell ya, it pays to look in the nooks and crannies, under fixtures, and behind stuff. You never know what treasures are hidden!

  6. Andi says:

    Pam, I love this! Size, shape, color and proportion all add up to “meant to be” for this sign and your space—it *makes* that area! (Can’t figure out how to italicize or bold)

    Plus, the memories it evokes must be wonderful, if a little bittersweet. World of Tile never had a better friend than you!

  7. Scott says:

    Love the sign, the mudroom, and the activity of styling the mudroom, proof that there is no area of our homes that are not worth our full attention.

    One of my obsessions (compulsions?) is vintage phones and phone books so of course my eye went immediately to the phone number, DR. 6-7750. Still using letters yet having the full 7 places helps triangulate the year a bit, but “DR” as you can imagine is a tough one to research.

    1. 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.

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