Antique Signs for The Kitchen

antiquesigncollageKitchens are funny rooms. They’re designed for utility, but they’re also given a special place as the “heart” of the home. They’re hospitable spaces, so it makes sense that even modern kitchens benefit from a lived-in element. Decorators have been injecting rustic details like corbels and chalk boards into kitchen design for a while, but I think one of the most interesting objects you can add to your kitchen is an antique or vintage sign.

The best old signs to use in the kitchen relate directly to food. It’s a little on the nose but it works! Consider a painted wood sign. Collectivator seller Colin Paul Antiques has hand painted signs from a farmer’s fruit stand. One that sold quickly simply said “Delicious” – referring to the type of apple – but what a perfectly suited word for the kitchen!

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Signs saying “Carrots” and “Sauerkraut” are still available.

Also for sale are a series of handmade cursive script signs from a 1960s era grocery store. The font is mid century vintage, and with an assortment of words you can find something that really suits your taste (see what I did there?). Depending on your style you can find wood signs that work in vintage, country, or rustic “shabby chic” styled kitchens.

While wood signs have always been popular, they were not very durable for outdoor use. By the end of the 19th century, signs started being mass produced in full colour porcelain and tin. Porcelain and tin signs are associated with national brands but they were also produced for smaller, local companies. Bisback Antiques, for instance, is offering a great 1950s ROE Feeds tin sign. Tin signs often have vibrant graphics that really stand out on a wall, not to mention their nostalgic appeal.dscn1058

 

One thing to note with wood and tin signs is the proliferation of reproductions. Homey “family” messages on faux aged wood and reprinted tin signs are in decor shops everywhere. In general, these signs are sold as new and I don’t really have a problem with them, but they usually strike me as a poor imitation. I still think it’s worth the effort and money to buy the real thing. Old signs have a story. They are cultural and commercial artifacts. I also find the chips in the paint, the dents in the tin, and even the marks from where the sign was mounted add to the visual appeal.

Now say you want to have an authentic sign, but you want to start at a lower price point. In this case, a great thing to look for is antique and vintage shipping crate labels. Sometimes they will be framed, but often they will not. Unlike the unique painted wood signs, shipping labels were mass printed. The extras you find still have vibrant images of landscapes and appetizing produce that work beautifully in a kitchen. They are a fairly common item and usually cost only between $10 – $100.daisymills

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Daisy Mills” and “Surety Apples” labels for sale.

I bought a “Zenith” shipping label at the Pickering Markets for $20. I love the apple and how it represents a Canadian company. My friend found framed shipping labels at a local group shop for similar prices. There are so many labels out there that can really add interest to your kitchen without breaking the bank. zenithapples

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Whether the sign is on wood, tin or paper, as with any collectible there is room to grow in rarity and price. Signs can truly be works of art. They can be one of a kind. In the upper end, antique signs can easily cost thousands of dollars. Take a look at this gorgeous 1920s general store sign from J.C. Miller Antiques . It ticks all the boxes – colour, content, and beautifully weathered age. gstoreantiquesignVintage and antique signs are sought after by decorators looking for that one amazing piece, or collectors who have a space on the wall (and isn’t there always room for just one more?). With a little effort, you can find an a sign that speaks to you. Whatever your style or budget, old signs and kitchens are a match made in heaven.

Repurposed Antique Trim Coat Hooks

This winter has been a long one in my neck of the woods. In an effort to use my free time for things other than watching TV in sweatpants, I’ve completed some good indoor home improvement projects. First, my amazing dad helped me paint the living room and hallway. We went with a lovely greyish green by Benjamin Moore – HC116 Guilford Green.  Then, in an effort to decorate the newly painted walls and add usefulness to the space, we built some nice coat hooks. Coat hooks you say? Yes, coat hooks!

Feel the excitement! On this, the first day of Spring, I thought I’d look back at a nifty little project the whole family helped complete. My mom and I started the design, my husband and dad did the heavy construction. Take a look at the result:

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Now a closer look:

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And then, just to be crazy, an even closer look:

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I spent some time googling coat hooks in the days before we painted (truly, this is why the internet was invented). I wanted something vintage or antique – something unique. Antique coat racks were often too large or expensive. The solution? Make our own with salvaged wood! The piece of wood we used is roughly 100-year-old moulding – the type of trim that might have originally been found around a door frame. My dad sometimes comes across architectural details that he keeps to be repurposed when the need arises (for instance as garden decoration). Dad came to our house with a few choices, and we went with this one because of its greyish patina and graceful lines. Old wood can be found anywhere from sources on the internet (try googling “reclaimed wood”), to curb side garbage, thrift stores, lumber yards, and even Habitat for Humanity’s Restores. We cut the wood to size, then waxed it with regular Minwax paste finishing wax.

Once we had our piece of wood we had to find the perfect hooks. We needed strong, double hooks capable of holding up parkas. We found them at Anthropologie. Anthropologie is like Zooey Deschanel’s version of Restoration Hardware, if that makes any sense. It’s pricey, but you can find lovely unusual and vintage styled items. They have a great selection of knobs, hooks and door knockers. These hooks cost $12 each and I really liked their porcelain tops and slightly distressed metal.

Once the wood and hooks were found, it was a simple matter of putting it all together. We measured the hook placement, screwed the hooks into the wood (we used drywall screws because they were the only black screws we could find), and then screwed the wood into studs in our wall. Ta da! A super simple project with beautiful results.

We also put my grandmother’s vintage mirror up in our hallway, so now you can put your coat on and see what you look like before you leave the door:

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If you are looking to add style to your coat hooks, I highly recommend repurposing some antique wood. If you’re going for a rustic look this could include trim, barn boards, even drift wood. Reclaimed doors or window frames can be really nice too. Be creative – your hooks can match or be completely different for an eclectic style. The two most important considerations will be strength of the wood and strength of the hooks. Really old wood might be too brittle to secure your screws, and really thin wood will not support much weight. Take a careful look at the piece of wood and figure out what shape of hooks you will need and where you can place them. Our hooks, for instance, had to be horizontally secured to the wood and needed enough space to clear the shape of the ledge on top.

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In the end, it’s not rocket science but it can be very rewarding to give the humble coat hook an upgrade with reclaimed lumber. You will be recycling a piece of wood (and maybe hooks), giving your home character, and making something unique. All that and it keeps your coats off the floor?! Winner all around.

Looking for more coat hooks? These creative people have some wonderful DIY ideas:
Grandma’s Headboard Shelf
Chalkboard Half Door with Hooks
Scrap Wood Wall Hooks