Vintage UK Trolley Signs — Wall Art

We let out a collective, audible gasp when we spied these at the Rose Bowl Flea Market. Graphic. European. Vintage. Cool.

Totley Route Sign

Vintage UK Route SignsPhotographs by Ann Revoredo

Straight off I could visualize them as artwork in a home setting:

routesign2Photograph by Nicole Bliss

The route signs came from UK double-decker buses and trolleys. DeWayne Lumpkin of economica sleuthed around to find the impactful fabric scrolls.

“I first noticed the signs in room settings for Ralph Lauren paint at Home Depot and later a Ralph Lauren Black Polo for Men cologne commercial and was intrigued by them,” said Lumpkin.

“I did some research and located a large lot at a live auction event where they were willing to package for international shipping. There were no photographs of the items being auctioned, but I felt fairly certain they were what I was looking for….Later I located a source whose mother and father both drove the trolley buses and he is involved in their restoration and continuing use in the East Sussex area of England. I now get them directly from him,” said Lumpkin.

Route Signs at Indoor Marketplace

Lumpkin describes his treasures with vigor. “All of the route signs I offer are vintage and range from the 1950’s to the 1970’s (with a few rare exceptions).”

The printed linen or calico cloth feels like oil-cloth. Rolls vary in length from 4 to 12 feet and Lumpkin adds dowels at both ends, for ease in hanging.

Davidmetnicole_Wingback“…They have only recently (in the last 2 years or so) popped up on the radar as an alternative to tradiional artwork,” said Lumpkin. An Australian company even used some signs as upholstery.

Marley and Lockyer show other creative uses here.

Lumpkin and his business partner sell the route signs online at their economica Etsy store, and at large Flea Markets (most often at the monthly market on the Bay in Alameda, California).


Here’s a 10-foot long German sign that Lumpkin special-ordered for a New Jersey customer’s loft. “The route sign at the end of the galley kitchen is a real show-stopper—I especially loved the red band on a single location and the red font on another location,” said Lumpkin.

German Route Sign in Loft

“I’ve actually had inquiries from people in England, Ireland and Australia who have been unable to locate anyone selling them on their side of the pond,” said Lumpkin. “It’s amusing how objects have a life of their own and travel back and forth between continents and countries (much like some people).”


What’s the best use of graphics as artwork you’ve come across?

Flea Market Shopping Tips From Kenneth Brown

Thanks for hanging out with us by video last week, as we scored vintage furniture and accessories at the legendary Rose Bowl Flea Market. With renowned designer and TV host Kenneth Brown as stellar guide, we delighted in our finds and honed our shopping skills.

This Market is massive and we only covered a fraction of its home decor possibilities, but saw more than we shared in the video. Enjoy this slide show of the rest of our hunting fun:

Click on the photo to start or to pause the show. Mouse over the bottom of the photo to bring up the controls. Click the square icon on the bottom right to watch full-screen.

Photographs by Ann Revoredo, Special Defect Media. © 2009

I did some digging since our visit and learned a bit more about some of our purchases:

  • There is intrigue surrounding Curtis Jere, designer of the 70’s brass lamp. Apparently he may not be a real person, but a persona created for marketing purposes (a la Betty Crocker) by the company that produced the work, Artisan House. Here’s an interesting conversation on the topic.

    Nonetheless, the pieces remain valuable and our lamp indeed would have been a steal at $200.

  • The George Nelson Bubble Lamp was designed by Nelson in 1947 for Howard Miller (brother of Herman Miller of furniture fame).

    Production stopped in 1979, but manufacturers are reproducing the popular lamps today.

  • A Google search shows you shouldn’t have a problem throwing your own “Hi-Snack Party,” but you’ll need to search around a bit to find the color palette we did.

What did I enjoy most about our day? All of it. Seriously. Fun people, great design, awesome deals—what more could I want? Oh and from now forward I will be “marinating in” decisions. No more pondering.

Kenneth and I enjoyed a break on this “Blanche Devereaux” sofa. DVR those Golden Girls episodes–Kenneth says Florida sunroom style is on its way back.

Taking a break on the Blanche Devereaux sofa

Last, here are Kenneth’s Flea Market Tips that I promised. Download a printable copy here, and have blast hunting at your local market!

Kenneth’s Flea Market Shopping Tips

1. Keep an open mind when shopping flea markets – the reason we shop them is to find that piece that we don’t know we really need (until we see it).

2. Flea markets are big places; don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to see it all; you might overlook the “goodies.”

3. Bring a friend. Two sets of eyes help us to stay open to finds.

4. When negotiating, instead of offering a price ask the vendor ‘What is the best price you can do?’ You’ll be surprised that they may come down more than you were going to offer.

5. Be polite; it will get you better results than the alternative.

6. Bring a rolling cart (a “flea market cart”), lined with a blanket.

7. Bring some shopping bags to reuse. Wrap them around your purchases to protect from banging around in the cart.

8. You’ll usually get better deals at vendors with a wide range of items, as opposed to those who specialize in one area.

9. If something is a great deal and you are not sure where you’ll use it, think it over first (“marinate in it”) to be sure you really want the item and have a spot for it. Great deals that you have no place for are not great deals after all.

10. Ask vendors if they have anything they have not yet put out. Sometimes they have great deals in the truck that they are saving until later.

11. Educate yourself to be able to spot vintage pieces. For example the quarter sawn wood used in the Mid-Century bench.

12. Bring a small design binder with floor plans and pictures of your existing furniture. Being able to see the furniture piece while shopping helps you visualize the space when you’re in a crazy environment (like a flea market).

13. Bring a tape measure to check that a piece will fit your space and how it will work for storage of certain items.

Reflect on This: Digital Photographs on Metal

Art-lover Ginger King wanted to create a new option in wall art for her home and for others. “Original artwork is typically very pricey, and I wanted a unique, sophisticated way to display my personal photos,” said King.

Room with Brothers on Silver Satin

She’s done that with Impel Ink, a new service that prints your photos on fine art metals, rather than traditional surfaces. The satin silver and satin gold metals transform photos with luster.

“One customer referred to it as a ‘unique shimmering quality’,” said King.

“Light actually reflects back through the ink on the silver metal. Photo paper and canvas don’t have the reflective aspect.”

Airplane on Silver in Red Room

When King contacted me, I could see right away the unique quality in the artwork. The images befit modern or contemporary décor, and can be framed to complement most settings.

Black and white and images without strong color work best on the gold metal that “tends to mute heavily saturated images. The yellow undertones of the gold can have an interesting effect on blue,” added King.

Family on Satin Gold Metal

Most all images look good on the silver—King’s favorite finish—especially black and white photos. “A black/white skyline photo of Manhattan I recently printed on the silver is my ‘current’ favorite print,” said King.

Manhattan on Silver left diptychManhattan on Silver right diptych

“Any image will work as long as the resolution is high, 300 dpi minimum,” said King. To further transform an image, Impel can also apply various visual effects.

Visual Effect on Satin Gold Metal

Fine art metal is more durable than some metals, but Impel takes steps to prevent scratching. “I spray every print with UV resistant art spray followed by a clear, gloss overlay,” said King.


What are some unusual ways you’ve displayed digital photographs?

A New Breed of Fabric Designer

A Conversation with Liz Scott

LizOur posts about fabric design are in demand with the Design Junkies. And we received great feedback about Liz Scott’s designs in the piece showcasing her chair makeover.

You’ll recall that Liz prints her original designs through Spoonflower, and sells her fabric at her Etsy shop, Wonderfluff.

I got with Liz recently to learn more about her, and the inspiration and process for her fabric design. So brew a cup of coffee, wrap yourself in your favorite fabric and absorb some inspiration from Liz and her designs.


HW: What led you to fabric design?

Liz: Fabric design is an intersection of my two worlds, graphic design and crafting. With the advent of Spoonflower, an online fabric printing service, I can create a design and have it in fabric and at my door within a week or so. Pretty cool!

I have always loved fabric, prints and patterns. I study it, swoon over it, and just love it!

Fabrics2Some of Liz’s designs: Yellow Scallops, Mod Leaves and Summer Flowers.

HW: Is Spoonflower your first foray into designing fabric?

Liz: Yes, although I have been drawing and creating patterns digitally for paper and other design projects for many years.

HW: In brief, what kind of design background or education do you have?

Liz: I have always made things and I always will.

I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid I would lay my Crayolas on the floor in rainbow order, and then proceed to color each word in the expired TV Guide a different color, until it was just pages and pages of rainbows.

Education-wise, I have a BA in Advertising from Michigan State University, and post grad, I studied Graphic Design at Portfolio Center in Atlanta.

Fabrics1More of Liz’s designs: Mod Flowers, Dot Dot Dot and Mod Buds.

HW: To date, what’s your favorite fabric design you’ve created?

Liz: They are like children you know, so it is very hard to answer that question.

They all come from different ideas and for different reasons. I am always attracted to one in particular though, it’s called “Dot Dot Dot.” Every time I see it, I think of a million things I would like to do with it.

Dot Dot Dot Fabric:

Dot Dot Dot Fabric

HW: Will you describe the concept including your starting point of that design?

Liz: The concept was to make something fun and versatile, using an unexpected color palette. I get inspiration from everywhere: Old books, movies, TV, interior design, fashion (especially), art, painting, illustration, etc.

HW: Briefly describe your steps in creating that fabric design:

Liz: I saw a few different designs in an old book of printing characters, and put them together to form a pattern. The original was very complicated and ornate. It was truly a jumping off point for the final design which is much more simple and modern.

Once I was satisfied with the design, I drew it by hand to make it my own. I draw my work, because I like when you can look at a design, painting, quilt, etc. and see the designer’s personality and spirit. That hand drawn detail lends meaning and conveys expression.

Liz’s original drawing for Dot Dot Dot:


HW: How did you come up with the color palette?

Liz: I keep a folder of color palettes that I find in books, magazines, or from photos that I take, etc. My world is in no short supply of color. I surround myself with it, I am inspired by it. A combo of colors I have never seen before can turn a bad day around for me, really, it is that powerful and important to me.

HW: Did you try different color palettes before arriving at this one?

Liz: Not with this specific fabric, I really wanted it to be multicolored and fun. However, I am thinking of reworking many of my designs in a few different color ways. I would like to create a collection of fabrics that work well independently and together at the same time.

HW: What has it been like printing your fabric with Spoonflower?

Liz: The folks at Spoonflower really could not be more accommodating and pleasant to work with. When first beginning, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the color and fabric quality, but I have not been disappointed once.

The Original Digital File before the design was transferred to fabric:


I always order a test swatch to start because you can never be sure how the color from the monitor will transfer to fabric. I have not had many problems, but if I do, Spoonflower has always gone beyond my expectations to correct the situation. I like the service a lot and truly recommend it to anyone that is curious about trying fabric design.

HW: What’s been the most fun?

Liz: Fabric delivery days!! It is a thrill to see that white envelope in the mailbox and to know that my fabric awaits. I also just saw these yesterday and that was pretty fun and exciting. I just love them:

HW: What advice do you have for others who want to give fabric design a whirl?

Liz: Just try it, it’s really fun! It is the best feeling to make something using fabric you have created.


What would be the inspiration for your original fabric design?

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