516 Fairmount Ave, Towson, MD

Display Your Company’s Past: Custom Framing Historic Signs

custom framing historic signs

Display Your Company’s Past: Custom Framing Historic Signs

There is a tremendous amount of pressure to have “perfect” art and photos. We see this all of the time in commercial photography edits, photo restoration projects, and clients who are looking for the right fine art. We can appreciate the desire for perfection, and it is rewarding when we can deliver a project that exceeds a client’s expectations. 

That being said, it is refreshing to work on projects where a client sees the beauty in the imperfections. 

If a photo, object, document, etc. has suffered damage, it doesn’t mean it is ugly or less important. It should be preserved, cleaned, or possibly restored. The journey the item went through to get to you becomes a part of the history of the piece, and that provenance is meaningful, even if the item only has value to a select few.

We had the privilege to work on such a project when these historic signs of Gray & Son came to our studio.

Finding the Signs

custom framing historic signs

custom framing historic signs

When the signs came to us, they were dirty and in rough shape. “We were installing insulation on the second floor of the mill house, and during construction, we found them behind the rafters,” explains Katie McInnes, Communications Manager at Gray & Son. “We are not sure when they were originally used, but we think they were printed in the late 50’s, maybe early 60’s.” 

Instead of throwing the signs away, McInnes wanted to do something with them. “It was really exciting to find the signs, but we were not sure what to do with them since they were not in the best shape. A friend referred us to Coyle, and they completely brought the signs back to life,” says McInnes. 

Our recommendation was to both preserve and display the originals and create a beautifully restored version of each sign. Our museum conservator cleaned and mended the original signs for framing, and Mary Lou restored and printed each sign bringing back the vintage look with archival products to last for future generations.

Framing Historic Signs

The goal was to keep the frame design simple, showing off the original signs without drawing  attention to the damage. Dark matting with a dark frame created a sleek design that complimented the historic signs. Instead of trying to hide the damage, each sign was floated above the top of the mat to create visual dimension. 

The restored versions also had simple framing, but with a twist. We used dark matting and framing again, but each frame finish had subtle accents of the dominant color in each sign. The Stone by Gray & Son sign had a custom cut mat to match the rounded corners on the original sign. The hints of white and orange on each frame gave the pieces a pop of color and made them them different from the originals. 

Our conservator fitted the final artwork in their new frame housing using conservation and preservation techniques, ensuring their stability for years to come.

These custom framed signs are significant in both their original and restored states. Corporate history is one of the easiest stories to tell, as it shows corporate evolution and brand longevity in an industry. “Every time I look at them, I feel a sense of pride since these signs have a way of presenting how long we have been around and can honor our founders,” adds McInnes.


Need more corporate art ideas? Get “The Guide to Office Envy.” Learn more about the history of Gray & Son at their website.