The Neglected Picture Frame: Tips on Framing Artwork



In our roster of services, we offer an art consultation package to help our clients dress up tired walls with pieces that are not only new but also work with existing pieces of art. Part of this process though is about more than just discussing the art itself. Very rarely can you just directly hang a photo or painting on the wall and say, “Ta daaa!” More often not, said piece requires a frame… and here lies the problem. So many of the clients we chat with have a great sense of what they do and don’t like as far as art and photography goes but when it comes to selecting a frame, they’re less decisive. The poor old picture frame is an often neglected element of artwork and yet, it’s so crucial! Selecting the right frame is about finding that delicate balance of something that enhances the piece but doesn’t overpower it, while simultaneously making sense in the space where it’s hanging. Tim Blake, a framing consultant at Darbyshire in London, once said, “The frame is the stage and the artwork is the actor.” While we couldn’t agree more, how does this apply, practically speaking? Here are a few tips to keep in mind…

Think About the Art First & Your Decor Second

When selecting appropriate framing we suggest taking a close look at the artwork or photograph first, instead of letting your home’s general aesthetic influence the framing choice too much. Keep in mind, pieces may not always be hung in the same room so find something that will enhance the artwork, regardless of where it goes. If the piece could work with a few different options, that’s when you can start to look around in the space where it’s going to hang and take cues from your decor. In the living room shown above, the traditional oil paintings with their antique frames are a surprising choice but add a wonderful touch of whimsy to the space. Photo courtesy of House & Home

Examine Your Piece Before Deciding

Before framing, take a deep dive into your piece and examine what you really like about it. What are the focal points? What are the colours and textures that are dominant or that you’d like to enhance? For Slim Aarons prints like the one above, a simple, white acrylic frame makes perfect sense as it allows the vibrant colours he’s known for to jump out. These photos are all about the glamour and style of the 60s and 70s that are depicted in his photos so choosing a frame like this is in keeping with the aesthetic. It’s often a game of trial and error so if possible, bring your art to the framers and play around to see what looks best. If the piece is too large or precious, we can connect you with industry experts who will come to your home for a consultation.

Photo courtesy of Nicole Gibbons Style.

Be Open Minded

There is a tendency to frame modern pieces in minimalist frames and more traditional works in ornate antique frames and while that has a time and a place, it’s worthwhile to consider other options. Sometimes, juxtaposition is the best way to really do your artwork the justice that it deserves. For example, for one client, we selected an antique gilt frame for her contemporary piece and it looked absolutely brilliant. On the flip side, we’ve also seen more traditional works that are so ornate and detailed that they called for a modern frame. In the living room featured in Architectural Digest above, a B&W photo is framed in gold and an abstract piece has a traditional gallery-lit frame. Neither choice is an obvious one and yet they both look stunning. 

Feeling overwhelmed and having no idea where to begin? Get in touch. With a quick phone call we can set you on the right path!