Design Star season 7, Review of Episode 1

HGTV Design Star Season 7 Designers

Design Star, Season 7, Episode 1 commenced two nights ago.

I love a good reality show, you know i do.  I love the ‘cast of characters’, the crazy adrenaline fits, the impossibly awesome but more likely totally appalling results that can happen.  

So two nights ago, I scrutinized everything – how they dressed, how they introduced themselves, how they treated each other, how they reacted to the judges criticsm and obviously how they designed their spaces.  

The challenge was to pair off in teams and decorate the house that they are moving in to for the duration of the competition. Simple enough, you’d think, but i think their biggest challenge (besides working in teams and having a limited amount of time and resources) is that the house was a Mcmansion and those are very hard to decorate or design without a ton of money and resources. They are HUGE and therefore really hard to fill properly, plus often the architecture isn’t interesting, the finishes are bad and there is wall to wall carpeting or tile. This would be like trying to style a woman with purple skin and no hair – sure you could do it and have it look really STUNNING with the right outfit from Paris fashion week, stylized makeup and crazy David La Chapelle set, but you can’t just throw an average pair of bootleg jeans, a tunic and some moccasins on her and expect her to be Iman, on the moon.  

So while i wasn’t impressed by anything crazy amazing, i also realize that considering the situation – a few of them did a really good job.   Plus the first challenge is always rough, trust me.  You are just getting your bearings and figuring out how to bring your set of skills to the table.  

Kudos, Season 7. It was a good premiere.  

Here are my favorites, in order:

Danielle and Luca's HGTV Design Star Great Room

For 3 days and being the biggest room in the history of big rooms, it was layed out and filled really well. When Danielle chose charcoal grey for the walls i thought ‘Ooh, i love caving, too’, as i thought it would be too dark for such a huge cavernous room. But with all the bright white and picture molding (a design star favorite tactic, for sure) i thought it looked nice.  

I’m crediting Danielle, because it seemed so much like more her work than Luca.  She is a favorite – and she seems nice and personable and has good taste. 

Meanwhile, Luca, her team mate, has a group of very, very, very worried jury members out on him over at the Henderson residence.  When he said, ‘I can do ALL of your jobs’ when introducing himself to the other contestants, I grabbed the remote, rewound it and announced him dead to me. I’m sure he’s regretting it today, but that kind of cockiness with his weak portfolio was hard to take.  (I should be a diplomat, or a professional ‘self-tongue holder’ because i’m working some real restraint here). 


But back to some less negatives.

Next up is the den, by Hilary and Rachel. 

Design Star House Den - Hilari and Rachel

The room as a whole isn’t knocking my socks off, but its not bad considering the time and resources. Without those plants i fear that it would have been pretty lifeless, so good call on that.  The coffee table is good. It was designed by Rachael and totally well played.

Did i think she was the hands down winner? nope, I thought that Danielle had more challenges to overcome, but i like her.  Rachel seems nice, interesting and has the mid-western girl next door thing happening.  

She was also ‘responsible’ for placing the moose head on the black wall, which the judges called ‘genius’, which i think confused most of us watching.  You know what else is genius? beds in a bedroom.  

Rachel’s partner, Hilary, seems fun and likeable despite her weird TV wall invention – just ignore it, i don’t think she was proud of it. But she said she loves reality tv, so she won me over right there. I do too, Hilary….I do, too…..

Up next, another bedroom by Milkel and Britany,

Mikel and Britany - Design Star House Bedroom


Do i love this room? Nope.  But for 3 days (with interviews and production time equals 2 days) its not bad. Yes, it has a ‘barely-post-pubescent-teenage-triplet-girls-in-Orlando-Florida’ thing happening, but it also isn’t that bad – its just too much teal. If they had chair-railed the walls and painted the bottom half white it would have been a lot better.  Or if they had mixed some grey or neutral in with the yellow and hot pink and teal…..

I also think that America shouldn’t have entered the Vietnam War; or less importantly my roommate in college shouldn’t have eaten so many ‘wow’ chips that caused major anal leakage.  Just look how smart i am behind my computer with lots of time and hindsight on my side.   I mean, when i first saw the lack of fat in the bag of chips i wanted to eat 9 bags as well. But she had a little more time on her hands….

It’s so easy for us to judge….it is.  But, in the scheme of things, its a very put together room, plus i like their personalities a lot so far. 

Then we have Jordan and Miera:

And their love shack. 




Jordan Miera After Bedroom

These two seem like good smart designers and they aren’t psyched about this room, no way.  Nothing about it is offensive by any means – no red flags, but it is just is below their potential.  The carpet is a bummer – if they had been able to put in hardwood flooring and pretty rugs it would have helped a lot – but thats clearly not their fault. The window treatments are a bummer, and there is nothing really AMAZING happening here, but again, its totally, totally fine.  I like them both – he seems nice and interesting and she seems like a firecracker that would be fun to party with and probably tells inappropriate stories about key parties in the 60’s.   

I can’t find a pic of the next room, so you’ll have to imagine it. But it wasn’t good.  

Kris (who i think i’d either hate or love/hate if i met in person) came off really difficult to work with, but he did do a fun installation art piece that i liked:

Against a bad wall color, true. But his table is interesting.  His partner, Bex, did her own weird art installation:


I didn’t totally get it, but I don’t hate it….if done with the proper time and finishes it could be interesting.

BESIDES, Kris and Bex could be Miles Redd and Kelly Wearstler and their room could be on the cover of Elle decor’s best rooms ever compared to what you are about to see:


Stanley and Yuki's Lounge

I’ll say this first – the designers weren’t happy with the room – they knew it was bad and they had major regrets. People freeze, they don’t do their best work or even possibly they do their worst work in situations like this.  But otherwise i don’t know what to say that i feel comfortable my mother (and the Network) reading.

But as my mother will attest, i’m a rebel so i’ll risk it……

Here are some general rules:

1. Never put dark barney purple and lime green together…..I hate saying never……Ok, Unless its a room for blind people, or if you are in a castle in ancient bohemia and Elle Decor UK called and they asked you to do something crazy that would defy all trends and crown you riskiest designer in all 5 galaxies.   Then maybe, and only MAYBE should you TRY and combine purple with lime green on the walls.    

2.  Never put furniture on an angle like that (ESPECIALLY ORANGE FURNITURE with the lime green walls, DEAR GOD……).  Too many hot, provocative, aggressive colors together without any neutrals equal Waco, texas, circa 1993;  bad shit happens.  

3. Never combine lucite and stainless steel unless its IN a chef training facility or in prison.  Both are very cold materials so be careful with that.  Lucite with wood? Great.  Stainless with wood? fine.  But glass or lucite with stainless steel is a really hard mix….  

4.  Never put empty frames on the wall – just don’t do that anymore, especially if they are painted orange and lime green with balled up craft paper.  

5. And as far as combining two different types of wood flooring into stripes? i’m not on board, but i do think its an interesting concept and if it were dark ebony and white washed wood…..then it could work….in Living Etc, styled by Lilli Diallo with a ton of natural light, some amazing Victorian rattan furniture, an oversized chandelier and a cluster of baby bunnies cuddling in the middle to add an enormous ‘adorable’ factor that would distract from the flooring.  In general, people shouldn’t try this at home with normal wood flooring (especially if its laminate….trust me).  

Stanley and Yuki were responsible for this room.  And again, i know they regret it and they are both probably more talented.  

Meanwhile i get to be the *ss hole that rips their room apart.  I’m sure they are nice people, but when you compete on national tv for something that you are supposedly really good at and you produce that room, then expect some criticism.  I had to handle it during my white box challenge and while it sucked, i NEVER disagreed with it.  Part of being a good designer is recognizing when you do something bad.  And if there had been time, i have no doubt that they would have fixed it.  


We don’t need to beat a dead design horse, but that thing on the wall – the collage – hurts my heart, nay offends my very design soul.   I feel bad for them, but i also feel bad for all the frames that have to live the rest of their days up on that wall with this collage:

Yuki Northington Collage

Yuki went home.  She is totally cute, adorable and sweet and i personally thought that Stanley or Luca were bigger offenders this week. 

My predictions after the first week (which will change and i’m fine with it) are:

Danielle (she’s likeable and has good style), Jordan (he’s dapper and has good taste, plus he makes candles?????), Britany (fun, young and happy) and Rachel (girl next door factor is happening and she made a good table).  


I would bet that one of these four will win, but i wouldn’t stake my money on which one…..yet. 

And again, its sooooo easy to judge 3 months later, behind a computer screen and without knowing the whole story….so i apologize if it offends anyone or is being too harsh.  This was literally the tamest i could be without losing half my readers out of boredom…..

Who are you rooting for after week 1? 

Who do you predict to be Season 7 Design Star?


Marcus Hay, you genius.


Marcus Hay and Elle Decor UK,

you have just made my day.

Yes, this is old, like a year old, but im slammed and saw this yesterday again for the first time in a while and decided that i wanted to, nay, was compelled to share it again. 

Because the amount of personality in this space is out of control.  This person is crazy interesting and as good at styling as much as Meryl is at acting.  Very.

Leaving for New York, Nashvile and Knoxville tomorrow.  Meanwhile watching ‘Homeland’ like a crazy person whilst packing.   

Still deciding whether to do Design Star recaps, which started last night (er, tonight) and seemed really good already. I don’t want to have to pretend that people are awesome or make people feel like shit – so i’m not sure if its really for me anymore.  I’m increasingly sensitive to people being negative on the comments (plus me being negative and critical, too, then feeling guilty), so part of me doesn’t want to ask for it at all. 

But part of me wants to talk about Design Star because its my favorite thing to do. EVER.  And i can delete any comments i want. Although i never do, because i try to let democracy rule in this here country/blog.  

 Weigh in, because a blogger does what a blogger’s readers wants thems to do. 

We are suckers like that. 


OK, I read your comments and i’ll do it! Sometimes one just needs a little encouragement.  But DS season 7 contestants be wary of reading these posts if you are sensitive – honesty is honesty and sometimes it can totally suck to hear.  (from me or commenters – although cruelty will be deleted, so don’t even bother). 

Cover girl, HGTV magazine.

YES!!! I’m proud to announce that  I scored a spot on the front of the HGTV magazine this month:

They don’t really put people on the cover as the ‘cover shot’, so to get to be a person on the cover means they like me.  And i like them, so that works out to be a wonderful, nay PERFECT relationship.  Thank you thank you. thank you

Inside is my living room (before i moved….which makes me miss it…although i can’t wait to also share my new one).

I’m soooo thankful and grateful because they have a HUGE readership and to have your house in a magazine (not a clients, not just your writing, but a space that totally represents you) is priceless.


That’s me, folks, shot by Victoria Pearson.  A real live spread in a PRINTED magazine, which is of course more rare and more rare these days.  It’s a total honor and pleasure and i couldn’t wait for it to come out.

It’s VERY, VERY hard to look at your own space objectively, but every time I look at this space i’m all, ‘Yep, thats totally me’. I’m not sure if that’s a compliment to myself an insult or just a statement, but i gravitate towards that room (literally, physically and figuratively) and yes, i love it.  I just makes me happy. Its the perfect combination of styles (‘Crazy English Grandma meets 70’s Palm Springs).

So where is everything from?

1. The amazing vintage velvet sofa – From The good Mod in Portland Oregon for $700 (yes he gave me a deal, it was originally $900…still a total score). I love it dearly. Its so deep and comfortable (probably because its 40 years old). I was totally nauseous when i bought it because i’d never spent that much before on one thing in my life (including a car and wedding dress….combined) but i’m so glad i pulled the trigger.  It is exactly what my person wants to sit on and look at.  Me, being ‘my person’.

2. The Rug – from RUGS USA. It’s the Plymouth Marfil pattern in navy and ivory, 7′ 6″ x 9′ 6″ (closest to an 8×10). It’s originally $819 but 35% off right now.  I totally love it.  It’s super plush and soft. It did shed for about 6 months, though, so don’t be surprised. It’s stopped now.  Link HERE. 

3. The leather chair – i found a pair of these in Salt Lake this year for $900 for the pair and had them shipped out. They are perfection in a chair – comfortable, 70’s, beautiful caramel leather, amazing rosewood and a steal at $450 each.

4. The graphic blue pillow on the sofa – Lands’ End. I don’t think its still available but they have the most adorable nautical ones right now, link HERE.  

5. Brass coffee table – from one of my favorite vintage dealers on Lankershim blvd in the valley. I think i paid $450, but it might have been $400. I forget. Doesn’t matter because it belongs in my heart.

6. Vintage Red Cross flag.  I got this at a vintage store for $175 which i actually think is overpriced, but then i framed it myself (with pine furring strips and black carpet tacks).  I’ve got a lot of miles out of that flag and am seriously debating retiring it for a while. But its just so ‘me’ at this point…..

7. Cement dalmation. No household is complete without some sort of over-sized and overweight lawn animal.  I got her at Staci’s store, 45 Three Modern Vintage for, i think, $200.  I bought it for the show, but it never made it in. Whoops. Its at my house now and it is very, very, very, happy.


8. brass drum table – dunno, probably the flea market. probably $75.

9. peacock painting – flea market for $60, but then framed it for $250. But i loves it.

10. Leather pouf – flea market $40

11. Porcelain bird lamp – 45 Three Modern Vintage. Another ‘I bought it for the show and i fostered it for a while and then no client wanted it…..’. such a shame that it has to be mine.  (read:  sarcasm, this lamp belongs to me and the inner crazy lady inside me that loves porcelain tchoktches).

12. My slippers, From Lands End. These slippers come in a bunch of different colors (although i do love the hot pink) and are pretty much perfect, especially for $29.99 (on sale right now).  Like HERE.

13. That plant is a Maiden Hair Fern – you can get them almost everywhere (and keep them for a week – 10 days before they die….these are fragile little buggers, but also super cheap)

Go pick it up and/or subscribe.  Blog, tweet, pin away, i’ll love you forever for it.  Comment away, tell me/hgtv mag what you think.

Thanks HGTV Magazine.  You can come over anytime.

Everything was shot by the amazing Victoria Pearson.  She’s the real deal, folks, and such a pleasure to work with.


Ugly or amazing vintage?

I’ve been sick as a sick dog in a sick dog hospital.  i’ll fill you in later, although i do kinda still want your pity now.  

But i’m back-ish.  Nothing that watching 5 episodes of Game of thrones, 1 EFFING TERRIBLE episode of the bachelorette (i mean, she is as boring as a paper clip) and 4 episodes of Homeland can’t fix.  

And now its time to talk ‘Ugly things that i love’.  

You know that game. You are shopping along and something catches your eye (and gut) and you can’t tell if you love it or if its totally Effing hideous.  Sometimes its the price that sways you (either so cheap that you can’t help yourself or soo expensive that you think maybe you just don’t get it) but normally its just a gut reaction. 

1. Crazy portraits – $10 each, Lot of 25 – $150

Ugly? Sure. 

But did I buy? Yup.

I split them with my friend Corbett – she paid more and got all the best ones and framed 9 of them like this in one big frame. I have yet to do anything with mine, but i love the colors and the weird factor.  

Also art is an easy hoard.  Way easier than say this next piece:

2. Nutso chair

The shape is dope.  The floral fabric is kinda hilarious. But this needs to be in a photo shoot – not very many homes can handle it.  It was $200, I think, and in Cold Springs, New York so getting it home would have cost too much, plus the reupholstery….

Did i buy? Nope.

3.  Beautiful sofa.

Not exactly the Rachel McCadams of sofas (which i’ve recently decided after watching The Vow, The Notebook and The Time travellers wife all in one day that she is the most beautiful woman alive).  

But the scallops on the bottom made me look twice.  I want to recreate that sometime for someone – but in a better way than this monster of a sofa.  I think it was very cheap, but hoarding a sofa is a really big commitment and again, it was in Ventura, CA, which is an hour away so getting to my garage was going to be expensive and annoying. 

Did i buy? nope.  But i am still attracted to the arms and the scallop pattern.

3. Grandmas wicker headboard

Its awesome, but its a TWIN!!!!! i would have traded my blonde locks for this bad boy if it were a king. It was $16 but useless to me. 

Did i buy? nope.

4. Pair or regency chairsC’mon New York city!  How were these STILL avaialble at the flea market on Sunday afternoon.  No, i don’t need them and NO shipping them to LA wasn’t an option (even gettting a car service to take them to the shippers on a sunday is like $100) but i’m disappointed that these weren’t snatched up.  

The fabiric and wood color? horrible. The shape of the chair? AMAZING.

Did i buy? Only in my dreams. Shame on you, New Yorkers.  

5. Wire outdoor chairsThese were $100 each and i do love them a lot. I have a huge rustic wood table that is going to be my outdoor dining table and these would look amazing with that.  But only 2 does me no good.  Had there been six i would have bought them (but not for $600 – more like for $400).  

Did i buy? nope. Also Brian might have divorced me.

6.  80’s gold mirror

$60 from Cold Springs in New York.  In really good condition, but definitely not an aged brass – this lady is shiny.  Its big, too, like 2 1/2 feet tall. 

Did i buy? You betcha.  It went straight to the Lake House master bedroom and straight into my accessory spank bank. 

7. This lady: 

$75 for ANOTHER strange lady on my walls.  It’s an oil painting and it is big  – like 2 x 3 1/2. The colors are beautiful and i love the abstract quality.

Did i buy? Yes siree.  Just got her back from the framers (Hotel De Ville) and she looks AMAZING.  Will shoot and post next week. 

8. Crazy pink bench:

$200 of crazy grandma goodness.  So ugly, but in the right house (maybe not mine….just maybe i have enough ‘crazy grandma goodness’ in my house) it could be amazing.  

Did i buy? Nope. Not yet.   But i do regret not buying and hoarding.  My future daughter will forever mourn not having this piece in her baby room.  (although it still might be available and i still might be a hoarder just enough to go back and buy). 

9.  Yellow bench:

The shadows are weird on it, but the yellow velvet is a good color. The diamond tufting on top is awesome. The price, $100, is great. The legs as is are not perfect, but dark charcoal grey????

Did i buy? Yup.  

The base is sprayed a dark gray now – And THAT IS AN UNFINISHED AND UNSTYLED ROOM. You’ll see finals soon enough (with sources) but i wanted to show you how good it looked in the space.  

10. Glass Grapes

When they are hanging like a pendant (with a light) i can’t seem to resist.

The sheer quirkiness is so up my alley. But both of these were around $150, each. And i do think that in a certain room, styled perfectly they could be worth $150. But otherwise they are a $40 ‘maybe i can make this fun’ kinda purchase.  So i skipped both of them….but in my iphoto files i have an inordinate amount of glass grapes (or brass grapes…ahhhhh) photos that clearly i’ve been tempted by. I collected them in high school and then i grew to hate them in my 20’s but alas, its back – they are just happy, reflective quirky little animals.  Not in orange or purple. But i love the bright blue, green or pink.


Any i should have bought  that i didn’t?

Or any mistakes?

Did you like this game?

Best Ready-Made Picture Frames and how to frame them

It’s like shopping for a well-dressed, friendly, environmentally conscious UNICORN that makes a mean stir fry and washes your car for you.

They practically don’t exist.  Super elusive, expensive and annoying to buy.

But we need them to conquer our gallery wall fantasies and our family photo sharing dreams.  

I can’t wait to make my millions with my attractive and affordable ready-made, LARGE SCALE frames. BILLIONS EVEN. Move over Donald Trump. Sionara, Bill Gates.  It’ll be the facebook of framing. The ‘skinny girl margarita’ of wall decor.  

But until then i’m sharing what i use for ready-made frames that are the best for the price.  The ones that look expensive but aren’t – ish. 

Be prepared to spend some money – perhaps even more than what you are framing. It sucks, but not framing things isn’t an option for me anymore – its become an addiction.  

it’s like not wearing makeup. Sure i can go without it; its physically possible but its not pretty.  Put simply, i’ll look 1 thousand times better with it on.  It just takes some effort, time and money. Like framing. 

1. Framatic Fineline frames in white or black


Fineline 16x20 Wht Frame with 11x14 Shadow Mt Open

This picture does NOTHING for them, but they are really really great in person.  They look really high end and gallery-like but are under $50 including the mat. And they have this patented ‘framelock’ corner joining system on the back which makes is extremely easy to install the photos (as opposed to the Nielsen brand where you have to unscrew 8 screws….).  

Hands down my favorite.  The mats look high end, the frames themselves look expensive and they aren’t.  The largest one they have is 16×20 which has a mat for an 11×14 piece of art.  But all the sizes are great.  They range from $15 – $30 From A.I. Friedman in New York.  Order online HERE.

See? The double matting looks great and the frame is thin and smart. I’m not the biggest fan or really wide frames – i like them deep but not wide.  Unless they are large scale and then they can be deep and wide.  

That’s what she said.  

(Welcome back to 2008.)

I wish i could find a picture of the back, its so genius.  

2. Framatic Woodworks Frames.

I love the blonde wood frames. They have more texture and dimension than just white, but are still light and look Way more high quality than the ikea natural frames. 


They range from $18 – $30 (for the 16×20 – frame, not mat opening) From A.I. Friedman as well (and maybe other places but i have yet to find in Los Angeles…although i haven’t tried Blick yet.) Order HERE. 

3. Nielsen ‘Photography’ Frames (that’s the line that i like) 

These pictures don’t do them justice AT ALL either:


In person they are very pretty and simple, with a good deep profile and a really thin metal frame with thick archival matting and uv protectant glass.  These are higher quality than the Framatic fineline, BUT they don’t come in white (its like TV’s – someone is under the impression that we actually want to ‘see’ the frames and the TV, when really I want it to disappear and let the art pop – and the tv image….unless you have a dark wall, obviously, or a lot of black accents in your house…..)

These range from $25 – $31 (cheaper online than in the store, but then you have to pay for shipping).  You can order here. 

Also don’t be afraid to paint the frames – that is why god invented white and gold spray paint.

4. Pottery Barn Wood Gallery oversized mat frames.

Sometimes i think that the size of the mat is out of control. BUT sometimes you have something that is important to you that is small and you want to give it more importance so these are a good option. Also mixed in with thinner matted frames and they look really good.  

Plus they come in three finishes. 

Alternate View

They range from $47 – $55 which will add up, but way cheaper than custom framing.  Link HERE. 

5. Pottery Barn Lee Gallery silver frames

For the more traditional look, these are still modern and elegant; albeit even more expensive.  

Lee Gallery Frames

They look expensive and high end.  I hate that i keep using that phrase like its so important that something look ‘expensive’, but i just hate when something that is cheap looks cheap – some thing that is well designed can look expensive but not be inexpensive.  Cheap looking frames look like a dorm-room and instantly dumb down an entire collection. 

6. West Elm Gallery frames.

Detailed View

They come in three different finishes and range from $!2 – $44.  I don’t see them at the store very often so you might have to order online.    These aren’t as deep as i like them, but they are great to mix in with others.  The frames and mats are good proportions. 

7. Ikea ‘Ribba‘ line. 

These suckers are super cheap and good.  The have a good deep profile that feels modern and simple and when mixed in with say the framatic frames they don’t look cheap.  

RIBBA Frame IKEA Shadow box frame. The image can sit against glass or be recessed. The mat enhances the picture and makes framing easy.

I particularly love this square ones (i think its 20×20) for $19.99  I’ve even had a mat cut for 4 polaroids and i floated them in the middle.  It looked totally custom and expensive.


RIBBA Frame IKEA The mat enhances the picture and makes framing easy. PH-neutral mat; will not discolor the picture.

All the other sizes are good. The mat is yellower than i want it to be, but its totally fine. And the super large one (above) that holds is 28×40  is a good ‘i’m super desperate’ solution for $25, but its kinda a piece of crap so don’t think its going to live out your framing fantasies. But often it can be ‘Meh, (shrug) good enough.’ 

I love this size, too:

RIBBA Frame IKEA Shadow box frame. The image can sit against glass or be recessed. The mat enhances the picture and makes framing easy.

5×5 (i think) for $9.99.  The squares are great to mix in with rectangles – the collected look is all about contrast in shape size and finish, so these are a good cheap way to get that look.  

The natural wood is good too, but mix it in – it looks kinda cheap so if you do a whole wall it will scream ‘ikea’ and as much as we all love ikea, we don’t want our homes to scream it.  Plus nobody will understand what they are saying because they say weird things like ‘roplenploo’ and ‘nolfblaterson’. 

RIBBA Frame IKEA The mat enhances the picture and makes framing easy. PH-neutral mat; will not discolor the picture.

8. Nielsen Cosmopolitan frame in ‘Gold’ and ‘Satin Black’



The finish is great. Its brushed gold, not the crazy shiny brassy gold that looks super cheap. These have slightly a more traditional bent because they curve in, but they are still simple and modern.  The 16×20’s are still only $31.  HERE. 

9. Photo mounting via

Now i feel weird saying this is a good option when i haven’t done it myself. But i think that if you have the right photo (something more interesting and personal than say a yellow taxi-cab, but not so much a posed family photo) then it could be awesome – especially in a custom-size and with the acrylic frame option – so its all high gloss and pretty.  

These can be expensive so choose your photo wisely.  And go big so it looks more like a piece of high end art..  They give you a 30×40 option, which is $400 for the acrylic.  And they do square options as well which means that you can upload your instagrams. 

Be a bit careful choosing the photo – make sure its timeless and not too hipster because i’m afraid these could be the next ‘canvas wrapped photo’ which are kinda done.  A beautiful photograph or a sentimental photograph is always a good choice and is timeless, but something that just ‘looks cool’ could end up just looking like you are trying to be artsy which you might get sick of in a couple years. And they are too expensive to be something you get sick of fast. 

But this option is still way less expensive than framing a 30×40 photograph.  And they do custom sizes and other finishes.

I’m going to try it and see what i think….just trying to find the right photo.  I’m thinking one of the bear…in the moonlight….

Here are some additional tips and secrets:

1. If you buy a vintage frame from the flea market you can take it to a framers and have them add matting and glass and backing.  It wont’ be cheap, but it will look custom and unique, and cheaper than the entire custom framing job.  I would say it could be around $100 but there are a lot of variables.  

2. if you buy a ready made cheap frame and you want to make it look more high end, take it to a framers and have them cut you a linen or silk mat instead of a paper one. it looks immediately more high end.  I do this all the time.  For the most impact get a colored linen mat – the paper ones look cheap but a colored one can be really beautiful and then you see the texture of the fabric more.  

Make sure that its working with the colors in the piece, you don’t want the mat to stand out, you want it to compliment the art or photo.  

3. Art supply stores have a million different color and finishes of mats and if you don’t care about it being archival then they can be as cheap as $5.  Then you ask them to cut it for you – and often they’ll do it for like $10.  Sometimes they won’t, i’m not guaranteeing it, but if you ask nicely they might – it just takes them a second. The framing stores probably wo’t’ do this for you but the bigger art supply stores are more likely to.  I’ve done it a bunch.  

4. If you don’t want to get the mat cut, don’t be afraid to simply float the piece in front of the mat. I don’t always love this look but sometimes when the edges of a watercolor for instance are really pretty then i like to show it.  

5. Double matting can be tricky and over-decorative. But double white mat, or tone on tone can look way more special – just don’t get too nutty or it goes 80’s decorator really fast. 

6. You can spray paint any frame. Hell you can spray paint anything.  Montana has the best colors and finishes. You can get a gold that looks like brass – its dope.  Just tape it off with blue tape, stay 10 inches back and do even strokes, back and forth – probably 2 coats. 

7. Most framing stores have a price code system – like a – z on the back of the frame that corresponds with how expensive it is.  So ask what their system is so you aren’t falling in love with something that is $1000 for an 8×10, because they exist.  They’ll tell you to stay between A-D and then you’ll know your parameters.  

8. Frame for the piece not for your home.  As a designer or decorator or stylist, whatever i am, of course i want it to look the best in the house, but make sure the frame looks perfect for the piece no matter what house its in.  You are investing in the framing to enhance the piece, so ‘Frame for the art, not your house’ and you’ll be happy with it no matter how and what your home style changes to.  I’ve made this mistake before.  If a piece is an aged old oil painting i get it in an old world frame – it just belongs it in.  I once got one in a modern frame and i dont’ love it – it looks like i was trying to make it hip and it is way less interesting and has less integrity now.  But i was trying to be cheap…..

My resources for framing in Los Angeles:

1. Hotel De Ville.  I’ve mentioned this store before because Dana the owner has very good and creative taste and will give you strong opinions with both inexpensive and expensive options.  It is not CHEAP, i don’t want you going int there thinking you are going to spend $50. Custom anything is expensive and these companies need to get paid especially when they do a stand out job. Know that since you are spending money you are also getting an expert whereas if you go to Aaron Brothers they don’t care what you do and won’t help make decisions.  At least that’s been my experience.  Dana ways in and gives you options and makes it totally fun.  I’m absolutely addicted to going there.  

2. Quick Frames, 2904 Los Feliz Blvd.  Not amazing, but reasonable prices for the quality.  Well, ‘competetive’ prices and fast.  I go there when i have a mass amount and want them cheaply done (like for a shoot, less for myself) and he normally gives a good deal.  I would highly recommend Hotel De ville over here, but if you just want fast and cheap, then this is a good option.

3. Best Picture Framing company. 

This one isn’t for everybody. The frames are NOT amazing and they don’t have a huge selection.  There are only 2 mats to choose from – white and beige.  But 2-3 of their 20 frame options are kinda good. 

It’s downtown and in a pretty sketchy neighborhood. You have to pay cash. And don’t mention my name. And they may or may not speak English. And its not really a store, more like a weird warehouse with a weird door. 

Not a good sell, right?

But its CHEAP.  Like crazy crazy crazy crazy cheap.  You get what you pay for.  I go here if i have a large custom piece and can’t find anything ready made….. and on a budget.  OR if i have a huge lot of pieces to get framed fast – because their turn around is pretty fast.  If those are your needs then you can get something really large framed for $80 (or way less, depending on who rings you up).  Their prices may have gone up, i went there a lot during the show but don’t go there for myself normally.  Some of their frames are huge and gaudy but if they were spray painted could be kinda awesome……

 Beyond the readymade choices i recommend above, i would say if you are going custom framing to do it in person. I’ve never used one of the online choices, like but i feel like it would be like buying upholstered furntiure online – it might be fine but its a risk.   I need to sit in it, feel the foam, look at the finish of the fabric in person in order to buy.  You’ll spend more in person at a store, but i think its worth it. 

Plus going online limits your options a TON, and these things are particular – a frame that looks gaudy and crazy online might just look amazing once you get it next to your piece with the right mat and you can’t experiment online. You just get it in the mail and have to make do.

PLEASE if anyone knows a good online resource for framing large items in modern frames PLEASE share. Ikea is really the only go to for cheap big frames.  

Anybody have any secrets we should know?  PLEASE share……please….