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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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’.
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 bumblejax.com
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.
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 pictureframing.com 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….