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A Littel Design Advice

How to Choose, Frame and Hang an art collection

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Good art is the one thing that I will continue to hoard no matter how much stuff I accumulate. I simply can’t get enough art is the ultimate room changer. So today we are talking about how to shop, frame and hang a gallery wall and breaking the whole process down with Etsy and Framebridge. Click on through to see the whole post.

Shopping for and purchasing art used to be degrading, difficult and just generally humiliating with only a couple of options – either generic mass-produced pieces from Big Box stores by nameless ‘artists’ (some of which are still selling these and should just stop), or from art galleries … which are generally wildly more expensive, not to mention just not convenient, so just not terribly accessible. The internet changed everything and made being an artist a real profitable career and democratized it for us non-artist art lovers. Nice job, Al Gore and nice job major retailers that have partnered with real artists 🙂

There are a few power players in the selling of art online, and one of them is our famous friend, Etsy. Most of you know that anybody can sell anything that they make (or vintage) on Etsy without being filtered which means that no one is dictating what they think is ‘good’ and nothing is marked up. Some are cheap, some are expensive, but all of them are available with pricing controlled by the artist. It’s really been a game changer and I can’t tell you how much art we have bought on Etsy over the years.

The only caveat is that the art is often unframed, and framing can be just so tricky, stressful, overwhelming and expensive. Like lampshades with lamps and good pots with plants, custom framing can often be even more expensive than the art itself. I typically use ready-made frames for standard sizes because they are wildly less expensive, and just easier, but when things aren’t standard sizes and you care about them, then you typically have to go to a frame store and choose between 10, 000 different frames with different pricing, and 200 different mattes and then you get your quote and you cry because it came out to $800 for that 8×15 drawing that you bought for $8 from the flea market. Through experience I know how to spot the cheaper frames and I’m already braced for the price, but it’s typically not an enjoyable experience for most people.

But now there are services, like Framebridge, that are taking some of the stress and cost away from framing your favorite pieces and making the whole process so much more convenient.

So here’s what we did: we picked out 16 or so pieces of art from Etsy and then had them custom framed by Framebridge and put them in a couple different gallery walls and now we are going to break down the whole process.

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Step 1: Choose a color story and purchase within that palette. We chose two color-stories or themes for these walls – one that was bright and light and happy and one that was darker and a bit moodier.

Step 2: Start shopping (in this case we shopped exclusively on Etsy). We started plugging in our search terms – ‘watercolor’ ‘abstract’ ‘original’ ‘graphic’ ‘bright’ ‘modern’, etc. Generally I like a mix of originals and prints and different mediums. You don’t want all abstract or all graphic photos, and if you can throw something in there that is 3 dimensional (like a collage or a paper sculpture) then that is always a nice addition, too.

Living Room_Gallery Wall_White Clean_Pink_Green_Emily Henderson_Etsy_Framebridge_Midcentury Modern

Step 3: Get a mix of sizes and orientations. You need a few bigger pieces to ‘ground it’ but you ALSO need a few smaller pieces to help round it out. Make sure you have vertical, horizontal, square and the more strange sized the better. Sometimes when you have a whole wall of standard sizes your eye can just tell – so throw in a few that are odd sizes (like that abstract that is really vertical or the small squares.

Vintage Green Sofa from Amsterdam ModernBlue and Green Pillow | Blue Striped Pillow | Pink Pillow  | Similar: Platner Side Table | Blue Table Lamp | Rectangular Shade | Vintage Green Pottery Vase

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Step 4: Choose your frames. Here’s the general rule (that I haven’t always followed, mind you): frame for the art, not for the home. The style of the frame should enhance the piece of art by matching it in style or just being so simple that it goes away and disappears. If the piece if visually light, go for a lighter frame (like most of these). I used to think that the frame had to be proportioned to the size of the piece but I actually really like thin frames on big pieces of art (like the big photo above). And sometimes I really even like big mattes on small pieces of art (like the car photo). There really isn’t a rule about how wide your matte should be, but typically they are at least 2″, with the idea that it helps just give the piece more presence.

Living Room_Gallery Wall_White Clean_Pink_Green_Emily Henderson_Etsy_Framebridge_Midcentury Modern_pillows_side table Living Room_Gallery Wall_White Clean_Pink_Green_Emily Henderson_Etsy_Framebridge_Midcentury Modern_side table

Then there are pieces like the bird print, above, which is really small but the frame is thick and I love how it makes the simple bird print feel more important, old world and regal.

Now onto the darker/moodier set:

Living Room_Gallery Wall_Blue_Green_Dark_Emily Henderson_Etsy_Framebridge_Midcentury Modern_Blue Sofa_emily with art

For this one we chose pieces that were a bit edgier, moodier and had some black in it – because I fully realize that not everyone in the world loves light and airy as much as this chick.

Step 5: Go to the Framebridge site and choose the frame style, size and matte size you want. You can upload the picture of the art into their program so you can see it in multiple frames which we found EXTREMELY helpful and a fun little tool. Once you’ve finalized the pieces then they send you pre-addressed mailers (either tubes or boxes) for you to send your art to them and then a few weeks later you get the art in the mail. They have over 30 different frames in all different styles and widths. Some are more classic (like the bamboo) and some are just really simple (like the floater that is around the large abstract painting).

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As a tactile person the only tricky part was choosing the frame without seeing it in person. We had ordered some before this post to make sure that we liked the product so I already had some that I knew I liked. So just know that every piece I got framed looked great in their frames (and all the pieces and coordinating frames are linked below so less work for you).

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We got a combination of traditional frames (with glass or plexi) and floaters for the paintings. If you have a large painting on a stretched canvas get it floated – it basically just means that a frame is built around the painting and looks like the painting is, yes, just floating in a simple frame. It’s typically thin and just lets the piece of art shine, and without glass or plexi you can really see brushstrokes. It makes it look really high-end and gallery-like and typically isn’t very expensive.

Living Room_Gallery Wall_Blue_Green_Dark_Emily Henderson_Etsy_Framebridge_Midcentury Modern_Blue Sofa

For this collection we did all black frames, but of various widths and styles so it still looked custom but it has a striking repetition to it.

Step #6: Hang all your new art up. I’ve done a few different tutorials on gallery walls, but I’ll break it down real quick for you: start with art that you love, of various sizing and orientations and just go for it. Start with the big one, put it off-center then build around it making sure that you pepper the colors around evenly. Don’t put two really heavy pieces next to each other OR really light pieces next to each other. Don’t keep all the paintings in one corner and all the photography in the other.

Living Room_Gallery Wall_Blue_Green_Dark_Emily Henderson_Etsy_Framebridge_Midcentury Modern_Blue Sofa_sofa with pillows

Vintage Blue Sofa from Amsterdam Modern| Cream Pillow | Chevron Blue Denim Pillow | Blue Plaid Throw | Leather Pouf | Marble Side Table (vintage) | Pottery Vase | Gold Wire Lamp | Black Lamp ShadeRug

Generally this process was pretty darn great – and obviously way faster and easier than shopping for art in person and framing art at a frame shop. Framebridge was extremely easy to work with and produced a very simple, classic and affordable product. The pricing for each piece is different but they all ranged from $80 – $200. Not nothing, but cheaper than most frame stores for sure. Plus getting them in the mail and opening them felt like Christmas.

Now, for some details of the pieces in their frames and links to all those goodies for you to purchase yourself:

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1. Cactus Garden Print by Laura Garcia Serventi in White Irvine Frame 2. The Drive Home Original by Brenna Giessen in White Float Frame ($139) 3. Grapefruit Still Life by Elizabeth Mayville in Natural Marin Frame ($59) 4. Laguna Beach Print by Sybil Maxine in Natural Marin Frame ($59) 5. Vase  6. Will You Please Print by Matt Adrian in Potomac Gold Frame ($59) 7. Pink Pillow 8. Color Block Pillow in Lagoon 9. Key Lime Sofa 10. Metaphysical Libertarianism by Suzanne Koett in White Irvine Frame ($139) 11. Happy Day Original by Leah Jesse in Gold Float Frame ($59) 12. Last One In Print by Lisa Golightly in Natural Marin Frame ($139) 13. White Lamp Shade 14. Blue Lamp Base 15. Similar Platner Side Table (ours was vintage)

Get_The_Look_Framebridge_Emily_Henderson_Etsy_Moody

1. Abstract Original by Reina Abelshauser in Black Float Frame ($159) 2. Vase 3. Coast Print by Anna Magruder in Tacoma ($99)  4. Stone White Pillow Cover 5. Navy Lumbar Pillow 6. Sofa 7. Plaid Throw 8. Black Lamp Shade  9.Gold Cage Lamp  10. Rug 11. Oil Landscape by Pamela Munger in Black Float Frame ($79)  12. Leather Ottoman 13. Picnic In The Park Print by Lisa Golightly in Black Mercer Frame ($79) 14. Above Print by Kai Samuel Davis in Black Bali Frame ($99) 15. Nude Figure by David Lloyd in Black Bali Frame ($59)

*This post was in collaboration with Etsy and Framebridge who has been kind enough to offer 15% off for new Framebridge customers, just use the promo code EMILY (expires 12/31/2015). Photography by Jessica Isaac, art direction/writing by me and styling by Brady Tolbert for EHD. Thanks to Amsterdam Modern for letting us borrow those beautiful simple vintage sofas. 

*Read my ‘Favorite Online Art Resources‘ and ‘Guide to a Well-Hung Gallery Wall’

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  1. Hi Emily!

    I am a long time reader and I never write… so today, while procrastinating at work, I said to myself “Why not?”

    Well, what to say… I really like your blog. Your chronicles on |design mistakes| are my favourite. They are my tool to explain design decisions chez nous to my engineer husband. He gets it when I show him your posts… that’s it. 😀

    Thank you.

    Hi from Portugal.

    1. YEAHH!! Thank you so much for commenting (and reading). And tell your husband ‘hi’. xx

  2. Emily. I could kiss you right now. (really.) I’ve spent hours over the last few days looking at etsy & minted and was ready to CRY. you’re amazing & a lifesaver and THANK YOU! you make everyone’s homes beautiful – not just people who can afford to pay for your services. lots of good wishes coming your way.

    1. She did a HUGE ART Roundup post about 6 weeks ago.
      Just FYI. It was wonderful too.

      1. thank you Sarah. 🙂 just looked it up

        1. Ha. Thanks guys. I linked to it at the end of the post. good luck!

  3. Do you plan out where the art is going to go before buying frames? I would think you could run in to a problem where you only bought 3 different types of frames for 9 pieces of art and then you go to hang and have some of the same frames hanging together which would look odd right?

    1. Never mind just read through the steps and saw that step 3 was a mix of size and orientations and then step 4 is buying frames. Poor reading comprehensions skills right there 🙂

      1. Yeah, i try to make sure that we just have a huge variety and then there is always some troubleshooting for sure. xx

  4. Love this! The pastel set up is so good. The art really speaks. And that blue lamp is adorable. The dark one doesn’t do so much for me. Maybe not dark and moody enough? Thanks for the round up and a review of a framing alternative!

    1. That’s funny; I love the dark one and the light one doesn’t do much for me. Maybe I’m too dark and moody? 🙂

  5. This post is awesome and really helpful.

    BUT, I wish you would pull back more for your how-to style photos–I know it’s less cute and Instagramy, but our homes aren’t these perfect little vignettes of half a sofa (or half a bed, like with the recent bed-styling posts). I know, I know, these photos are just for inspiration (and they are inspirational), but I would love to see art over an entire couch (and I’m still dying the see the rest of that DIY bed). Just my two cents…

    1. this comment really helped me realize why I don’t find inspirational pics so inspirational sometimes…. When only half of the sofa and wall is shown it makes me think of the scene in The Other Sister when Juliette Lewis’s character is in the department store and they only make-over half her face- the scene is kind of funny but also sad and mean- not real or practical. That’s my 2 cents and Canadian at that so worth even less 😉

      1. HA. Basically for these shoots we shoot at the studio and the point of it is just the art, not designing a whole room. In a perfect world we would ABSOLUTELY love to set up a huge beautiful environmental room for every post but we save those for our clients houses so we aren’t renting so much furniture. But note taken, for sure. Just picture the collection going across the whole sofa. I do however, love your ‘other sister’ reference. I saw Giovanni Ribisi on the street outside our office last week so maybe that cheers you up? xx

        1. Well, you pulled back on that planter shoot and let us peek behind the curtain. I think that’s a great example of how you work and why we get close shots.

  6. Getting these tips is like my Christmas morning.
    I’m
    So excited to get your particular recommendations on the “floater”
    frame.
    But here’s my question:
    Do you order it slightly bigger than the canvas???

    I’ve been trying to duplicate how you do it ever since you framed the vintage paint my numbers in the Lorey’s master bedroom, with no success (yet!)

    1. I think you order EXACTLY the size of the canvas but that is assuming that it is already stretched on on the frame (not the frame you order but the frame of the canvas). But its not like you have to assemble it so you send it to them and they float it so if there is a slight variation I think they would work with that.

  7. I LOVE Framebridge. The customer service was amazing and the pieces I framed with them look so beautiful on my walls. I super super super love this post! And of course I love that you’re using Etsy and supporting small artists!

  8. Thank you for this post. This should be held up as an example of how to do sponsored posts right. You were able to talk up the sponsors (without sounding so enthusiastic as to come across as fake) while giving us good content that relates to your non-sponsored content. I’m going to check both of these companies out because of this post.

    1. THANK YOU. I live for these commments 🙂

  9. Jared Leto. Meow.

    1. OOh, i have no idea what this reference is but thanks for commenting 🙂

  10. I have a gallery wall in my living room, with only 6 medium and large pieces…I’ve been thinking about taking it down in favor of a picture rail for a simpler and easier-to-switch-up look. But now I’m wondering if I should just try adding a lot more art to it.

    Any thoughts on the picture ledge look?

    1. HA. I’m doing a picture rail for my family photo wall so i’m with you. Both are good – it depends on how much you like to change things out, for sure. xx

  11. I loveeeee this post! And I loveeee bright and airy! The first collage literally makes me want to jump up & down, it’s so happy. Thanks for taking the hours & hours out of researching Etsy to find some really great artists!

    1. Thank you! And you are welcome 🙂

  12. I have trouble finding anything good on Etsy. Just pages and pages of very crafty crap. Bookmarked all of these artists! You should start an Etsy art curator service too 🙂

    1. Thanks. It does take some sorting but I go to other peoples favorites and that tends to help.

  13. That bluebird print. Must. Have. Now.

  14. Emily,
    With the “floater” does the depth of the canvas matter?
    I’m so excited!

    1. Figured it out. Thanks!

  15. Cannot thank you enough for this post. I have so much art that I have left unframed in a closet in my house and this is just the push I needed to pull it all out, and get it framed with Framebridge. The process seems so seamless and affordable, and everything you did turned out so fabulously. Keep it up babe!

    1. THANKS and good luck 🙂

  16. You always have a way of making whatever you do look effortless and inspiring. Now I just gotta be as good as you at picking out art and the perfect frames for them.

  17. I am lusting over that green sofa/pillow combo, its so fresh, fun and funky

  18. Love a good gallery wall and where would we be without Etsy!

  19. Want that brick pattern pouf! Have never liked leather poofs until that one…heart breaking.

    Thank you for mentioning floaters! I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out if Framebridge made those with no success…SO glad they do, and will check it out ASAP. Have canvases who have been saying “promises, promises” and rolling their eyes at me.

    1. Heck yes–I see it now! They must have added the canvas/floater section recently. SO PUMPED!

  20. Oh Emilyyyyyyy!!!! 1. I feel so inspired. 2. I feel poor! (relatively speaking). 3. I want to go to an art gallery. 4. I want to waste a whole evening being inspired on etsy when I really have a blog post to write & 5 years of photos to sort through. And 5. There has to be a 5 because 4’s a bit of a truncated list isn’t it?! So, 5. I’m compromising on the whole lot and pinning all this to pinterest. (I would insert a winking emoji here but I think that at age 35 I’m maybe a bit old for emoticons?!!)

  21. I love this, although I admit that I’m afraid to send off the 2 pieces I need custom framed. One is a limited-edition screen print and the other is a poster from a show I was in when I was in college that is absolutely irreplaceable. I need to figure out how to get over that anxiety.

  22. What about adding family photos to a gallery wall like this? I want it all, great art and the faces I love! It all makes me happy, any rhyme or reason to making it all go together?

  23. Wonderfully informative post, thank you Emily. As one of the artists featured, I’m so grateful! People often ask me for framed work but I don’t typically sell my work framed since it’s a big expense and makes shipping that more difficult. Framebridge is filling a huge need.

  24. Dangerously potentially unpopular opinion BUT.. I’m so sick of gallery walls.

    Still love your POV, eye & blog though. xoxo

  25. this is some good shit Emily!!

  26. Choosing good frames is a lot harder than most people may think. You need frames that don’t distract from the art, but which still add their own aesthetic value. My mother never cared about aesthetics so much as practicality. She likes her oak frames, but the color of the wood is the only thing that is coordinated. She’s getting better, though; I think my influence is helping her develop more of an artistic taste.

  27. Hi Emily

    Thank you for your article. Etsy is one of my favorite sites . Have you been to art.com . I often order framed items for my friends house-warming based on their subject interest. Recently I was able to shop for specific wall colors. I am curious to know if you have shopped here and what your experience has been.

  28. My wife is an artist and she has a lot of artwork that she has finished that is just sitting in our garage. I think that her work should definitely be displayed because it is so beautiful. A lot of her work is smaller so I want to get some picture frames and hang them up for her birthday. I will keep these tips in mind when I am working on this project. Thanks for sharing.

  29. This is exactly the type of advice I was looking for, I wasn’t sure if I could mix up the frames styles or mix photos with paintings…I feel reassured now! If anyone else is looking for some beautiful art I just received two prints from Cozamia, love them!

  30. Emily, I loved the finished photo of your galleries…especially the lighter one. I recently completed a post where I used your photo of the finished gallery and credited you at the bottom (I initially found your photo on the Cup of Jo site and traced it back to you). But now I want to make sure I have your specific permission to use this photo in my blog post here: http://www.debsdecorwa.com/2015/11/lift-your-mood-decorating-to-keep-depression-at-bay/#more-1635 (bottom photo).
    If not, I will remove it immediately. I do not want to violate any copyrights. Thank you.

  31. how is the quality of their prints if you were to upload an image to them rather than send them art?

  32. I love how you broke some of the traditional framing rules here and put large pictures with narrow frames. It looks so modern and cool! I’m going to try to follow your advice and not do all the same frames (because that would be boring) but very similar ones, instead (similar color family, similar width, maybe the same frames but in slightly different shades, etc.). I like how you kept the frames very simple, too; it definitely keeps the focus on all that wonderful art!

  33. When I was younger I always loved when my parents would take me to the art gallery. I still like going to the gallery, but I also like keeping art in my home today. I really appreciate your tip for finding a mix of different sizes for your frames. This really seems like it would add great dimension to the artwork that you are trying to present. I will be sure to try it. Thank you for the tips.

  34. Really its a great post……….thanks for sharing………..

  35. I really enjoyed reading this article. I have done a few paintings myself and I can’t really find any frames that fit the dimensions. A friend of mind suggested looking into some custom framing and I think that might solve my problem. I will definitely keep these tips in mind, thanks for sharing!

  36. Hey Emily! Thanks a lot for sharing this perfect piece on how to choose the best frame for the artwork, keeping in mind the ambiance of the hall. Looking forward to your next blog.

  37. Hello, I’m new to your site (found on etsy) and I am wanting to start this type of wall design/art consultant endeavor locally. Thank you for the inspiration and tips- so fun seeing someone do what I dream of 🙂

  38. Hey Emily – So happy to have just discovered your site! Not sure if it’s the caffeine or the beauty and breakdown of these interiors, but I’m in love!

  39. I am looking for a change in my home and I think that selecting new picture frames might be the solution to my desire. I like the tip about selecting different sizes and orientations. It would also be good to find frames that go well with the picture that is going to be placed inside. I am excited to carry out this project.