Frames of Mind
While looking at different borders for artworks, consider what goes best not only with the piece, but also with the space it will adorn
Above: A simple white frame works well around Aspens by Erin Hanson, especially in a modern setting.
Framing can make or break a work of art, be it a painting, photograph or sketch. The right frame can add value to the finished piece or, to the chagrin of many an artist, detract from it.
There are enough molding options to complement any aesthetic, but finding the perfect match can be a challenge. Some artwork is versatile enough to blend with different frame styles; but the best fit is usually determined by whether the composition is traditional, modern or reminiscent of a particular historical period.
The molding you choose should always accentuate the art it surrounds. A bright, bold painting may need a neutral frame for balance, while added color and style may bring out the subtleties in a more reserved piece. Wide moldings can make the art feel more important and substantial; thin frames work better with wide mats.
Another factor to consider is placement. Does the frame match the rest of your home décor? How will it look in the room where you intend to hang it? Oversized art may overwhelm a small room, while more petite pieces can get lost on a large wall. Don’t be afraid to play with different paint colors as the backdrop behind your masterpiece to change or enhance the look.
Whether buying a ready-made frame or having one custom made, bring your art (or at least a picture of it) and a room photo into a local frame shop to get expert advice.
One of the first things to consider is whether your art will look better with a traditional or modern frame. Like furniture of the same style, traditional frames have elegant, classic and timeless shapes with ornamental details such as decorative filigree and inner beading painted
in gilded gold leaf, silvery patina or an antique finish. Richly ornamented frames will enhance the art’s historical character, bringing out the best elements of the era. Perfect for: Period paintings, landscape paintings and classical subject matter
Frames with sleek lines and flat profiles define a more contemporary look. It is the optimal choice for minimalist modern art in sophisticated neutrals or bright, bold colors. Modern moldings are available in a range of materials, whether aluminum, steel or hardwood. A simple frame painted black or white is a gallery standard and will always complement modern décor. Perfect for: Abstract paintings and fine art photography
Framing to the edge without a mat (full bleed) will allow the art to take center stage and become a star unto itself. With a matless image, a wide molding can provide the optical illusion of a border. Perfect for: Concert or movie posters, over-sized artwork and photographs, and images that already have a border
You can customize the size of your framed art by cropping or expanding it using a mat inside of the frame. A mat will elegantly frame your art piece with a border, providing some breathing room and added color. While matting trends change over the years, the current trend is to use much wider borders with more “white space” for visual relief, allowing the focus to be on the art itself and not the mat. Perfect for: Small to medium-sized art or photography prints
Most paintings look best with wood frames rather than metal, but there are always exceptions. Natural hardwoods can be sanded and stained for a classic look or left distressed for a warm and rustic look. Wood can essentially be stained and painted in any color. It will complement art from any historical period; but make sure the color of the grain (whether dark, pale or golden) complements the colors in the paintings. Perfect for: Images of nature, landscape paintings and compositions with earth tones
Metal frames often work better with fine art photography, portrait photography and modern art. The streamlined look and cool tones of metal provide a sleeker look, while the metallic sheen is right at home with Art Deco styles. Metal will stand up to wear and tear throughout the years and can also be painted in virtually any color. Perfect for: Photography (especially black and white) and modern media