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Framing: Thinking About the Art First

lynette Ubel_Framed art

You have a fabulous painting that you would like to frame and the first thing you do is set the piece in its new environment to see what type of frame would flow best with the décor. The experts will tell you, “not so fast!” This is understandably a trap many people fall into when selecting frames for their artwork.

In this post I’ll share how picture frames can dramatically alter the look of your artwork and how, décor aside, it’s best to frame using materials that complement the art. By choosing timeless frame mouldings and selecting well, you will only need to frame a piece of art once. In addition, a well-framed painting can move from room to room regardless of décor and will look great wherever it hangs.


Framing can get pricey but avoid the temptation to “frame shop hop” looking for the best deal around. Build a relationship with good quality framer in town and let them help you with the bulk of your work. The more artwork one professional frames for you the better chance they have of understanding your taste in art and what else is hanging in your home. With each piece finished by the same trusted frame shop the more the professional can assist you in making your art collection, large or small, look cohesive in your space.

2-lynette Ubel_Framed art_home interior

A good framer will consider the size, texture, color and movement of a piece then recommend the style of frame that is best suited for your art. Scale and proportion will guide them in the weight and thickness of moulding they recommend.

Generally, there are two mindsets on framing. One might be to think about the era of the piece you are framing and keep the frame consistent with the era of that artwork. In this case, an antique painting would be finished with an antique looking frame and on the flip side a contemporary painting would get a clean simple modern frame.

The second way of thinking would be to consider the power of contrast and place a contemporary work in an old-world frame, or an old-world piece in a modernist or contemporary frame. In either case, make sure to put the artwork first and do what the piece calls for keeping in mind that framing should not just match your décor.


lynette Ubel_Dining Room_painting
Two pieces of art “Forget Me Not” [Left] and “A Look Inside” [Right] add character to the same space in their own way. One hangs without a frame and the other works best with a simple frame.
In the above dining room photograph my 40”x40” painting titled, “Forget Me Not” has enough movement, texture and detail that it can hold its own with a simple black painted edge and no frame at all. Many paintings done on canvas stretched over a wood frame can hang unframed indefinitely like this, so adding a frame should never be an assumed necessity. As mentioned before, take each piece into consideration and decide what frame, if any, is needed!

In that same dining room my 60”x 36” painting titled, “A Look Inside” is shown finished out in a clean and simple black frame. This piece has a lot of motion and texture as well, but the choice to frame was made in order to play up the “frame inside a frame” look created within the painting itself. The optical illusion of a diffused matte border in this particular painting is emphasized with the selection of the black moulding.

An example of how different frames can give the same painting a completely different look. Painting titled, “Collective Genius” 36”x36” is currently available (unframed) at Strecker Nelson West Gallery.

The framing examples in the photograph above show four possibilities for framing the same piece. Each option gives a different feel to the painting taking the look in different directions. All of them work well but, in my opinion, two are better suited for this painting.

The far left is the stretched canvas with simple black painted edges which give the art dimension and 1-1/2” wall separation, yet allow the piece to speak for itself. The second frame picks up on golden earth tones in the painting and the metallic gilding on the frame plays up the transparent glazes of color giving it a jewel type effect. The third frame selection uses a traditional embellish frame that has been painted off-white to pick up on the light textural background in the artwork. The far right black frame brings out the thin black line work that contains the color in the piece.

My preference for “Collective Genius” would be to either go with no frame at all or add only a simple black frame. The other two work fine but seem to overwhelm the painting.

If you tend to put matching the sofa first when buying and framing art think about shaking things up and put your art first. Framing for the art and not for the room will always enhance the overall décor.

Do you feel that framing should enhance art first and décor will then follow? Leave comments and other framing suggestions below.

While Lynette’s 25+ year career has produced a versatile portfolio of award-winning photography and design, it is her calling as an abstract painter that is emerging in full, vibrant fashion today. Her artistic vision now manifests itself in contemporary abstract acrylic paintings that feature an explosive style of remarkable depth, motion, and fluidity.

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