How to create the perfect art wall: 2. Framing

Part deux in a trois-part series. Part un was “What to Hang.”

Now that you’ve ransacked your closets, shopped online, and sneaked things out of your grandmother’s house, you have to frame the goods.

We know that having some unifying element on an art wall is a good idea:

  • the kind of object is the same (all drawings, all prints, all photographs), or
  • the style is the same (historic, bold/graphic, contemporary/urban/hip – large white mats around each piece can making things look like they’re the same style), or
  • the palette is the same (bold colors, neutral colors, black and white, or the same recurring accent color),
Large scale art wall

From Canadian House & Home

  • or the frames can be the unifying element. The right frames can create order out of chaos.

Stay with me.


For the most cohesive look, take a page from Todd Oldham‘s book and use frames that are the same size and style. (These are best hung in a grid…but we’ll get to that in part trois.)

Art wall hung in rows

Todd Oldham's country house, i on Design through Elle Decor


This might be even easier than using the same exact frame, because you may not have to start from scratch.

You could use all plain black frames (the SFgirlbybay blog entry from which this picture comes is terrific, btw)…

Graphic art wall

From sfgirlbybay

…all dark brown wood, all light wood, all silver, or all gold. That last one is hard for me to admit, because gold frames can be tricky, but it’s true.)

As for getting your hands on similar frames, easy peasy. You can shop online, but there’s SO MUCH packaging associated with shipping frames that you can almost hear the trees crying. I’d rather you go to Ikea and buy in bulk, or spend a month going to flea markets, garage sales and secondhand shops, buying pictures for their dusty, charming wood frames.

Ikea Virserum frame

Ikea's Virserum frame


This gets a little more tricky, but I have confidence in you!

As you’ve seen in magazine picture after magazine picture, frames do not have to match exactly. Especially in an “eclectic” grouping. But if the tone is similar, you achieve a comforting unity.

Dark brown wood looks great with gold, because both have a a rich, warm tone. Remember that wallpaper picture from the other day?

Gold picture frames

From Gait Interiors

Cool light tones, such as white and silver, can be peaceful. Notice how these frames are simple, which adds to the serene, cohesive feel.

pastel art wall


Here’s another cool grouping in the form of white and light wood. Note the white space around most of the pictures. That contributes to the airiness.

Cool tones picture grouping

From sfgirlbybay

And another strong, warm grouping. Yes, the similar pictures and oval shapes unite this arrangement, but also notice the frames: brown, black, and gold.

Oval frames

From sfgirlbybay

Next time, I’ll talk about hanging the art. And after that, some fun critiques – including of my own living room art wall.

Annie Elliott – aka bossy color – is an interior decorator and design blogger in Washington, D.C. Look for her advice about jewel tones in the November 2010 issue of Real Simple. Page 156. Not that we have it marked or anything.



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