From color to style, here's what you need to consider.

By Caylin Harris
January 22, 2020

Finding the right artwork for your home is only half the battle. Once you've chosen a piece that speaks to you and works in the room, you have to decide how to frame it. But with so many different frame options—from gold to natural wood—it might feel a little intimidating to pick a color and style. And then there's the cost to consider: If you're investing your money, you want to make sure the frame is perfect. We spoke with Michelle Adams, a creative consultant and art advisor for Artfully Walls, about her go-to framing tips. Her words of wisdom will teach you how to make your artwork look effortless.

Kirsten Francis

Related: These Decorating Rules Will Help You Refine Any Room

Choose Your Color and Style

Don't overcomplicate the framing process, even if a more opulent option speaks to you. Instead, take cues from museums and keep your frames simple and minimal. "I generally opt for simple wood gallery frames (the thinnest that I can find) to ensure the art inside is what catches my eye," says Adams. "This style of frame tends to work well with just about any type of art, and generally looks best in black, white, and natural wood finishes." If you tend to prefer a more luxurious look, try a metallic frame. "I collect antique silver and gold leaf frames, in which I occasionally like to frame modern art," says Adams. "The juxtaposition between the ornate frame and the modern art inside creates a nice visual tension."

Consider a Gallery Wall

Working with a collection of mis-matched frames might sound challenging, but gallery walls actually look better when they have a collected feel. Simply put, avoid anything that's too matchy-matchy. "I tend to use a few types of frames to ensure that the art looks like it was added over time, even if it was purchased all at once," says Adams. "I like mixing black, white, and natural thin wood gallery frames with stretched canvas pieces that are left unframed to add a bit of dimension to the wall. Occasionally, I'll add in a silver or gold leaf frame to keep the grouping feeling fresh and unexpected."

Frame or No Frame

About 90 percent of the time, you're going to want frame a piece of artwork, but there are a few exceptions. "I like to leave stretched canvas pieces unframed or even to remove the vintage frame from old oil paintings," says Adams. "It completely changes their look." If the piece is precious, however, frame it to keep it safe from the air and elements, which will impact how art ages. "I tend to frame just about everything that I want to protect from damage, even posters if I like them enough," she adds.

Choose Your Matting

And when you do, keep it simple. Most of the time, a simple white backdrop will be your best option, since it doesn't distract or detract from the art. "I typically stick with simple white mats and standard sizes. To add a bit of drama and dimension, I'll occasionally ask my framer to make an extra deep mat so that the art is inset a bit. Polaroid photos look very cool matted this way," explains Adams. "If a piece is signed along the bottom or has an interesting frayed edge (like watercolor paper), I'll choose to float the art on top of a mat so that all edges are exposed."

Framing a darker piece? "They look fantastic without matting and with a black frame to create the illusion that the piece is frameless," she continues. "Lastly, I usually skip matting with oil paintings that are painted on unstretched canvas."

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