Reframing Vintage Art ~ Matching Frames & Artwork

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Rachel Stone

“Matchmaker, matchmaker make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch…”

OK, in all seriousness, have you ever found a great piece of art you love, but the frame is not your style? Or have you seen a stunning frame, but the art was terrible?

Finding vintage (or quality) artwork from the thrift shop that checks all the boxes is rare! My solution? Buy the art and frames you love separately, then play matchmaker!

Reframing Vintage Art Video

If you’re like me you enjoy adding personality and dimension to your walls with art. Knowing how enjoyable art is, I keep an eye out for good pieces every time I’m thrifting or at an antique store.

For a long time, I would pass up a piece of art that I thought was wonderful because the frame didn’t go with my style at all. Or sometimes I would find an amazing frame and wish it held a good piece of art.

It can seem intimidating at first to try mixing and matching art with frames. You may wonder: If I buy a piece of art I like will I ever find a frame that really works with it? Or, if I bring home the perfect frame how will I know what piece of art to put inside it? Then there are mats and glass to consider as well.

It is not as difficult as it seems and I’d love to share my 8 best tips for matching art with frames.

Tip #1 Look at art as separate pieces.

We naturally look at a piece of art as one whole unit. The frame, mat and art all blend together as a single piece. This is how the art is supposed to work when it’s hung on our walls, but when shopping at a thrift store it is better to think of the pieces separately.

Before you pass on something you’re not crazy about, ask yourself if you might actually love the art if it were framed differently. Or, consider the frame by itself and you might realize it goes perfectly with your style.

For example: Matt surprised me with this painting (above) one day and while I love the painting I felt the frame was too dark and heavy.

I kept any eye out at the thrift store and this narrow, gold frame (above)with a linen mat showed up for $1.25! It was the perfect match for this painting!

Tip #2 Develop an eye for seeing things paired differently.

The first tip is about seeing things separately. This tip is about seeing individual things paired with other pieces. It’s not always easy to imagine a piece of art in a different frame. One of my favorite methods in training my eye is to use Pinterest to collect loads of pictures of art that I like. Then I study how those pieces are commonly framed and what looks good to me. Below is an example of a cross stitch rose in a very 1980’s style frame. Re-framing is in a vintage frame with green and gilded touches looks so much better!

For more examples of English country style artwork, explore my Cozy English Gallery Wall board on Pinterest!

Another great way to develop your eye is to study the art in your favorite design books.

Tip #3 You can change the size of your art

a sketch of a scottie dog that has been reframed into a smaller frame.

Sometimes you need to minimize a piece of art. Other times you’ll want to expand or emphasize a piece. I wanted to simplify the sketch of the Scottie dog above. Originally this piece was much larger, but by trimming off the excess to fit the sketch into this simple vintage frame. This technique can work well for sketches, prints, watercolors, or pictures that have wide margins.

If you are wanting to expand a piece of art you can simply add a wide mat or thicker frame.

Tip #4 You can change a frame’s color

Sometimes the only thing wrong with a frame is its color. Fortunately this is not difficult to fix. A little spray paint for a custom color, or rub-n-buff for a gilded touch can transform the look of a frame to perfectly fit your style. This is a simple, inexpensive DIY project.

This set of vintage monument prints leaped out at me from the thrift store shelf. I am gathering pieces for a gallery wall over Matt’s desk in the study. It will include ships, maps, and buildings. The prints in the orange-y 1980’s oak frames look a bit dated, but if you take a peek at the video, you’ll see a simple update with satin black spray painted frames. Now these elegant prints have a classic English vibe! I also replaced the regular glass with non-glare glass from the thrift shop. The entire project was about $10!

Tip #5 Frames can hang either way.

This may seem obvious, but it is easy to miss. The frame you love may currently have some art displayed in the landscape orientation. If you haven’t found a piece of art that will go with it, try something with a
portrait orientation. By thinking outside the box you might be surprised that you have the perfect piece of art already on hand.

Tip #6 Save the mat

You may be tempted to toss or donate the mat that came with your frame, but I recommend keeping them. Mats are expensive and usually come in standard sizes so they will likely fit a frame you will find in the future. If you don’t care for the color of the mat, spray paint can take care of that too!

Here is another example of a great antique frame found separately from the vintage, moody lithograph. They seemed like a good pair to me!

With two mats saved from another piece of art the separate pieces came together well.

Tip #7 A mat can unify a grouping.

You may be trying to group a collection of artwork for a gallery wall, but it isn’t quite coming together. In this case, try pulling a color you like that is found in all the art and add a mat to those pieces that are giving you the most trouble. This may be all that is needed to pull the whole look together.

Tip #8 Get a simple art hanging kit and paper cutter.

If you really love art (and I do!) having the right tools on hand can make re-framing vintage art a breeze. I like these kits because they have everything you need in one place. A good kit should include:

  • Several different types of hangers for artwork.
  • Wire for hanging the art.
  • Assorted nails and hooks for fastening the art to the wall.
  • A paper cutter for trimming the actual art, and mats.

These two pieces were thrifted probably a year apart for about $10 each. You would never guess the matched pair wasn’t always one piece for a total cost of about $20!


If you want to create that personalized, curated look in the art you display in your home (on a budget), then shopping vintage art is the way to go! Antique, or vintage art is a great way to express your design style and elevate the look of your home. Once you master pairing vintage art with the perfect frame you will have an affordable way to curate a wonderful art collection.

If you already have a good art collection going and are wondering what to do with all this art, consider reading our post on creating the perfect English gallery wall.

I really enjoyed this visit with you today about one of my favorite subjects ~ vintage art! Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and if you have any other art questions please leave them below!

Until next time, take care.


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Author: Rachel Stone
Rachel is passionate about creating a comfortable and beautiful home for her family. She also loves to share the lessons she is learning with her wonderful audience both on this blog and her YouTube channel.