How to Choose the Right Type of Frame

Frames for a stark still life
Photo: Michael Chini

There's more than one way to maximize a piece of art. (In fact, there are at least four.) Corporate framing director Jeffrey Feigenheimer, of New York City's A. I. Friedman, suggests a few beautiful borders to help you get the hang of it.

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Great Options for a Stark Still Life

Frames for a stark still life
Michael Chini

1. Gilded Grandeur
"If an image is clean and uncluttered, one option is to go to the opposite extreme with an ornate gold frame. The double mat with gold edging, which is called a fillet and comes with most frames, dresses it up even more."

2. A Color from the Painting
"A simple trick is to focus on the object that stands out—here it's the watermelon—and pick a metallic frame in that shade. If you skip the mat, the color has more impact. Keep metal frames narrow; a little shimmer is all you need."

3. Earthy Dark Wood
"Chocolate brown is a nice choice for warming up a crisp image like this. Ignore the wood furniture you have in the room and pick a brown that's close to the colors in the art instead. I like a wide white mat to keep the look from getting too heavy."

4. Barely-there Border
"To play up a dramatic aspect of the art, like a black background, pick a frame that matches. This one is metal, but a lacquer frame would have the same effect. Revealing a portion of the print's white border gives the illusion of a double mat."

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Great Options for a Soft Nature Scene

Frames for a soft nature scene
Michael Chini

1. Tinted Metal
"A shimmery frame can modernize a traditional scene, like a seascape. I chose a warm pinkish tone to contrast the blues, but a cooler metal, like silver, will also work. A print's white border can serve as a mat. It's more casual."

2. Wavy White Wood
"If you want to make a nature print look like original artwork, frame it right up to the edge, covering the white border. This one is a beach scene, so I kept the look light with a white frame that has grooves resembling waves."

3. Raw, Rustic Wood
"The art's subject can inspire your frame choice. Whitewashed wood makes you think of a seaside cottage, so it's a natural fit for this scene. For a darker, woodsy landscape, I might use a rich-toned, knotted wood."

4. Narrow White Border
"A lightly textured mat in a soft neutral can calm down a rough feature in your artwork, like a rocky mountain or the billowing waves here. Pair with a simple, thin white frame so the interesting mat is your standout element."

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Great Options for a Cool Photograph

Frames for a cool photograph
Michael Chini

1. Light Wood + Woven Mats
"I like using mats to play up the color in a photo. Choose two that match the shades in the image—one deep hue and one lighter one, like this blue and green—in varied widths. A thin, neutral frame works with mats of any color."

2. Detailed Dark Wood
"You can't go wrong if you take a cue from the photo's style. This one is retro. If you imagined the furniture in this woman's home, it would be pretty old-school. So I went with a stained beveled frame and a traditional linen matting."

3. Glossy Blue + Muted Mat
"Texture is a great starting point for picking a mat. To draw on the soft sweater and the deep blue skirt in the image, I used a blue lacquer frame and suede matting. The smaller second mat in the same color is just an elegant add-on."

4. Neutral Wood
"A classic natural frame with a white mat makes the photo the main attraction. That's why galleries often use this combo. And it's so versatile that it works in any type of room, alongside all styles of furniture."

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Great Options for an Art Poster

Frames for an art poster
Michael Chini

1. A Color From the Poster
"To make your poster the star of the room, choose a glossy metal frame in a poppy color from the artwork. Just keep the frame's width under three inches, so it doesn't overpower the image."

2. Natural Wood Shadow Box
"A shadow-box frame makes a poster appear more like real art. This one is 15⁄8 inches higher than the poster, which draws attention to the image. Ask for a mat that covers the lettering, even if it's wider at the bottom, for a look that's even more upscale."

3. Wide White Wood
"A white two-inch matte frame is a great pick for a white wall. It makes the artwork seem lofty, like it's floating. It's another way to give a poster a clean, polished look, even with visible lettering."

4. Narrow Black Metal
"A poster's lettering can be just as graphic as the art itself. So if I'm going to let the text show, I might use a frame that picks up on it, like this black one—especially if it's done in a beautiful, bold font."

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