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Art is personal, but it’s also expensive. When I set out to make a floor-to-ceiling gallery wall, I knew it was going to cost a pretty penny. Between buying prints, hunting down original artwork, and investing in quality mats (and a whole lot of Command strips), the costs began to climb. As my credit card balance began to inch uncomfortably high, I knew I needed to cut some expenses to keep this project from spiraling out of control. So I decided to zero in on what would have been the second most costly expense after buying art: the frames.
I knew I could keep costs down if I invested in cheap frames, but even IKEA frames become expensive when you buy 15 of them. So I decided to get truly thrifty and hit a secondhand shop instead. You guys, I will never buy frames from a big box store again! I scored luxe Crate & Barrel frames for $2 a pop, truly fabulous ‘80s mirrored art frames for less than $3, and extra-large art frames with thick museum-quality mats for only $5, thanks to a half-off sticker! To achieve this haul, I popped into any Goodwill, Savers, or Salvation Army within a 10-mile radius of my apartment and made a beeline to their art section. Take a look at the finished composition below!
Don’t worry about the art actually inside the frames, but focus on which frames catch your eye. If you like a color, mat, or particular finish, grab it and try to envision it in your space. There’s nothing quite like the shopper’s high of finding a truly perfect piece and quickly throwing it into your cart. It makes you wonder: “Did I manifest this? Are the laws of attraction real? Or am I just really lucky and should buy a lottery ticket after this?”
When I spotted a frame that I loved, I would take it home, cut out the brown paper backing from the frame, pop out the art print inside, and replace it with my own, using kraft paper or cardboard to replace the original backing if need be. This allowed me to buy quality, heavy frames for less money than the cost of a latte, and the thick mats and heavy glass really helped to elevate some of the cheaper prints that I bought.
While I have a bit of a chaotic aesthetic and love clashing frames, you can easily achieve a cohesive or monochromatic look if that’s more your speed (it will just take a bit more time). If you’re only looking for black frames, pop into the thrift store twice a week to see if people donated new artwork, and scope out the black frames. Sometimes you get lucky and a hotel donates its old artwork, which means there are 12 identical frames for you to grab and run to the cashier with.
It’s true that thrift shopping for gallery wall frames takes longer than simply ordering a bundle online, but if you’re looking to cut costs or want truly unique options, then thrifting is a great way to go. My gallery wall is now my favorite feature in my house, and treasure hunting for the frames was the best part. I’m slightly sad that the process is over, but maybe I can find another inch to squeeze one more piece in!