A simple way to update vintage artwork

Finding affordably priced vintage artwork at a thrift store or while browsing the Ebay art listings is always bound to get my heart to go pitter-patter. This doesn't mean the artwork is always ready to hang, however. Sometimes, a simple modification is in order.

The above photo shows part of my family room. I will draw your attention away from the 12-year-old couch that my kids use as a trampoline and toward the small art wall on the right. Here it is in its entirety and up close:

The top painting is one my husband and I bought off a street painter during our honeymoon in Paris. Until just last week, it hung by itself on that wall. More minimalist-minded people might have left it alone, but I craved more color on that wall. Rather than looking for something, I just decided to be patient to see whether I found anything during my thrifting haunts.

I was amply rewarded when I found this original painting at a Goodwill for $15 a couple months ago:

The wide frame was completely unappealing, though I hung it like this for a few weeks. Finally, I knew a change was in order and began rummaging through my spare closet to see what I could come up with.

The above whitewashed frame fit perfectly, a rather pleasant surprise since the painting is 12 by 16 inches, an unsual size these days. Thankfully, I'd had the foresight sometime last year to buy this whitewashed frame at another thrift store for two dollars. So, I went to my garage and found a darker wood stain to finish the make-over.

While I waited for the stain on the frame to dry outside, I arranged the paintings on the floor and photographed the layouts I liked best so I could remember them when it was time to hang the nails. In this case, the top painting was so heavy image-wise that I decided to group the three paintings together below the French landscape painting, rather than the arrangement you see above.

There, in the photo above, you see how how much more colorful that wall looks now, especially against my olive-colored sofa and mostly wood-tone furniture.

This tiny make-over reminded me of something similar I did when I created the art wall in my home office, pictured below.

Browsing the Ebay art listings one day, I saw the following original watercolor painting and instantly fell in love with it. The listing said the girl was either Hawaiian or Mexican. The painting completely reminded me of the Xochimilco canals and gardens in my native Mexico City.

When the painting arrived, the glass was in a million tiny pieces and the frame completely fell apart. Far from being crushed, I was overjoyed.

The damage saved me from having to remove the frame and I immediately spotted the notation on a piece of cardboard attached to the back. In case you can't read it, it says: "Conchita at Xochimilco." The notation confirmed what I had thought.

For yet a different art wall in my home, I changed the frame on another original painting but kept the original frame on a different vintage painting.

Let's take a look at that painting in the middle, which shows Mexican landscape in the state of Taxco. I originally bought it on Ebay with a rather thick, ornate and weathered lime green frame, which I immediately removed and replaced with a new one I bought.

But I did keep the frame on this surrealist painting:

The look was more modern and fit better with my decor. I know a lot of people might shudder at the thought of altering a vintage piece in any way, but I feel that changing out the frames made a dramatic difference that made better sense for my style of decoration.

I've now done this several times with a few other pieces of artwork and have amassed a set of vintage frames that I don't like. They're currently propped up against a wall in my garage, and I can't decide whether to donate them back to the thrift store, offer them up on Freecycle, or find other creative uses for them.

Maybe I'll hang on to them for a few more months (to hubby's chagrin) and see whether I come up with another use for them in my decorating projects. What would you do? Any ideas for creative repurposing?



brismod said...

I like all your art pieces. Tastefully curated. I'd keep those frames for kids art, maybe?

Razmataz said...

I think you have such a knack for hanging art. You also have the most wonderful and interesting pieces Minnie.

Torrie said...

If they were all little, I'd keep them for a holiday decoration project (don't know what, but for example- downloaded b&w vintage photos for Halloween) or to use when entertaining, as place cards (maybe with their pictures in it- just saw this yesterday on the Nate Berkus show:) for guests to take home. But I would most likely get rid of the larger ones.

Wonderful, inspiring, and unique post.

My Owl Barn said...

You have such beautiful collection of art works!

I'd transform the frames into cork board. The biggest frame is a perfect size to display on desk. Have a good day!

Inspire my house pretty said...

have to agree with the guys above, your art work is so lovely along with your beautiful home, careen x

Christine E-E said...

I get my favorite spray paint out & transform the frames for other pics!
I love using "hammered paint" (I've used a bronze & also black) - which looks like a hammer has tapped small little marks (or dents) into the paint finish.
I'm in your BYW e-course... checking blogs tonight.
hope you'll hop over to mine?

Minnie said...

Oh, the little wheels in my head are turning. I've now got plans for two or three little projects with these frames. I really love the idea of spray painting them and using them for children's artwork.

Brismod, I've totally been thinking I need to frame more of my kids' art after seeing what you did.

Christine, Welcome! Thanks for taking a look around and I will certainly go visit you.

Torrie, With all my thrifting, I do have to be vigilant about keeping too much clutter around so I've given myself a deadline of six months. I've got two or three more walls in my home in need of some TLC.

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