New Life to Old Frames – My $4 Makeover

posted by Andrea | 04/29/2013

photo frames

I’m over-the-moon-excited to share today’s post with you — not necessarily because it’s such an amazing project or earth-shattering before and after pictures. No, I’m excited to share this with you because it’s a project I’ve wanted to cross off my list since early November!

You see, I used to have a bunch of mis-matched frames that were different colors of white/off-white and they didn’t look all that great. Plus, most of them were chipped or scratched.

Even though I usually don’t print pictures, I still GET a lot of pictures from people who do print them — and I have a whole bunch of favorite pictures from years past. So while I liked the idea of a shelf full of frames, these grungy old white frames definitely needed a “face lift”.

I decided I would paint the frames black to match the black hardware on our rustic barnwood shelves… and the other black accents we have throughout our home… but that’s about as far into the project as I got :)

I wanted to finish this project by Nora’s birthday party… but as you can see, that didn’t happen.

Since I didn’t have the frames finished by the birthday party, I simply put them in a box and gave myself a new goal to paint them over Christmas break. When that didn’t happen, I gave myself the goal of Spring Break… and then I hung my head in shame when I saw my frames STILL sitting in the box on the last day of Spring Break.

Sigh… only 5 months later!

I realize there are more important things to do than paint a few picture frames, but I was so sick and tired of the empty bottom shelf in my office and I knew the project wouldn’t take more than a few minutes of hands-on time.

So, last weekend (at 10pm on Saturday night) I brought my box of frames downstairs and set up a little paint shop.

unpainted frames

I cleaned the frames with denatured alcohol and then did a quick coat of gray primer (no sanding required). I was downstairs for approximately 15 minutes total, then I came upstairs, took a shower, and went to bed.

I bought 2 cans of “flat” black spray paint Monday at the grocery store (on sale with a rebate!)… and then did 2 quick coats of black paint over the gray primer (waiting about 2 hours in between coats).

After dinner on Monday, I brought the frames upstairs, put the pictures back in the frames, and arranged them on my shelf.

DONE.

FINALLY!

It took less than 2 hours “hands-on”–  which included the time I spent putting the pictures in the frames and arranging them all on the shelf.

I’d say it’s worth 2 hours of effort and only about $4 out of pocket cost. 

These frames are an eclectic mix of my all-time favorite photos from our wedding, Nora’s baptism, grandparents who have passed away, childhood memories, the first-ever picture of Dave and me on our first real date, lovely new family photos… and of course, Nora!

so many frames

There is no rhyme or reason to the frames or the photos, I didn’t use a level or measuring tape to equally space them out, and several of the pictures are faded a bit… but it’s perfectly imperfect, and exactly what I envisioned way back in November of last year.

frames

And I’m sure I don’t even need to tell you how much Nora loves looking at all the pictures! It’s funny to see her look at her own baby pictures. She doesn’t realize it’s her, because she just points and says “baby”.

more frames

A wall of memories, that’s for sure!

I realize some of you might be thinking this looks awful cluttery, but these shelves are the ONE place in my house where I have decorations… and I LOVE looking at my farmhouse decorations, our color-coded books, and my collage of black frames.

We have a few more projects to tackle on the main floor of our house, and once that dust and dirt settles, we’ll get a piano to fill the empty space under the shelves. Then our office will be officially complete (until I decide to change something again!)

How do you display your photos?

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34 comments

  1. Jennifer P

    04/29/2013

    I did the same thing a few years ago with all of my family photos. I have them hanging in our hallway next to our stairs. I repainted the frames black and have 2 or 3 that are a brushed metalic color. There are also some little framed art pieces and some little mirrors all in black frames. I really wanted to hang them on the wall along our stairs but I was afraid they would get bumped off.
    It turn out great, just as I hoped it would.

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  2. Jen

    04/29/2013

    That looks fantastic. I almost never bother printing and framing photos (no matter how much I want to) because I run into the problem of finding frames that look good with the few I already have. I think I’m going to take a cue and just paint all mine! Either all black, like yours, or a couple of different bright colors that coordinate. Thanks!

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  3. Tammy @SkipperClan

    04/29/2013

    Love this and looove that you hung some instead of just sitting them all on the shelf. That makes all the difference!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Tammy! I do think the “hung” pictures make the whole project look SO much nicer. I was trying to cram all the pictures onto the shelves, and then some were completely hidden and everything looked too crowded. I’m really happy with how everything looks!

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  4. Organize 365

    04/29/2013

    I love it! So often I wait and wait for “enough” time. I am amazed how quickly I can get things done when I JUST DO IT!

    :)
    Lisa

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  5. Melissa

    04/29/2013

    I went the opposite route. I took down my wall of pictures and selected a very very special few to leave displayed. It cleared up a wall and really really cleared up the room they were all in. I love your grouping of black frames. I don’t think its cluttered since they’re all the same color, they seem like one item, not a bunch. If I ever do groupings like that again I will be sure to make it a cohesive group as well.

    http://jibberblog.blogspot.com/2012/09/goodbye-guilty-clutter.html

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    Andrea Reply:

    Melissa, I did this on the wall above our couch — just 3 of my FAVORITE pictures for a more streamlined, simple look. I guess I love both looks :)

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  6. Chris

    04/29/2013

    Are you always supposed to prime before using spray paint? Maybe that’s why I had trouble – because I didn’t?

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    Andrea Reply:

    I’m not sure Chris. Priming is never a BAD idea, so I usually do it — especially with spray paint because it only takes a few extra minutes.

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  7. Karen @ Abundance on a Dime

    04/29/2013

    Andrea, I have plans to do the same thing for a photo display in our front hall – paint all the frames black (at the moment I have a lot that are way more mismatched than what you started with). My dh is planning to build “photo shelves” for the front hall (these are very narrow, almost like a plate rail), that way we can easily switch out photos without putting any nails in the wall :)

    I hope mine turns out looking as great as yours does!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Love this idea Karen! I hate putting nails in our old plater walls — and thats the main reason I wanted to do pictures on shelves. I usually hang anything I can with the command velcro strips so I don’t have to put holes int he walls. Good luck with your project. I’m sure it will look fabulous!

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  8. Ashley

    04/29/2013

    I LOVE the final product! Looks great :)

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  9. Lauren @ Rustic Honey

    04/29/2013

    Gotta love spray paint! The frames look good as new! Nice work! I totally understand half the battle is making these little projects priority. Oh how I also have the daunting “list.” :)

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  10. Georgia Gal

    04/29/2013

    Sorry my comment went through to soon! I love spray painting picture frames. I find them super cheap at garage sales and then paint them the color I need. I have also spray painted barn stars, baskets, candlesticks, flower pots, bikes, and more. Hope you have a great day~

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  11. M

    04/29/2013

    Actually, I was thinking it looked like purposeful clutter. The way your shelves are decorated gives the area a lived-in, homey feeling.

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  12. Amanda

    04/29/2013

    I’m glad you posted this! This very project is on my list as we speak. I had a variety of colors of frames that used to hang on a wall in my (then our) apt. They’ve been in a bin in our office closet since we moved, and I’ve always had the intention to do a photo wall in our stairwell. Well, just last week, I pulled out all of the black frames and updated the photos to reflect our current state of life (less friends, including our wedding and our son, including old family photos that we’ve gotten scanned from our parents, etc). The rest of the non-black frames are sitting in a pile waiting for me to get black paint! The weather this week is supposed to be fantastic, so I think this is going to be a great naptime project I can do outside!

    I’m looking forward to getting them all hung and have our wall complete!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yay! Good luck with your project. And one tip (just because I learned the hard way) you might want to paint ALL your frames — including the ones that are already black — because there’s a pretty good chance your current black frames and the painted black frames will look different when you’re finished and they are all grouped together. I had a few frames that were already black but they looked SO bad next to all the painted frames so I ended up repainting them black over black and everything looked much better :)

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  13. Verity

    04/29/2013

    Cute! I love the idea!

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  14. Te

    04/29/2013

    I love this idea. I’m in the process of redecorating my office at the moment it’s enough to drive someone with OCD crazy

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  15. Anna

    04/29/2013

    Looks great! I’ve been planning to do this too! Is it absolutely necessary to do the primer AND two coats of black paint? I live in an apartment and I’m not sure how I would find the space and time to do three separate coats…

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    Andrea Reply:

    No, it’s not “absolutely necessary” to follow any of my instructions exactly :) I already had the primer in the house so I figure I might as well use it up. Plus, I had some mettal frames and wanted to make sure the paint really stuck. The main reason I did two coats of spray paint is because I don’t want to have to repaint them any time soon!

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  16. Christina

    04/29/2013

    Gorgeous! I did this same thing with ‘extra large’ old frames we accumulated. I did them all black (skipped primer, however I did do 2 coats to cover) and hung them in the large play area downstairs. We have about 15 of them hung over a very large recreation area and each have a ‘work of art’ from one of the four girls hung in them. The frames are perhaps 20 x 30 and we put 12 x 12 or even 8 x 10 pictures inside. They are just hung on poster putty to be remove and replaced at random. It really took care of the big space, the empty walls and it helped hang favorite art in one place.

    I also have surrounding my office just cheap 8x 10 or 5 x 7 Walmart frames, black again and accumulated over several years, with black and white photos only. It looks gorgeous and I am surrounded by those I love most while I work!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Sounds lovely Christina! I like the idea of including artwork in the frames. I’ll have to try this in another year or two, when Nora finally starts drawing!

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  17. Five4FiveMeals

    04/29/2013

    I display my photos using your super cute yard stick and clothespin idea! They are so easy to make and make great baby shower gifts too!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, the yardstick photo collages are super simple — and frugal :)

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  18. Janet

    04/29/2013

    Looks great!! Black is definitely better in that location. Nice arranging; I like random. My photos are not up at all. They came down at least a year ago for the walls to be painted. Still not done, so no pics. :-(
    Janet

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  19. Michele

    04/29/2013

    Love the “perfectly imperfect” look! And love how you called it that. :)

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  20. Kalyn Brooke

    04/29/2013

    I don’t think it looks cluttery, but I wouldn’t want to dust them! :)

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  21. Stel

    04/30/2013

    Love the black frames! I got tired of all the smallish photographs cluttering surfaces throughout the house, and spent a day hanging them all on wall wall in the hallway, where it actually looks much better now. But it’s time for another improvement, and black might be the way to go. We do similar in our little beach house, where we have picture of us on beaches wherever we travel, in white frames, and that also makes a nice focus in the beach house.

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  22. Tracy @thecityofmotherlylove.com

    04/30/2013

    Love fabulous! Ah, the feeling of accomplishment :) I am a fiend with changing around my pictures, and repainting the frames is one of the best parts! I have a lot of different projects I’ve done with pictures on my site, thecityofmotherlylove.com

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  23. april

    04/30/2013

    Love this! You have inspired me! Now I want to do this in my house! :)

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  24. JoDi

    05/01/2013

    That turned out beautiful!

    I don’t comment often because I read posts through email, usually at work on my lunch break, and I can’t get to your site from there to comment. So I just wanted to stop in and say thanks for sharing all the great ideas and recipes. One of the best tips I’ve ever learned anywhere was the one you shared about putting the paper towel in with the greens to keep them fresh longer. I buy the 1 pound size organic spinach at a warehouse club, and it never goes bad before I use it up since I’ve been using that tip!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks JoDi! I appreciate your kind words. I also buy the 1lb. “box” of greens and they stay fresh for weeks!

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  25. Jackie G.

    05/15/2013

    I completely LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE your shelves and the display of stuff and frames!!! It’s such an uber cool look and you are paying a sweet tribute to family and friends. All the different textures and shapes of the frames, married by the black paint are perfect. Did I say I really really really like this display?…. :-)

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