Bring in the old, bring out the new

I’ve been on a big purge lately, trying to get rid of a lot of old stuff that I’ve been holding on to for years without even thinking about it. Some of it reminds me of less happy days in my life, and there is no need to hang on to them. Some of the things will come to a much better use for someone else. In the end I just want to make room for life: room to relax, room to craft and cook, room for things that make me happy, like good books and photos of friends and family and happy moments.

Some things has gone directly in the trash but most have been donated to our local charity shop, which means someone else will buy it and hopefully take good care of it :) The money it brings in will help people in need. But, when I was at the shop I found a couple of old frames in a corner, unloved, with no home, so I bought them and brought them home, and after a bit of fixing up I think they’ll look pretty great. So the whole kerfuffle was a win-win-win sort of deal.

Hopefully they’ll make a good addition for some of the photographs I’ve been taking lately. Also, I want to put some of my old family photos on the wall. Once I’m done with my purge and cleaning I hope to have these frames ready. The thought of adding something really personal to my walls feels very good.

Painting the frames

This is an easy technique to give a wooden frame a fresh look with the hint of wear and tear. I think it’s what the cool kids now days call “Shabby Chic”. I just think it looks nice and homey. And less boring than a plain frame from Ikea. But really, any cheap or plain wooden frame is good for this project. You need:

  • Waterbased matt acrylic paint, 2 colours: dark or sand-coloured,  and white
  • Wax candle
  • Sandpaper
  • Brushes (I used foam brushes)
  • Glaze or coating after preference
  • Picture frame

Sand off the frame lightly and then wipe it off with a cloth. Paint it with the primer,  like black, chestnut brown or sand. This will be the colour that will show through in the end. If you want some of the original wood to show, rub those places of the frame with the wax candle. Let it dry completely. The rub edges and spots you want to highlight with the candle again.The reason for the use of the candle is that it’ll make the paint come off easier when sanded in the end, and not having to use a lot of force with spare the paint you actually want to keep.

Now paint it all white (or linen or antique or maybe even pastel green or pink). Some people like the dark base to show through the top paint, in that case you’ll only need to paint the white paint on in two layers. I did however did 4 layers. Acrylic paint dries fast, so it wont take long. And it’ll look like this:

Now it only looks shabby in the non-chic sense. It is after all an old frame painted in cheap acrylic paint and it is way to bright. Now for the fun part, because when the top coating has dried it’s time to rough it up a bit. Use the sand paper to sand down the edges, and some areas that would like it had been worn down over time. Imagine your poor family portrait being hoisted around in a box and forgotten in an attic for years. Poor thing. It will look like this:

Dry it off again with the cloth and it’s basically done. If you want to keep enhancing the look there are a number of ways of distressing the frame:

  • Paint it with crackle paint/varnish/glaze in the areas that has not been sanded
  • Use half and half wood stain and glaze to darken the frame if it looks to bright
  • Sandpaper it between painting the layers
  • Use a third colour after the first and second white layer, but only on the very edges
  • Decoupage some old yellowing book pages on to the frame and paint over them
  • Splash or spray lightly it with contrasting paint stains

I am trying things out slowly, trying to think of how to organise my photos and what photo would go in what frame. This really is a very dear side project that is pure fun. It’s easy, you should try it! And don’t forget to pay a visit to your local charity shop for those finds.



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