The curious appeal of antique picture frames

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Blue Leopard’s Guide to Antique Picture Frames

Have you ever visited a hotel, restaurant, or art gallery and seen a beautiful-looking vintage picture frame? There is something magical about a decorative antique frame that looks so perfect with the artwork and the interior design of the space it occupies. You may have asked yourself: how on earth would I go about finding something like that for my artwork? Well, read on for Blue Leopard’s short guide to vintage picture frames where we look at the best opportunities to use vintage frames; how to go about acquiring them, and finally some thoughts on sizing issues. Enjoy! 


 When should I use antique frames?

The short answer to this is: whenever you like! As ever with artwork there are no rules, and if anyone thinks there are, we would recommend breaking them out of principle! The natural assumption though is that classic or period art looks best surrounded by a vintage frame. However – and this is a big HOWEVER – modern, contemporary artwork, even photography, can look stunning set in an antique frame. Rather than focusing on the age of the artwork, we would recommend considering the following:


Small vintage frame around a lovely water colour landscape painting.
  • Are you using glass or acrylic?

The reason we ask is that if you are going to consider a conventional conservation style framing method with a complementary matboard, that does give you a bit more freedom with regards to the sizing. If it’s an oil-on-canvas painting though and you want to leave the canvas open, the size of the frame is more crucial.

  • The location and backdrop of the artwork’s intended location

Now there are no rules on this really but if you try different locations around your home or commercial space, you’ll notice that antique frames do work better in some locations compared to others. They tend to have less impact in functional, hard spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms, or utility areas. Vintage frames are there to be enjoyed so we would recommend using them in reception areas or sitting rooms where people relax.

  • The impact of the artwork versus the interest of the frame.

The impact levels of the frame and artwork need to be either the same or the artwork impact should be higher, never the other way around. The frame should complement the artwork, not upstage it.



The frame should complement the artwork, not upstage it.


 Where can I buy antique picture frames?

One of the most exciting things about vintage frames is that there is no sure-fire way of acquiring them quickly. This we feel makes them all the more special. Antiques fairs are a good place to start. You will have to work harder than simply strolling down the Kings Road but you will almost certainly find better prices if you’re willing to venture out into the countryside and do some stepping. Pictured below are Sunbury, Newark, Ardingly, and Arundel which are some of our favourites. If you’re not having much luck – forgive the obvious plug here – you can always get in touch with us at Blue Leopard as we regularly supply clients with vintage frames from our little black book of handy contacts.



Can you change the size of an antique frame?

Now this an interesting one: most of the time the frame will have to be the perfect size for the artwork or a little bit too big. The majority of vintage frames can be reduced in size slightly and as we said before, using glass and therefore matboards gives you more freedom with the sizing. You may think that you can’t make a vintage frame – or any frame for that matter – bigger. This is true most of the time. In some cases, for really special, valuable examples, there are people out there who can re-create sections of a vintage frame in order to make them bigger. This is very intricate, specialist work so you’ll have to prepare to pay handsomely for this. Before you approach it, you can always talk to Blue Leopard for advice on a) whether it’s worth it and b) specialist contacts who provide this service.  


 Blue Leopard’s closing comments…

Vintage frames are mysterious and wonderful. They can be really quite addictive. Once you buy one, you’ll find yourself looking at more and more whenever the opportunity arises. This is time well spent though. We are HUGE fans of vintage frames and look forward to persuading lots of our clients into embracing them.


If you’d like to talk to the team at Blue Leopard about antique picture frames or any other artwork or framing related query, don’t hesitate to get in touch whenever you like. Let’s come together and make the most of our artwork and all the amazing art and interiors opportunities that exist. Speak soon!