Framing Art Part 1

I have always loved the job of curating an art collection – in my personal life, at the Aero store, and for my clients’ homes. It is a process that takes years, searching for those special pieces that one by one help create a unique personal statement. My own collection has come from a wide variety of sources: pieces found at flea markets blend with works by Man Ray and Francis Bacon, and prints from vintage art books sit next to my own photography taken on vacation. My apartment in New York City and my home on Long Island have both gone through various stages of display, and I am constantly editing the assortment based on new ideas or a new favorite piece. Yet for all of the care I have put into collecting the art and deciding how it is displayed, I have paid equally as much attention to how each piece has been framed.

Framing is often overlooked but should be considered with a keen eye, as every piece of art has a different character. The size, color, and style of the frame can all help enhance the strength of the artwork as well as compliment its mood. A few times a year I take a group of pieces to one of my favorite framers – located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

An exterior view

Traditional and modern samples

Vintage wood finishes

I first like to browse through all of the frame samples for styles and shapes that I feel drawn to. There are certain favorites I have at the studio, but I always like to consider new options.

We then lay a group of the pieces out to see which frames will work, and how they might complement each other. This group is a series of photographs by Michelle Arcila, whose pictures I first discovered when she worked with me as my assistant. Some of these are for my personal collection and some are to be sold at Aero. There is a sense of wonder and mystery that I love about Michelle’s work, and I’m always curious to see her new photos.

The complementary process to choosing the frame style is to choose the size and color of the mat. For new works I gravitate towards a clean white mat, but for vintage pieces I may opt for more of a slightly aged, parchment color.

A few frame options are placed right on the edges of the photo to give a true sense of the end result:

A selection of stains and finishes:

I ended up giving this photograph a thin black frame with a strong shadowbox-like depth and clean right angles. The result was graphic and striking, and the picture only lasted a couple weeks on the wall at Aero before being sold.

Often, I tend to favor white and lightly gilded frames that lend a sense of freshness and a crisp,
modern feeling.

But sometimes, a more traditional frame feels right.

For my private clients, art is often acquired from auction already in a frame. Part of my responsibility is to choose a new frame that suits the client’s personal aesthetic and interior design style. I often have in mind the specific place in the home where the new piece will hang, and I choose the frame accordingly, based on other pieces of nearby art, the wall color, and surrounding furniture.

An abstract piece in a Lucite case takes on a different character when paired with a more pronounced, gilded frame:

This is a beautiful series by the artist David Smith that was a pleasure to find matching frames for:

Finally, a look behind the scenes at the studio’s woodshop, where all of the materials are stored and where the frames are made.

In my next story, I’ll show the end result of many of the pieces shown as well as explain how I go about choosing pieces for my own home. For more examples of art and framing, and some thoughts on hanging groupings of art, you can see excerpts from my book, American Modern, in our Design Study section at