Give Thrift Store Frames a Glow-Up Using These 3 Ideas — All for Less Than $100

published Aug 4, 2022
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Credit: Cat Meshcia

When I walk into a thrift store, it’s the thrill of the hunt that elevates it from an everyday shopping excursion into an exciting quest. Sometimes, I’m searching for something specific, but often I simply let my eye guide me to a unique vintage treasure I didn’t even know I needed. 

One thing I almost always find during my thrift store outings is art. And it’s not necessarily the artwork itself that catches my eye, but rather, the frame around it. Since brand-new frames tend to be expensive, I like to give inexpensive thrift store frames a makeover, and then pair them with modern art. Below are a few of my tried-and-true techniques to give old wood frames a new look.

Gilded Glory

My favorite (and easiest) hack is to gild the frame with a metallic wax paste called Rub ’n Buff. It comes in a variety of colors and lends a beautiful antique luster that will patina over time. To use it, you simply squirt a tiny bit of paste onto your fingertip or a cloth, and rub it in circular motions around the frame. The coverage is totally buildable, too. The more you buff it, the shinier it gets.

Pretty in Paint

Paint can instantly transport an outdated frame into the modern age. You can either use spray paint or paint it with a brush. Chalk paint is my go-to choice, since it doesn’t require any sanding or priming. I simply remove the glass or canvas first, give the frame a good cleaning, and then brush on two coats of chalk paint. White or black paint gives it a classic look, while bright colors will pop on your walls.

Elegant Embellishments

Sometimes a plain frame needs a little something extra. Embellishments are great for zhushing up a frame and adding a bit of character. To give a frame an ornate feel, I like to hot-glue appliques around it before painting or gilding it. When I want a more understated look, sometimes I’ll screw brass L-shaped braces into each of the corners — it adds cute campaign-style vibes.