Don’t Throw Out Broken Picture Frames — Here’s What to Do with Them Instead

published Apr 27, 2023
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apartment living room with white walls, lots of light, wood frame brown sofa with blue and gray accents, lots of plants, frames over the sofa filled with dried flowers

When decorating a space from scratch, figuring out where to start will likely be your first challenge to overcome. Some people go the more functional route by sourcing large investment pieces, while others can’t wait to hang art on the walls to make their rooms feel more like home. If you’re one to go for personalization over practicality sooner than later — or you just want to fill the blank wall space that’s been lingering in your home — this renter has a large-scale art idea that’s unique, budget-friendly, and can make use of past-their-prime picture frames. 

Emily Swarts lives in a 550-square-foot apartment in the West Village of New York City with her partner and all her plant babies. They moved in together — for the first time — into this space last year. “It’s been a beautiful process merging our lives and things together,” she says. “Our combined furniture organically blended so well we only had to purchase a dining room table and that was it!” 

Collectively, the couple’s design style is a mix of boho minimalism meets Scandi modern with hints of greenery at every turn. An herbalist, floral designer, and creative producer by trade, Swarts sees flora as an essential design element in her space. “Our home reflects our love for nature,” she says in her house tour. “It’s like a living oasis within the city.”

According to Swarts, the living room is the real heart of her home, and if you ask me — and probably even Swarts herself — the star of that space is hanging right above the sofa. Here, you’ll find her bespoke floral art: two empty golden picture frames embellished with asymmetrical dry floral arrangements in opposite corners. 

These floral wall hangings might look high-end, but the reality is you can attempt to recreate them on a shoestring budget. That’s particularly the case if you have an old picture frame on hand. If not, secondhand frames can be fairly easy to source, too. The next time you visit a thrift store, look for vintage art with frames that speak to you, and remove the prints inside, the glass, and the cardboard backing of the frame. From there, you can buy some flowers that you love — fresh, if you want to dry them yourself, or already dried, if you want to skip a step. Arrange them as you like, then secure your mini bouquets to the corner of a frame using something like twine, zip ties, or even hot glue. You could use two medium-sized frames like Swarts did or one large frame, depending on the size of your wall and how much space you want to fill. The key to making this “artwork” look fancy is the organic, nature-inspired asymmetry; instead of wrapping the entire frame in flowers, focus your efforts on one corner or portion of your frame or frames. 

Since Swarts and her partner love hosting, hanging this art in such a prominent spot makes for a perfect conversation piece. “Handmade crafts and homemade art are sprinkled throughout the space, like the strawflower garlands in the darkroom and the dried floral artwork for our living room,” Swarts says. “In that way, our home reflects our identity, and vice versa.”