Ask the Experts: The Custom Framer

Photo: Victor Prado/New York Magazine

What’s the first thing to consider when it comes to framing?
Where it will hang. You need to think about the context of the room. Are you looking to make a strong visual impression or is the frame more about protection? Also, if the work is on paper, it’s important that archival materials, such as rag board and mulberry tissue hinged with nonacidic adhesives, are used so the glue won’t burn through.

How do you know where to hang something?
There are no rules. You can put one small four-by-four-inch frame on a massive wall if it’s a little da Vinci or you can jam-pack your walls, which is what I like to do. I like to walk by and get hit with different images.

There must be some tried-and-true guidelines.
The old rule of thumb dictates hanging at eye level. If you’re obsessive-compulsive and want things precise, measure 60 inches up from the floor in the center of the wall. That’s what museums do.

Where can we find great frames that don’t cost a fortune?
Go to antiques stores and flea markets. Or try a moulding company that makes cornices. Have them fashion a frame and paint it yourself. Van Gogh painted his own frames: He couldn’t afford to buy them so he painted wooden slabs to match his paintings.

And for those who aren’t van Gogh—or DIY-inclined?
For less valuable pieces, I’ve heard good things about Bark Frameworks in Long Island City and J. Pocker on the Upper East Side.

Why is framing so expensive?
For custom frames, you’re paying for the labor of carvers, woodworkers, and gliders. At lower-priced shops, the overall cost is usually marked up five to ten times. If you’re cost-conscious, find one at a flea market or make one yourself.

What do you think of art in the bathroom?
If it’s a valuable piece, just be sure to have a custom case created to protect against humidity.

What is the best way to hang artwork?
The key is to make sure it’s safe. A frame should be double-wired and hung in two places with two nails or brackets in the wall and two spots on the back of the frame. This is especially important in Manhattan, because framed photos and artwork can shift with the rumbling traffic.

Trick of the Trade
“Do not let direct sunlight hit whatever is in the frame, because it will age and fade your art. Ask your framer to use UV-protective glass.”

Ask the Experts: The Custom Framer