Vintage & Antiqued Frames


The signs of wear and accumulated patina that antiques have suggest a history, giving them a character you can’t find in their brand new, mass produced equivalent.  I’ve chosen the bygone process of making frames with time honored, pre-industrial joinery, not just glue and nails.  I then finish them with the blemishes of age that tell the story of a cherished heirloom that’s already given a century of service.  For rustic art, vintage photos, historic documents and cherished heirlooms, these frames have a lived-in warmth that will harmonize with these pieces and with the soothing spaces they hang in.

More and more, today’s most welcoming interiors value the well worn and the beautifully flawed above homogeneity, shunning the shiny and the uniform for the weathered and the one-of-a-kind.  Scuffed vintage finds are placed front and center and the use natural materials over the mass produced is embraced.  My antiqued and vintage frames impart a sense of history by using custom stained and weathered natural hardwood that appears to have aged gracefully but was in fact sensitively designed and constructed as a setting for your cherished pictures.  These frames embrace the wear that come with long years of use, lovingly lived-in pieces that are an ode to imperfection and celebrate the beauty in the flaws that come with age.

The feel of history, but made for you.

Filling your interiors with vintage pieces may be your ideal, but finding an actual antique frame with well joined corners that suits the art you want to display is nearly impossible.  You could try a thrift store and there are a handful of antique frame dealers in the world, but finding the size and style you’re looking for is a sometimes very expensive hit-or-miss process.  For a price comparable to that of a pre-finished factory-produced wood grain frame you can buy in an ordinary custom frame shop, I can make an antiqued frame starting with raw basswood shaped by a California lumber mill operating since 1922.  You choose a profile from their massive catalog of vintage profiles like coves, ogees, cassettas, reverses and everything in between.  After the moulding is cut to size, your frame’s corners are durably joined with dovetail keys and reinforced with deep splines.  It may appear to have had a long life, but it’s solid construction won’t show it – in fact, its life as an heirloom has just begun!

Antique Finishes

In this sample set of wood stains, each one of my 20 stain colors is shown plain and with antiquing.

If you choose, I can simulate a frame that’s been well preserved, or I can gently distress to simulate common imperfections seen in antique frames like chips and nicks that could have happened when it was moved or bumped into, even the tiny holes left by worms and insects.  I use lengths of chain, flails threaded with nuts and bolts, awls and rasps to give your frame the subtle amount of wear you specify.  On the raw wood that damage isn’t pronounced, but these marks will telegraph through each layer of the finishing process.  I then apply a concentrated stain that soaks deeper into these abrasions than the rest of the smoothly sanded surface, slightly accentuating them.  We then rub on 3 or more layers of shellac which simulates a re-finished frame that’s already lived a long life.  The next stage is the application of an antiquing wash that simulates the patina of ages.  As this thin wash is brushed on and scrubbed off, the grey mixture gets caught in the crevices made by distressing, as well as in the in the corners where it would be naturally harder to clean.  This detail really gives it the warmth of and old piece with stories to tell.  It’s then given two coats of clear wax and buffed to a dull sheen.

Don’t forget to check out our antique Dutch black finish here.