Hand Painted & Textured Frames


The signs of wear and accumulated patina antiques have suggest a history, giving them a character you can’t find in their brand new, mass produced equivalent.  We’ve chosen to resurect the bygone process of making frames with time honored, pre-industrial joinery, not just glue and nails, then we 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 them 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.  Our 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 that suits the art you want to display there is nearly impossible.  There are a handful of antique frame dealers in the world, but finding the size and style you’re looking for is a 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, we can make an antiqued frame starting with raw basswood, an even grained hardwood, shaped by a California lumber mill operating since 1926 to a profile you choose 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 long life has just begun!

Antique Finishes

At this point, we can simulate a frame that’s been well preserved, or we can gently distress it, abrading the wood to simulate common imperfections seen in antique frames like chips and nicks that could happen when it was moved or bumped into, even the tiny holes made by worms and insects.  We use lengths of chain, flails threaded with nuts and bolts, awls and rasps to give your frame the amount of wear you like.  On the raw wood that damage isn’t obvious, but these marks will telegraph through each layer of the finishing process.  We 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, a mix of rottenstone (a fine powdered porous rock such as weathered limestone), a gray paint (although it can be antiqued with any color), water and a little glue.  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.

Dutch Black Finish

The Dutch black finish is inspired by the austere black frames the Dutch preferred to more ostentatious gold leaf frames found elsewhere in Europe in the Renaissance.  The key to this finish is the use of casein paint, an ancient recipe mixing natural pigment with clays and a milk enzyme binder.  It results in a fine mineral finish that can be sanded smooth unlike latex or acrylic paint.  The Dutch finish is a black layer painted by hand over a base coat of an earth color like Venetian red or terra cotta.  Along with slightly distressing the raw wood, the black coat is gently worn by sanding until the ridges of the profile reveal a subtle red peeking through in places.  After layers of shellac, the frame is glazed with a thinned asphaltum to add extra depth and a warm glow, then hit with a light dry pouncing with an umber and white wash of casein followed by straight rottenstone.  This is rubbed into the layers of wax, polishing the surface to a subtle shine.  This is a laborious but exquisite finish that should be seen to be appreciated.