Framing Photography Note Cards With Big Colorful Paper “Mats”

Well well well, if isn’t those little photography note cards again. You know, the ones we bought on our anniversary from a local art gallery to hang in our bathroom? You might not even have registered them in that post since everyone went bananas over the whole Sherry-haircut thing.


Anyway, hanging them in the bathroom was the initial plan. Until I noticed some of the photo colors were in the same neighborhood as our framed $5 scrapbook paper. That neighborhood being Sue-the-Napkin-ville. Or is it Sue-the-Napkin Heights?

We figured that maybe our $4 a pop Sherri Conley note cards were destined to live in these eight frames (plus we couldn’t decide on a configuration for the bathroom, so we liked the idea of enjoying them out in the living room). But it meant we had to get four more of them first, so we shucked out another $16 to round out our “local art collection” (from Crossroads Gallery here in Richmond).

The idea was to add the small square of art into the middle of the colored paper square that already sat inside the square frame. Thereby making the colored square of paper into a fun little colored square mat. Wow, lots of squares going on. We’re one do-si-do short of a square dance.

First we had to cut our rectangular note cards into… you’ll never guess… squares. I used an exacto and a ruler to keep my lines straight, but was brave enough to just eye the placement of my slice. Yup, my middle name should be Danger. Or soda. Or both. John Danger Soda Petersik. I like it.

As you can see, we left a thin white border on the pictures to, I dunno, further emphasize their squareness? They sort of looked like little polaroids to us.

Then one by one the frames came off the wall so the photos could be scotch taped into place on each colorful background which essentially became the “mat.” To get them centered we eyed them, then used a yardstick to make sure they were actually centered. To do that we just lined up the yardstick across two opposite corners, and then repeated that with the other two corners to make sure they seemed to intersect equally.

Finally, everything was reframed and ready for our viewing pleasure.

Only problem, we weren’t totally psyched by the result. We didn’t mind the small size (it just makes us want to lean in and take a closer look) – although I know some folks might think bigger is better (that’s what she said). Our issue was that something about them was really interrupt-ish and busy and, well, just too square-y (it honestly looks better in pictures than it did in real life). And yes, the reflection on the glass totally bites for taking pics, but we’re not quite ready to splurge on eight panes of museum glass just yet.

We realized the white borders I left on when trimming the note cards might be the problem. It made the distinction between the photo and the colorful mat so defined that we kind of lost the fun coincidence that each pairing was sort of linked by color. So rather than the paper feeling like an extension of the art’s hues, it just felt like a tiny picture on top of a thick bright mat on top of a thick white mat. It was a square vortex and it was threatening to eat our brains.

So after a few days of living with it (and not growing any fonder) Sherry took it upon herself to remedy the situation. And since she has a much steadier hand than I do, she didn’t even use a level and an exacto (just a regular old scissors). Cocky much?

Of course her cuts were great. And now we’ve got this:

We like it muuuuch better – especially in real life. Although we’re the first to admit that for some reason the white framed note cards didn’t photograph as crazily as they looked in person, so there’s not as much of an obvious improvement from the square-on-square-on-square action that was going on before. But in person it was such a relief. We worried we might have to scrap the whole note card idea entirely, but once they were trimmed down and put back in place, all was right with the world. Or at least with the left wall of our living room.

We like that they feel less busy and that subtlety is much preferred. They don’t scream “check-me-out!!!” but are nice when your eyes meander around the room and happen to land on them. So for a total of $4.64 per frame (64 cents for the scrapbook paper backgrounds and $4 a pop for the photo note cards) we’re psyched.

I still wouldn’t go as far as to call this our forever art solution for these frames. We’ve learned our lesson when it comes to making those sort of giant declarations since our house is always a WIP (work in progress). Not to be confused with an ORB (even though Sherry is definitely demonstrating her undying love of all things oil-rubbed-bronze). So we think adding these small photographs are a good warm-up for us since they might end up laying the ground work for something else that we may want to transition to a bit further down the line. So let’s call it a baby step. We’ve introduced some small photography, so maybe in a while we’ll try some larger photography, rehang the note card photos somewhere else, and scrap the 60 cent scrapbook paper altogether… who knows.

What I do know is that looking at some of these photos makes me want to go on a ferris wheel. Oh, and eat funnel cake. Yeah, definitely that.

Has anyone else made any art-y updates lately? Or used note cards as wall decor? Or gotten sucked into a square vortex, never to be seen or heard from again? Well, if you have, I guess you wouldn’t be able to comment…

Psst- We announced this week’s giveaway winner. Click here to see if it’s you (plus the $15 discount code for everyone is still valid until August 31st).


  1. says

    REALLY fab. I have been rotating our art gallery for small prints from the Lorton Workhouse (former prison made into huge art gallery, like the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria).

    Some of the photographers have their photos available on handmade paper for greeting cards, but I have been putting them in frames (sometimes 5×7 so you can see the artist signature), and it’s so fun. A yellow bicycle from Amsterdam, coral tulips from a Paris market. Always swapping the photos around from family to scenery.

    Keeps life interesting.

  2. says

    they’re really beautiful! what a great collection. and those square ikea frames are my all time fav, if they ever stop selling them I’ll cry. Maybe if you nixed the colored scrapbook paper and went with white the pics might pop more? Just a thought, they’re beautiful as they are too. :)

  3. says

    I agree. It looks more seamless without the white border. I really like the way your project turned-out. Just the the little somethin’ somethin’ the colored paper/white frame art needed. Gives me ideas…

  4. says

    Haha I just posted about the mass amount of squares in my dining room yesterday! I’ve decided it needs to be balanced with a round drum pendant light rather than… the rectangular one I have now. I unknowingly went crazy on the squares :)

    I had no idea those pictures were so small until I saw them up there! I love how you matched the colors in the picture to the scrapbook paper. I especially love the sunset-y tree on the purple.

  5. Abbey_S. says

    Too bad you couldn’t enlarge the prints. If they were bigger they might give you a nice eclectic, interesting focal point.

  6. Katie says

    What a unique was to bring a little extra interest to the space! And easy to change out if you want something a little different in the future.

  7. says

    I love the prints, but I almost wonder if centering them ISN’T the way to go here? It kind of emphasizes their smallness but makes it look unintentional. It could be cool to mount them on actual polaroid-shaped pieces of white paper and place them more randomly in the frames? Or maybe stencil some off-centered summery lettering into the craft paper in the background? I think this idea is SO close to working beautifully!!

  8. says

    Those little pictures are precious. Having a constant reminder of funnel cake–especially in the same room as the tv, would not be good for me and swimsuit season. Haha. I did do some switching around of art ’round here due to my little 17 month old becoming way too interested in a vignette

    BUT the good news is, it made way for fulfilling the Pinterest challenge which is in the works now.

    Chris loves Julia

  9. Pip says

    Phew – avoided the brain eating square vortex – nice one! Chrysanthemums (?) in the little pink guy are really cute.

  10. Liz says

    This is great! I have many large frames for a wall collage (like your hallway), but some of the photos are much smaller. They look great!

  11. kathy says

    I see what you mean about the white lines – They definitely look better without the white border on the note cards. But to me they just look so small in that vast land of scrap book paper. But you look at it everyday, so if you like it, that’s what’s important =)

  12. says

    I love the ideas that you have going on here, but I agree that maybe the actual pieces of art (note cards) aren’t a “forever fix”. I wonder almost if it would look better without the colored backing? However, I love that you are keeping the art local and accessible!! I recently made a photo wall in our dining room and ran into some of the same problems with proportions. I think the best thing to do is to leave it for a few days and reflect genuinely on what exactly it is that leaves you wanting for more. Good luck. As always, I love your projects and your blog!!

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