It’s A Lady! (Our First Big Art Purchase Ever)

That’s what Clara said when she woke up and saw our freshly hung real art in the kitchen. It was cute. And we laughed. And then she squealed “She’s swimming! Look, fishies!” which are most definitely not in there, but the girl has quite an imagination. So hooray for imaginary fishies.

I described this gal as “real art” because it’s actually our first big art purchase ever. It’s a large print of an original oil painting by an amazing Etsy artist that we just couldn’t get out of our mind. And at $195 it was definitely a splurge for folks like us who usually frame free art that we make ourselves or hunt thrift stores and garage sales for cheapo options, but we figure that we’ve done a lot of things to save a really significant amount of money on our kitchen (like reusing our cabinets/sink/faucet, getting pendant lights from an outlet and a range hood on craigslist, reselling things like our old granite and over-the-range microwave on craigslist, building our own fridge surround/hood cover/open shelving, getting on-sale tile and clearanced out cork and installing it ourselves, buying inexpensive lab stools from a school supply shop, etc).

So yeah, it took a bit of rationalizing with ourselves and saying “dude, you have saved money in so many other places, and you love this art and don’t have any real art in the entire house yet- just take the plunge already!” So we did. And it feels good. In the words of Katy Perry: No regrets. Just love.

So yes, we’re calling it our V-day gift to each other (and our beloved kitchen). And it was icing on the cake when Clara got excited about it too. Burger has yet to react but we’ll keep you posted.

Doesn’t our lady swimming with imaginary fish look especially cheerful with two pink tulips leftover from book shoots (yup, those are still going on – they wrap this Friday and today we’re actually shooting cover stuff – ahhhhhh). As for framing our lady, I’m sure one day we’ll man up and pay to have her professionally framed (they always seem to have those 50% coupons at Michael’s) but sometimes it’s a better balance for us when we spend in one area and then work a bit harder to save in another. So for now we have framed it really inexpensively ourselves, just by getting a simple black frame for $21 at Target and a $4 sheet of archival-quality mat-board at Michael’s (they sell it in their framing department for anyone else who wants to try DIYing it).

This entire framing job was just $25 (for a 31″ x 25″ finished piece!) thanks to already having some white Rustoleum Universal spray paint (the kind with the built-in primer). Yup, I’m completely predictable. You know I spray painted the heck outta that frame (after removing the pane and the backing and laying it out on a piece of cardboard outside). Then I just cut down the archival mat-board to fit the frame and placed the print centered in front of it.

So unlike a pro framing job, this mat isn’t a cut-out window that you look through to view the print – the print just floats right in front of it in the middle, with an equal amount of mat around it to beef it up and fit the frame. The luckiest accident of the whole thing is that the mat-board has subtle gray undertones while the print and the frame are bright-bright-bright white. It actually makes for a nice balance since the soft gray-ish coloring in the mat relates to other softly-gray things in the room (the penny tile, the appliances, etc) and the bright white of the print and the freshly sprayed frame ties into the glossy white molding/trim, our counters, and the dishware on the open shelves.

We love that our print (on archival paper with an archival mat, no less) can always be upgraded with a proper frame down the line, but for now it slips right into the room. And it’s refreshing. Like a big ol’ glass of lemonade. Or a dip in the pool. This is actually how we frame a ton of stuff (like all of the things in our hallway of frames, for example) so although it’s not the fancy way, it works for us. Art is definitely one of those highly personal things though, so this method might be heresy for some folks out there! Just do whatever works for you and your house and cover your walls with stuff that makes you smile.

We have to admit that real art is definitely addictive. Our little swimmer lady confirms that sometimes a wall splurge can make you pretty dang giddy. So we’re definitely hoping that the occurrence of saving up for art that we love isn’t just a one time thing! What have you guys been framing lately? Do you have a favorite framing method? Do your children see imaginary fish? Let’s talk.


  1. Anneliese says

    I see fish, too! Maybe it’s like a Rorschach test… Love it. Art really makes a home.

    I’m a huge art lover, too, and only rarely splurge for “proper” frames. If you decide you want to upgrade the look, later, you can always have Michael’s/Hobby Lobby cut just a mat for you… usually runs about $10 and then I dare anyone to be able to tell it’s not a “proper” frame job!

  2. says

    I have two amazing huge paintings by my sister on my walls… she now has sold paintings for upwards of $1000, so I think they count as expensive art (even though I got the sister rate, haha). You can see her art here:

    I love how they’re realistic and kind of abstract at the same time (a little like your painting), plus industrial… she’s a Young House Love reader too so I think she would be tickled if you check out her work!!

  3. says

    So, I totally hate to be one of “those people”. You know, the ones who comment like they know everything. I certainly don’t know everything, but I used to be a professional custom framer so I just wanted to mention a couple things since you splurged on the artwork. Without looking at the artwork in person, I’m not sure, but generally speaking glass directly on an oil painting can sometimes cause the paint to stick to the glass :( Some places will custom cut a mat for you if you take the board to them (Michaels is not one of them – they make you pay ridiculous amounts for a hole). Also since you have original artwork, it’s a good idea to try to keep moisture away from the artwork. If you sandwich your glass-mat-artwork-foam core backing and wrap the edges with framing tape, that will help to keep it safer. When you’re ready to get it custom framed, smaller is better. I know around these parts there are a some people who custom frame out of their houses and their prices are cheaper and the quality of their materials is much better than you would get at Michaels.

    Just my thoughts. Sorry if I sound like a know-it-all. Original artwork is one of the best investments you can make, so protecting it and guarding it is one of my passions :) Love the way it looks in the kitchen!

    • says

      Thanks for the tips Amy! It’s actually a print of an oil painting (so it’s just archival paper, not an actual oil painting against glass). Hope it helps!


    • says

      You should be golden with how you have it now then. Whew…I’ll sleep better tonight :) Must also say that I saw goldfish at first too…so does that mean I think like a 1yo? Explains a lot really ;)

    • Alison says

      Even prints on archival paper should not be pressed up directly against the glass. In fact nothing should be framed so that the art is directly against the glass. Any humidity in the air will eventually work its way into the frame and can cause the paper to stick against the glass, causing tears when you try and remove the art. That is one of the main purposes of matting art. As a temporary solution, you could put some sort of spacer on top of the mat board hidden by the frame – just thick enough to keep the glass off the art – pieces of cardboard, old bits of foam core, etc. that you won’t be able to see when you look at the print. You don’t have to worry about the spacer being acid free as it won’t come into contact with the art.

  4. says

    Gah! Gorgeous! Great choice you guys. I absolutely love it. We are actually in the midst of framing a wall…oh wait different kind of framing. ;)

    But on the art theme, the oversized 8’x3′ painting I did for your FIRST pinterest challenge is being sold. Well, we have decided to sell it–because the wall that it was on, is the one getting torn out (refer to first paragraph).

    Anyone interested??

  5. Tara says

    Holy cow I love it! What a cool piece! I can’t believe it’s an oil painting – its so life like and the colors are perfect! You will love it even more if you mat it and frame it one day!
    I just got my first real art too, so I can relate! I moved from chicago a few months ago and had been planning on buying a cool Chicago skyline print. My friends surprised me with an original print from a Chicago artist that has my yellow and gray tones I love and they even framed it! Best best going away gift ever and I even brought the print with to the paint shop bc it’s he main thing in the room:) we ended up with an almost black wall and it’s awesome.

  6. says

    It really pops on that wall! One question – I notice that you guys do a lot of art/prints as opposed to pictures. I’m sure you’ve addressed this before, but do you shy away from putting up framed family photos (tons of them) for a certain reason? I know some people think it’s weird to have tons of pictures of people all over the house. Do you just prefer the variety of actual art? Just wanted to hear your take on it!

    • says

      We actually have a lot of photos of our family in our laundry room and among some other stuff in our hallway frame wall (along with a few tabletop picture frames) – so they’re in the mix for sure!


  7. Jackie says

    Love this artist. We purchased her Two Boats print at the MCAD sale a few years ago and we love it! Congrats on your purchase!

  8. says

    I love the colors! What a bright and cheerful kitchen.

    Art truly makes a difference. We were handed down new-to-us living room and dining room furniture complete with art and were too exhausted after moving everything to hang it up. A week later, our pictures are hung and it really completes the room. We’re also giddy with excitement!

    It’s got us thinking about what else we want to put on our blank walls…we’re definitely making room for a frame gallery of sorts. :)

  9. Marcy L says

    What an amazing choice guys! Having some “real art” in your house makes ya feel so grown up – right!? At least it does for me! Good luck with the cover shoot today!

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