Design Notebook

Frame those treasured items to display, preserve

Custom framing can bring an older painting or piece of artwork back to life and preserve cherished mementos for display in a shadow box

Special to The TribuneDecember 14, 2012 

Custom framing can clear out clutter as well as preserve special items, such as the military memorabilia here.


  • Framing tips from Frame Works

    Before investing in a canvas print or professional photo framing, it’s wise to take your photo file into a local photo shop. Its staff can tell you what sizes the photo will reproduce well at and can retouch images if necessary. If you have an old photo you are planning to have framed, they can repair, retouch and scan it for you. Remember that it’s easier to make copies for family and friends before a photo is professionally framed, rather than opening the frame up later.

    Wall-hung photo groupings have become more eclectic and asymmetrical. The key is to keep one element the same, such as the matting or the frame finish. Then vary other elements such as size and orientation.

    Rustic materials with lots of texture, such as leather and olive wood, are a popular choice for frames. To make the look contemporary, keep the shape of the frame simple without lots of ornamentation.

A framing studio may see seem an unusual place to do your holiday shopping. But things are hopping this time of year for Ali Semon and her crew at San Luis Obispo’s Frame Works.

“It’s definitely a season where we do a lot more shadow boxes and memory boxes using family or personal memorabilia,” she said.

There are numerous benefits to bestowing someone with a framed memento. It honors family and other cherished relationships, which is certainly in the spirit of the season. It’s a good choice for tough-to-buy-for people. It avoids adding an unwanted item and possibly extra clutter to someone’s home. And it can actually reduce clutter by getting heirlooms and memorabilia out of drawers and into the hands of someone who will enjoy them.

Perhaps most importantly, professional framing protects items that might otherwise deteriorate.

“A client brought in a Christmas stocking her mother made that was intricately beaded. She wanted it to be preserved,” Semon said. “A custom-framed shadow box isn’t just a great sentimental gift — it can protect an item for years and generations to come.”

Possibilities for shadow boxes and framing include military metals that can be framed alongside a photo of the person in uniform. Christening gowns can be displayed alongside a favorite baby photo and even a lock of baby hair. One Frame Works client had her grandmother’s quilt samples framed individually, then gifted them to her nieces.

Items don’t have to be valuable to qualify. Semon has framed travel mementos, postcards and family documents. She also recommends perusing photos that have been languishing on your digital camera or phone.

“We’ve become so used to having our photos either on our phone, computer or social media. Sometimes it’s nice to take photos that capture a special moment or event and present them on either paper or canvas,” she said.

The holidays are a time for nesting and Semon offers some suggestions on quick home improvement projects. A custom framed mirror, for instance, adds polish to a bathroom or other space.

“When you get a custom frame, you can make sure it suits your space and style,” she said. “There are so many options. You can fine tune it to go with your hardware or even your tiling.”

An easy yet often overlooked update is to simply re-frame a favorite photo or an old piece of art. A new mat or frame can bring new life to a tired piece of art.

“It’s like a breath of fresh air, because clients get so used to seeing something in a certain way,” said Semon. “Just a change in coloring totally brings out new elements. It feels like you have a brand new piece of art.”

More ideas for framing mementos and creating custom home décor can be found at the Frame Works website,

Frame Works is at 339 Marsh St. in San Luis Obispo, 542-9000.

Reach Rebecca Juretic at

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