Picture frames are one of the most common flea market finds -- and they're one of the most useful. In addition to framing your photos and artwork, you can repurpose old picture frames as other types of home decor. Here are eight ideas to get you started:
Mirrors are among the most obvious uses for decorative old picture frames. They're particularly dramatic when you use large or oversized frames. Simply have mirror cut to the size and shape of the opening, and then secure it to the back of the frame. To complement especially ornate carved frames, opt for mirror with a beveled edge.
Turn an old frame into a memo or memory board by installing corkboard inside the opening. If the cork's natural texture and color complements you decor, leave it bare. For dressier spaces, you can cover the corkboard with decorative fabric before framing it.
Framed chalkboards are handy in kitchens, home offices and children's rooms, and they're simple to make with cut-to-fit plywood and chalkboard paint. You're not even limited to traditional black. You can make your own chalkboard paint in any color that suits your interior.
Photo or Ephemera Display
You don't need glass or mat board to turn your old frame into a nontraditional photo display piece, but you will need chicken wire, spool wire, or string. To use chicken wire, cut the wire slightly larger than the picture frame opening, and then secure the chicken wire to the back of the frame. Hang the frame on the wall, and then secure photos, vintage postcards, or collectible ephemera to the wire grid with small clips or clothespins.
To create a display piece using wire or string, lay the picture frame right side down on your work surface. Stretch multiple rows of the string or wire widthwise across the frame, securing the ends to the frame's back using staples or eye screws. You can use straight rows for an orderly look, or angle the strands for a more eclectic, haphazard effect. Once you've finished, hang the frame on the wall and use clothespins to attach photos or other items to the string or wire.
Antique and vintage picture frames work well as decorative jewelry organizers. They look particularly charming when you're displaying vintage jewelry as well.
To display earrings with hooks, fit the frame with wire mesh, such as the type used for window screens. Once you hang it on the wall, simply slip the earring hooks through the holes in the mesh. To display clip earrings, fit the frame with horizontal rows of wire. Follow the instructions described above for creating a photo display, but use more rows of wire and space them no more an one-half inch apart. Then, just clip the earrings onto the wires. For necklaces and bracelets, cut plywood to fit your empty frame. Paint the plywood -- or cover it with decorative fabric -- before installing it in the frame. Screw C-hooks into the plywood, and then hang your necklaces and bracelets from the hooks.
Give a small or plain wall sconce -- electric or candle -- more presence by centering it within the wall area created when you hang an empty frame. Finish the frame and the wall space inside it to match either the sconce or the room's molding. The former makes the sconce look larger and more substantial. The latter looks like architectural detail, but it still makes the sconce look more important. If you're framing two or more identical sconces in the same room, be sure to use matching frames.
Decorative Wall Panels
To add architectural interest to a plain room, create the illusion of raised wall panels by painting or staining oversized picture frames to match the room's woodwork. Then, hang the frames in a grid or linear series.
You can leave the wall space within the frames alone so it matches the wall color, or paint the space to match the frames and the rest of the trim in the room. The latter tends to make the frames look the most like authentic wall panels. If you're looking to add pattern to the room, frame wallpaper or fabric pieces before hanging the frames on the walls. Since the frames require significantly less wallpaper than you'd need to paper the entire wall, consider using vintage wallpaper scraps. If you opt for fabric, you can the discounted remnant from a pricey bolt or repurpose a vintage pair of drapery panels.
If you find a small- to medium-sized frame with molding designed to project into the room, you can turn it into a tabletop tray. Trays are ideal for displaying small collections and corralling jewelry. Start by removing any hanging hardware from the back of the frame; to use it as a tray, the frame has to rest flat. To create a base for your tray, cut a hardboard or plywood tray base to fit the empty frame, and then paint or stain it. Decoupage is a good option if you want a patterned, more decorative base. To show off a vintage wallpaper or fabric scrap, top your base with the scrap and frame it with the picture frame glass intact.