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cheap trick: how to get inexpensive custom framing

I’ve held off writing this post because there’s a definite possibility that everyone already knows about this “trick” and my brain was all, “What if everyone that reads this gives their computer the side eye and thinks to themselves ‘there goes Molly again with the totally useless information'” and then I realized that’s a silly thing to be worried about because THIS WHOLE BLOG is useless information. In the grand scheme of things.

But if I help one of you pull the trigger on framing some art you’ve had rolled up under your bed for eight months, or if I help you save some money, then BY GOLLY it’s worth it. I’d like you to picture me delivering this paragraph on top of a desk, à la Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. Now rip apart your textbooks! 

inexpensive custom framing

I guess I’ll get to the point: to get the look of a custom frame for large or irregularly-sized art, I buy a ready-made frame from Hobby Lobby, then have their framing department cut and install a custom mat around the art. I’ll lay out specific tips below, but for large art (somewhere between 16″x20″ and 24″x36″), the total cost for frame/mat/hanging hardware normally runs me somewhere around $60 with this method. For comparison’s sake, a similarly sized custom frame from an online company who sells directly to consumers is about $150, and the sky’s the limit for a true custom frame from a local framer. Obviously each one of these options has its own perks, like more unique and interesting frames available from online companies and the quality craftsmanship you’ll find with local framers. But right here, right now, we’re talking about lowering the barrier to entry on custom framing so that you can get some dang art on your wall. 

cheap custom frames


  • Buy your pre-fab frame from Hobby Lobby while their wall frames are on sale for 50% off. I am not exaggerating: this sale happens every other week. One time I showed up to get a print framed while the frames weren’t on sale, and the awesome guy in the framing department said that if I wanted them to not start work on it until the following week, when the frames would be back on sale, that he would still extend the discount. Deal! But yah, that’s kind of an important part of this strategy. Make sure you get that ish 50% off!
  • Use your 40% off coupon for the mat. Hopefully you guys know that you can always, always find a 40% off one regularly-priced item coupon on the Hobby Lobby website. Use it for your mat to bring the cost of the job down significantly. Important: you can only use one of these coupons per purchase, so if you’re framing a bunch of pieces, pick them up one at a time so that you can use the coupon for the mat for each piece. 
  • Think about the size of your art, the size of your frame, and whether you’d like a large mat or a small mat. For a large mat, buy a frame significantly larger than your art. As an example, my “See Mystery Lights” print is 20″x28″. I knew I wanted a large mat, so instead of buying the 22″x28″ frame, I bought the 24″x36″ size. 
  • Always have them add hanging hardware. I think this actually costs $3 and it is so friggin worth it to have a wire installed. Makes hanging so easy!
  • Try to avoid looking directly at the Riesens while you’re standing in the checkout line. This is the only place I have ever seen Riesens sold in public. They are so delicious and chocolately and chewy and caramely. My mouth waters just thinking about them. LOOK AWAY.

finnegan blue

So there’s my “trick,” which was really several tricks rolled into one, you’re welcome. Related: I’ve cobbled together most of our smaller frame sources (that work nicely for smaller and regularly-sized art) for each room on the Shop Our House page, if you’re in need. Also, Finn. 

Any good framing tricks up your sleeve that I need to know about? Or cheap tricks in general? (They’re illusions, Michael.) 

Disclaimer: Hobby Lobby has no idea I exist and this post is *not* sponsored. 



the whole enchilada: the blue door house, vol. 1

Hello! I’m back from an unintended but well-spent summer blog break, but now it’s back to school. And by school I mean bloggin’. I’ve spent the last three months since we moved in a Craigslist and IKEA fever dream, buying stuff, selling stuff, and trying to pull the house together. Lots has changed since I first introduced the house in this post, but there’s still so much to do! So in the spirit of back to school, lists, and a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils, I’m pulling together our big-ass Whole Enchilada to-do list. 

As a reminder, here’s the (not to scale) floor plan of all 936 square feet:

The Blue Door House Floor Plan


And here are quick photos of each room as they look today with the to-do list for each room. For before pictures from 11 days after we moved in, check this post.


  • Change blackout curtains for white curtains 
  • Switch out small side table with larger side table 
  • Move Leif in front of the window 
  • Mount television above credenza 
  • Find new large-scale art for behind the couch 
  • Paint over beige with a super light, bright cool-toned grey 
  • Maybe stencil or wallpaper the wall behind the credenza 
  • Maybe add two plug-in wall sconces to each side of the TV 
  • Maybeee change the rug if I find an insane deal?
  • Maybeee change the coffee table if I find another insane deal?
  • Maybe add an occasional chair if we get a smaller coffee table?




  • Install mail holder/key hook
  • Switch out bookcases for table with baskets underneath
  • Get new lampshade



  • Get a table, rug, and chairs
  • Switch blackout curtains for white curtains
  • Hang gallery wall even though I didn’t really mean to
  • Switch original pendant light fixture for our trusty basket pendant
  • Fingers crossed for paint!



  • Organize the bejesus out of it cause it’s tiny
  • Remove window curtain
  • Add cutting board to counter
  • Switch out rug for something a little bigger/more graphic
  • Paint, lord willing
  • In an ideal world: switch out countertops, add backsplash, get an undermount sink, switch out the hardware, yes I know it’s a rental but my God I have a lot of fun wasting mental energy on what changes I would make. 



  • Sell the sofa and buy a loveseat
  • Buy a flatweave rug
  • Hang some art
  • Switch grey curtains for olive curtains
  • Mount TV
  • Lose the battle over functional office chair vs. pretty office chair
  • Get a Stendig calendar or something for the open wall
  • Add plants/greenery
  • Hide the GD cords, I don’t know how, possibly with magic



  • After two months, begrudgingly admit to yourself that the original layout of the room doesn’t maximize the space, so rearrange it
  • Buy seagrass rug, end up hating it because it’s too beige and doesn’t add any textural warmth to the space, so sell it and replace it with a baller Craigslist find
  • Move our original dresser to the guest room
  • Buy new dresser
  • Hang art
  • Get bench for foot of bed
  • Switch blackout curtains with white curtains
  • Paint, please sweet tuxedo-wearing baby Jesus, let us paint
  • Sell old nightstands and find new matching nightstands
  • Update dresser hardware



  • Switch blackout curtains with white curtains
  • Snag a bed at the Ikea Friends & Family sale
  • Get bedding
  • Move in dresser from master 
  • Hang art
  • Get a SWEET Craigslist rug
  • Hang hooks



  • Frame and hang both El Cosmico prints
  • Add small shelves for additional counter space/storage
  • Add frosted window film to the completely transparent window conveniently located about waist-level in the shower




  • Set up a seating area with two chairs, a bench, and a coffee table
  • Make two planter/post hybrids
  • String lights on said planter/posts
  • Plant flowers and greenery
  • Put the string lights on a timer
  • Hide the additional string light cord under the eave with an outdoor extension cord

The plan for this rental is the usual M.O.: make it a happy place to be by making the most of what we have, using my Craigslist powers for good, and throwing in some elbow grease to fill in the gaps. (And buying some stuff. I am not immune to the siren song of Target.) I learned a lesson in our last space to not let indecisiveness mean that a space goes unused for too long. Especially in a smaller home, I want to make sure we are taking advantage of and using all 936 square feet, which is why I’ve been so busy this summer making our spaces usable and functional. Now comes the fun part! Just kidding, now comes the part where I need to figure out if I want to commit to painting the whole house including the ceiling. Ha. 


currently: july 2017

With July’s end comes the end of our summer hanging in Austin with no travel plans. I feel like we made the most of it this month, with trips to the movie theater, a 65 degree pool, and margaritas inside when it was just too hot to be outside. We’re really looking forward to some fun trips this month, but summer in Austin has been pretty sweet. 

Making: My fourth trip to Ikea since we’ve moved. It’s a blessing and a curse to have one twenty miles away. 
Cooking: My sister sent me this recipe for honey sriracha turkey meatballs and they were *baller.* Also made this healthy-ish orange chicken (so yum) and fish tacos with “chipotle crema,” which FYI is the easiest way to feel sophisticated even though you’re literally just scooping adobo sauce from a can and stirring it into sour cream. If you want to really put the nail in your coffin, pronounce it with a very slight accent. 
Reading: Continuing the Great Harry Potter Re-Read of 2017 with the Chamber of Secrets. This may have been my best decision of the year. 
: Zero emails in my inbox, always. I used again today to unsubscribe from over 450 subscriptions. BAI!
Enjoying: The sheen of a freshly oiled cutting board. Wish I was making this up. 
Listening: To Matt’s horror, I’ve been listening to My Favorite Murder while I get dinner ready. It’s like hanging out with two of your best girlfriends, chatting in an in-depth way about famous murders. It can (obviously) sometimes get a bit graphic, and Matt will just yell from the next room “WHAT!” “WHY!” “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!” 
Needing: Finn to get over his frog obsession. So far no casualties, but every night when it gets dark he wants to go outside every 20 minutes, a new excuse every time. “I think I left my collar outside.” “I forgot to sniff an important corner.” “I’m just going to meet some friends.” If anyone knows how to stage a dog intervention about frogs, lmk. 
Smelling: Right now? At this very moment? My chapstick.
Wearing: Now that I’ve safely secured a couple pairs of these: holy moly, these are the best budget leggings I’ve found. They are thick, comfy, not shiny, not see-through, and they have the elusive side pocket that will fit your phone. So just to catch everyone up to speed: cargo pants are cool now, as long as they are in legging form. 2017 is a trip.
Loving: Craigslist connections – not the romantic kind. I snagged two amazing purchases in July, and both times the item happened to be located in my neighborhood, less than a mile from our house, and I randomly knew the seller of one of the items. What are the odds?? (Reminds me of this episode of This American Life, which is so good.)
Watching: The Big Sick in which Holly Hunter stole the show as usual, Dunkirk which was gripping and whose soundtrack is almost as good as Inception’s, and Game of Thrones obbbvvviousslyyy. 
Bookmarking: I’ve never felt prouder to be a millennial, this is a good spot to get lost for five minutes, and I realize this is so old but it’s new to me, and taught me one of my favorite new quotes: “The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s eleven-thirty.
Feeling: At the beginning of writing this post I was ruhl cranky. Something about sitting down and typing out these pretty silly, meaningless words makes me feel a little better. I’m still cranky. But grateful.