Skip to content

Category: Blue Door House

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. 


the blue door house tour: the patio

Let me begin by saying that I’m just as surprised as you are that this space is somewhere close to complete a couple of months after moving in – taking almost a year to decide to paint an accent wall and taking over a year to finish an office when I WORK FROM HOME has traditionally been my speed. All the before and afters are below + a full source list at the bottom of the post!

small patio before and after

Here’s where we landed right after moving in. Our chairs from our tiny apartment patio were holding up pretty well, considering they aren’t technically outdoor chairs and that they got pretty intense afternoon sun. The little blue rug was obviously way too small for this space. The plants and their shelving unit somehow survived the move. The shelving unit is just an old thing from Ikea, but the size and utility is pretty perfect for what we need. 

concrete pad patio makeover

Here you’ll notice our charming view of the air conditioning unit and a receptacle we use for Finn’s…things. Sometimes spaces have an ideal focal point. This is the opposite of that. 

I toyed with the ideal of creating an outdoor dining space, but felt 1) I didn’t like the idea of a table and chairs blocking the flow of traffic from inside to the grassy part of the yard and 2) we’d probably get more use out of a casual lounge-y space. So, I set out to find some furniture and decor that wouldn’t break the bank, fit the space, and might help us block the unappealing view. 



concrete pad patio makeover

We did it! In case you missed this post a few weeks back, we constructed some posts set in planters to frame out the space with string lights. The lights pop on at dusk thanks to a magical timer that I am pretty sure Matt ordered from Diagon Alley, but he insists it was Amazon. 

concrete pad patio makeover

I kept the furniture and accessories super neutral, letting almost all of the color come from flowers and plants. The bougainvillea makes me SO happy and is growing so quickly. I mixed in varying heights, colors, and textures of plants that do well in full, hot sun in the planters for an organic look. True life: I snapped these pictures like the day after I planted everything because I was so worried I was going to kill them all. Turns out having really low expectations of yourself can sometimes pay off, because I proved myself wrong and everything is thriving. 

Can we talk about this rug? I LOVE it. I love the clean lines and the slightly different take on the black and white stripes. I also LOVE that Target let me buy the only one left in town on sale + an additional discount because I bought the slightly dingy floor model. The thing about these rugs is that they can be hosed down and then dried out in the sun, so I did that when I brought it home and it looked good as new. It also works great for two or three or twelve hundred muddy paw prints. This luckily hasn’t been a huge issue since we’re in the middle of a hot dry summer, but seriously every time I just hose it down and everything comes right off. 


concrete pad patio makeover

Hard to pick the star of the show, JUST KIDDING it’s obviously this daybed/bench/sofa situation. When I found this on sale at World Market, I knew it’d be the perfect solution to help us block the AC unit view. It was also gorgeous, the price was so good, the scale was great, and it coordinated so well with our current chairs. It’s got a nice deep seat and an outdoor cushion, but I treated the cushion cover with this in the hopes to extend its life. So far it’s been a lovely spot to lay down and scroll through Instagram, I mean read a book.

It’s also a top notch spot to enjoy a glass of wine with the feet kicked up on the coffee table. This coffee table from Target caught my eye right away – I really liked its simplicity, interesting lines, and size. I worried that since it’s metal I’d be re-enacting the hot plate scene from SNL if I touched it during the summer, but since it’s powder-coated it hasn’t been a problem at all!

concrete pad patio makeover

We really love this functional space – it feels like an extension of our home and we are out here all the time. We will love it even more when I finally remember to buy an outdoor extension cord so that we can hide that strand of extra string light sockets. 😀



MCM-style bench (sadly, sold out!!)

Coffee table  (on sale!)

Outdoor chairs (discontinued from Target)

White wire & terra cotta planter (on sale!)

String light posts/planters (DIY here)

16″ terra cotta pot

Copper side table 

Rug (on saleee!)

Shelving unit (similar)

String lights

Outdoor pillows (old from West Elm)

Concrete & wood planter

Wood tray

White ceramic candle holder


Comments closed