Thing is, framed artwork--if you just buy it--is really expensive, especially when you get into bigger pieces.
So, what you should do instead is make it!
First of all, decide which is more important to you--a fancy, beautiful frame, or a basic frame but beautiful art? I really prefer to emphasize what's in the frame, so most of our frames are basic black ones that either came with art we were given as a gift, or were bought for $5 at Wal-Mart.
But, if what you really love is beautiful and ornate frames, your job is to go to flea markets, thrift stores, and consignment shops and hunt. I find that Salvation Army and Goodwill both often sell terrible, terrible artwork in frames that are 1.) huge and 2.) beautiful--or at least full of potential, usually for just a couple of dollars. A coat of paint or shellac is all you need, in a lot of cases, to get something lovely.
What I really want to deal with here is things that you can put into a frame. I buy my frames secondhand or at Wal-Mart. I have had really good luck. I wish the same to you.
So, here you go--a list of five things you can put into a frame, for five dollars or less!
I can't get over the great look that you can get by combining classical and modern--a piece (or three) of antique silver flatware, some scrapbook paper in a modern color or design, and a strong dark frame? I am sold. Love it! I'm particularly fond of this example from The Nester:
This look is also great with antique keys. Keep your eyes open on your next thrifting trip.
2. Vintage Prints
I love vintage prints of all kinds, but pre-framed ones are so expensive! Well, I am super excited to be able to tell you about Vintage Printable, a website with tons and tons of free downloadable vintage prints! I want to print and frame every single one of them--not even kidding. You can browse the website by image theme, or just scroll through the blog, where new printables are regularly posted.
I love what Jane at Finding Fabulous did with some of those prints! Don't you?
Even more than I love vintage prints, I love maps. In fact, my very very first DIY home decor project involved maps! I photocopied some maps out of the front of a book (Ok, I admit it.. it was The Lord of the Rings), enlarged the photocopies at Kinko's, tea-stained them, aged them by crumpling them and smoothing them out, and framed them. The result? They looked like real antique maps that had been used, abused, and finally salvaged and protected.
Sadly, I haven't got a picture anymore, so you're just going to have to use your imagination. And of course it doesn't have to be a map of a fictional place--grab an atlas and make a black-and-white photocopy of your favorite city, state, or country. Tea or coffee will give the paper a really nice sepia tone and deal with the harsh whiteness of bleached paper.
Every time I go to the fabric store, I see some gorgeous fabric that I love... but don't have a use for. This is the perfect opportunity to buy a yard of it and go to town. Whether you're stretching it over a canvas or fitting it into a salvaged frame, you can showcase your favorite patterns and colors.
This photograph from Real Simple shows how beautiful this can look:
A lot of my friends are scrapbookers. I'm not. But, I still have a lot of things I like to save--the programs and invitations from our wedding, letters and cards sent to me, journal entries, what-have-you. Rather than store your papers in a box, frame them and hang them.
This works for envelopes, too. Whatever you want to showcase. I am in love with this collection of antique framed letters at Trouvais:
Of course, this is only a few possibilities, a little bit of inspiration. You can put anything in a frame--or even hang a collection of empty frames painted in the same color. Let your imagination run wild.