transforming the traditional ASK THE ARTSPERTS by Kristine Meek and Juliana Meek

Dear Artsperts,
I have some older paintings that I just love, but I’ve been flipping through magazines and feel like I should update my great room with a more Florida contemporary feel. If I change to light gray walls and modern furniture, what should I do with my older paintings that are dark oils with heavy gold frames? How can I keep the art I love and update my décor?

Sincerely,    Contemporary Conundrum

Dear Contemporary,
There is no need to replace the more traditional style paintings in your collection as you update your décor for a more contemporary or Florida look. There are a few tricks you can use to transform the feel of darker or older paintings: replace the frames, remove the frame, use a salon style installation, create a feature wall, and add new contemporary works without replacing your old works.

The trend of light grey walls is perfect for any work of art –contemporary and traditional. Light grey is a pure neutral so there aren’t any hues in the paint that would fight with the colors in a painting. We often think of neutral as off white. But off white has light brown or orange hues in it, so it isn’t considered a pure neutral like grey.

If you would like to lighten the look of traditional paintings, the best way may be to change (or paint the frames) to a lighter color. If the original frame is of value as in a gold leaf frame, be sure to keep the original frame in climate-controlled storage for future resale value of the work. In the meantime, you can certainly enjoy the work in your home with a different frame. The frame is the transition from the home décor to the painting. It does not have to just match the traditional nature of a work of art.

Most traditional oils had a linen liner between the painting and the frame. A more contemporary style would be to remove the linen liner and perhaps frame using a shadow box type of frame. With works on paper, a contemporary way to frame is to ‘float’ the work of art within the frame instead of matting over the edges. You will see the edges of the paper with this contemporary look.

It is also acceptable and even trendy to mix contemporary works with traditional works for the juxtaposition of new/old or light/heavy. You may try salon style hanging where multiple works are clustered on a wall, or a feature wall of a traditional painting surrounded by walls of contemporary works. You may want to paint the feature wall a different color to add to the contrast.

No matter the direction you take, there are no rules. Have fun with this process and let your style dictate the end result.

The Artsperts

Before and After of transforming traditional works into a more contemporary feel by changing the frames. The After was rendered in
photoshop to give an idea of the finished look. Always a good option to use photoshop to place works and adjust frame styles, before making
any actual changes. The works to the side are by Adolf Dehn (1895-1968) left and Darrel Austin (1907-1994) right


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