To me, a home doesn’t feel like a home until your art is on the walls. And unfortunately, it’s taken forever at the place I just moved into because a few new prints have just been impossible to find frames for.
I pop into my local frame shop, and a custom job is $200-plus; I scour the aisles at Ikea, and all the RIBBAs are infuriatingly off-kilter European sizes (who needs a 61 cm x 91 cm frame, Ikea?!?! WHO?) At Michael’s, if I’m lucky enough to find a frame that happens to be the right dimensions, its encased in a thick rustic-wood frame that has “FAMILY MEANS HUGS… AND MORE WINE!” carved in cursive around the edges — not the look I’m going for, personally.
In the past, I’ve just accepted the fact that I’d either need to choose whatever off-the-shelf frame crops my print in the least dramatic way (I didn’t even like the sky in this photo anyways, it’s fine!), or pony up for the custom job. (Of course the latter is executed to perfection and a worthwhile investment to protect and showcase a particularly special piece… but if you’ve got a gallery wall in the works, oof, that gets pricey.)
But I’m tired of compromising! And also tired of spending $200! So I took my complaints to the internet, begging the Instagram-o-verse to share their favourite sources for inexpensive, minimalist frames in Vancouver. The results came pouring in. (As did several links to this Onion story.) And after investigating and shopping up a storm, I’m not only ready to frame this hilarious vintage poster of a woman fighting over macaroni with an eagle, I’m ready to share my findings with the world.
Presenting: my ranking (a framework, if you will) of all the places to buy off-the-shelf photo frames in Western Canada, according to whoever was passionate enough to answer my Instagram question.
One caveat: of course there are tons of great local boutiques where you’ll find the odd frame, too, but for this investigation, my goal was to find a robust selection at low prices… so chains, art shops and online start-ups were the go-to. (And what my hive-mind of social media friends delivered to me!) But if you’re feeling guilty about lining the pockets of whoever owns Michaels (some billionaire named Michael, I can only assume?), I highly recommend buying a print from a local artist. Keep making that neighbourhood economy go ‘round!
All the Best Places to Buy Picture Frames in Vancouver, Ranked
The pros: Opus offers both readymade and custom frames, but they also hit a sweet spot in the middle with pre-cut framing systems, so you can affordably mix-and-match lengths and widths to get your right size.
The cons: Shipping isn’t available for anything that involves glass, so unfortunately most of the frame options have to be picked up… but maybe it’s nice to have an excuse to head to Granville Island or Gastown?
Sample product: The Opus Granville Frame Natural, 8” x 10”, $39.40
The pros: To be frank, I was frustrated with my experience wandering the aisles at the West Broadway Michael’s. “This one’s too ornate!” “This one’s too small!” I was like some sort of confusingly snobby minimalist Goldilocks, one who has a taste for the good life after working for Western Living for 10 years but also buys posters off the internet and calls them “art.” But then I got this hot tip from a former Michael’s employee: find a too-big frame off the shelf that you like, and get the custom framing counter to just cut a mat to fit your specific artwork. (Follow up tip: sign up for the newsletter before you go shipping because sweet framing discount coupons get sent out all the time.)
Bonus pro point: I also did find that it was easier to look for the sizes I needed on the online store than on the physical shelves thanks to the filtering tool, and click-and-collect was simple and quick.
The cons: As mentioned above, overwhelming selection of things that aren’t quite right. Don’t go when you’re hangry.
Sample product: Blonde Belmont Frame with Mat, 8” x 10” with mat, $15.99
The pros: A collection of simple, well-priced frames, designed in Montreal and (allegedly) sustainably sourced. Packs of two available for a discount.
The cons: A limited selection of designs; mats sold separately.
Sample product: White Oak Frame, 11” x 14” (which would fit an 8”x10” with a mat, sold separately), $29.95
4. London Drugs
The pros: Because of London Drugs’s photo lab services, they actually have a surprisingly robust frame selection, including some oddball sizes like 12” x 18” and 12” x 36”. You can shop online, too, (or order for in-store pickup) and the prices are appropriately drugstore-cheap.
The cons: No custom framing options here, or mat-cutting services.
Sample product: The KG Langford Frame, 8” x 10”, $12.99
The pros: Considering that Indigo was once a store called Chapters where I would spend rainy afternoons reading but not buying Fox Trot comics, I’m forever impressed by their chic home décor selection. The frames on offer here are reasonably priced (often on sale, in fact!) and subtly sophisticated— a floating marble frame? I’m listening…
The cons: Limited sizing is available here, mostly 8” x 10” or 5” x 7”, but if you’re looking for something elegant for a standard-sized print, this works just fine.
Sample product: Oui Gallery Frame, 8” x 10”, $22.71 (on sale)
The pros: Like Opus, Deserres also does custom framing, so there’s an opportunity to grab frames off the shelf or order something hyper-specific if you can’t find what you need. The house-brand gallery frames are classic and simple, and come in a variety of sizes if you want to get a little matchy-matchy with your gallery wall.
The cons: Not necessarily the cheapest option of the bunch — though to be fair, the house-brand frames use real glass and not plexiglass, so you’re getting what you pay for.
Sample product: Deserres Gallery Photo Frame, 8” x 10” with mat, $47.99
7. Poster Store
The pros: Lots of large-format sizes available here at value prices, in classic finishes like oak, matte white and various metallics. Free shipping over $45, with fairly speedy delivery dates.
The cons: You have to buy mats separately, and there’s ultimately a pretty limited selection of sizes to choose from. Also they list the prices in cm which really is annoying. I know we live in Canada. I know the metric system has been part of the education system since before I was born. But pragmatically we live in a world of inches and I resent having to do math when I’m trying to decorate!
Sample product: Black Wood Frame, 21cm x 30cm (a.k.a., 8.2” x 11.8”), $19.95
8. West Elm
The pros: West Elm frames feature crisp, wide white matting that looks whatever you put in there — a macaroni poster, a gum wrapper — look damn good. I don’t want to be cheesy but… maybe they’re even works of art? (Too far! It was too far!)
The cons: Expensive. Keep your eyes peeled for sales.
Sample product: Multi-mat Wood Gallery Frame, 8” x 10” with mat, $65
The pros: You can’t ever predict what you’re going to find here!
The cons: You can’t ever predict what you’re going to find here.
Pro hack: Many sources suggested finding a piece of HomeSense art with a frame you like and just popping out the "Live Laugh Love" poster inside. This hot tip also works for thrift store find!
There you have it: my non-extensive, non-exhaustive guide to whatever suggestions the internet had for me about frame shopping. The good news is, I found the frames I needed in the process; the bad news is, I bought a few too many and now I have to go find some more prints to put in them. A vicious cycle begins anew.