First, go on a treasure hunt for frames stored in your home. Wipe off the frames with a damp rag and clean the glass. Try one of these techniques to add zip to your frames:
* Use brightly colored acrylic paint to add dots, zigzags, squiggles, spirals or stars.
* Splatter paint in a contrasting color all over the frame. To do so, dip a tooth brush in a bit of paint, aim the brush at the frame and run your thumb across the bristles (wear protective glasses and a smock or you'll get splattered, too!).
* Stencil or hand-paint a simple floral motif around the frame.
* Hammer gold or silver star or flower-shaped upholstery tacks around the edge of the frame.
* Decoupage a portion, or all, of the frame with bits of paper that complement the image you plan to place in it. For example, a photo from a recent vacation could be embellished with an old map; a sepia-toned family photo could be decorated with stamps, cigar or fruit-crate labels, pressed leaves or flower petals, or pages from an old music book or dictionary.
A recent family photo could be enhanced with wallpaper or wrapping paper. A photo of your children might be decorated with comic-book pages or torn pieces of colorful tissue paper. One of my baseball-fanatic friends cherishes an autographed picture of her idol in a frame she covered with baseball-game ticket stubs.
* Paint the frame black or dark green. Then, use a gold marker pen to write a favorite word or saying or the name of a loved one around the edge of the frame.
* Glue on trinkets. Select the treasure to enhance the image. Apply just about anything to one corner, or smother the whole frame with dog bones, beads, buttons, dried flowers, moss, rose petals, fishing flies, seashells, foreign coins, medallions, silk flowers, a pin or single earring or a plastic airplane or action figure.
* Attach a bow or ready-made silk or dried-flower swag to the top of the frame.
If you don't care to decorate the frame, add a unique touch to your artwork by decorating the mat. Several of the techniques described above work well on mats, too. For example, add the names of spices to the mats of herb prints.
The quick fix. If you don't have the time or energy to do a major picture frame makeover, you can rejuvenate tired-looking frames in just a few minutes.
* Touch up scratches by using either a permanent ink marker, acrylic paint or shoe polish. Gold frames can be touched up with gold paint from your local craft shop.
* Do you have a great frame but it's not the right color? Spray painting takes only a few seconds. You can also repaint with leftover interior or exterior house paint.
* The "distressed" look is really in right now, so why not leave your scuffed up frame the way it is, or add to its distress? To strategically remove bits of paint, wrap a bit of sand paper around a block of wood. Brush the sandpaper over the edges and ridges of the frame to give it a worn or antiqued look.
Other ways to use frames
Besides housing artwork or photos, try using your picture frames in some of these alternative ways:
* Set a large, glassless frame on your mantel. Place a bowl of fresh flowers in front of it, to frame it.
* Place a small frame over a distracting electrical box or thermostat.
* Include an unusual frame (with no glass or image) in a large grouping of artwork.
* Remove the hanging apparatus from the back of your frame and use it as a tray on an end table. A small mirror can be used as a tray for perfumes in the bathroom.
* Hang an old glassless frame from your garden fence and place a flower pot in the middle of it.
* If you have framed art that you know you'll never use in your house, don't let it take up closet space. Cover your garage walls with your cast offs.