Furniture Makeovers

Vintage Frame Makeover You Won’t Believe

Hello Friends,

Are you ready to see how I made an “old vintage frame” look like an “old vintage frame?” ……Just in a different color. First, let me start with a little background.  The painting is about 35+ years old (ok…technically not vintage…but close) and the oils show zero signs of cracking, fading or yellowing. 

An old picture frame can look vintage - Find out how | #sponsored Vintage Market & Designs | The Chelsea Project |

Disclosure: Products were supplied by Vintage Market & Design, but the project choice and opinions are 100% my own.

Around the painting is a matte made of linen. It truly has aged and the fabric looked like it might not withstand my removing the painting from the frame. This caused me considerable concern.

Go from gaudy gold to fresh and fab | #Vintage Frame Makeover | #sponsored Vintage Market & Designs | The Chelsea Project |

Add to this a frame that is made of 100% carved wood. To my knowledge, this frame has never had any kind of wood conditioner applied to help keep the wood supple.  So when the condition of the frame is combined with the super-aged linen matte, I pondered whether to remove the frame from the painting fearing that the frame could warp —or worse. What if it snapped in two?  And goodness knows what could happen to the matte if that happened.

Vintage frames can be refinished without disassembling the unit | Find out how | #Vintage Frame Makeover | #sponsored Vintage Market & Designs | The Chelsea Project |

All this said to let you know that there is much to consider when working with vintage oils and frames. And I urge you to consult an expert in vintage frame restoration for specific questions before embarking on your project.


So here’s where I finally started. With an old oil painting, a weakened linen matte, and a brittle wood frame in gaudy gold.  To say that my nerves were on edge is an understatement.  Truth be told, I was a total basket case.

It all starts with the gaudy gold Before photo | See how to refinish | #Vintage Frame Makeover | #sponsored Vintage Market & Designs | The Chelsea Project |

Step 1.  Protect the Oil Painting and Matte

  • I decided to work with the unit left in tact so I lifted the frame to a comfortable working level by propping it up on paint cans.  This allowed me to sit on the floor and still have lots of room to move.

  • The frame was vacuumed and wiped with a damp cloth. No other special prep was involved.

  • Then a piece of thick brown construction paper (found on a roll in the paint section at the home improvement center) was cut to lay over the oil.  

  • Frog Tape (the yellow one made for delicate surfaces) was used to secure the paper to the edge of the frame. To my dismay, the tape would not stick to the linen matte so I had to attach it to the inner most edge of the frame.  But not to worry, the easy paint repair of that area comes later.

I’m also sorry that I didn’t snap a photo of this process before I started painting.  It just proves how rattled I was in the beginning.

Protect the oil painting during the frame refinishing process | See the full tutorial | #Vintage Frame Makeover | #sponsored Vintage Market & Designs | The Chelsea Project |

Step 2. Find the Right Products for the Project

For this project, I chose to use paints and products from a company called Vintage Market & Design. I had never used these products before, but they had all of the items that seemed perfect for the job —-based on my own research for refinishing vintage frames. 

Paints and products for the frame redo | See the full tutorial | #Vintage Frame Makeover | #sponsored Vintage Market & Designs | The Chelsea Project |

 Step 3. Layer on Color

To get an authentic look, layering on color is key so grab a coffee and get comfortable.  You’ll need to commit to the long haul.  I used a combination of colors and carefully applied each one with an artist brush.

Patina occurs in layers | See the full tutorial for details | #Vintage Frame Makeover | #sponsored Vintage Market & Designs | The Chelsea Project |

And let me say that it took four solid coats of paint before I finally had my Goldilocks moment.

  • The first coat was Burlap.  Too dark.

  • The second coat was Sand.  Too gray.

  • The third coat was Antique White. Too white.

  • The fourth coat was a mixture of Burlap and Antique White. Just right.

Hello — Goldielocks.

But also note that a true patina occurs over time —-and therefore — in layers. ALWAYS in layers. So just because these colors didn’t quite work as the final PAINT finish, it doesn’t mean they don’t add to the aging process. Each and every color shows somewhere on the frame and is important to the overall look.

One color does not a patina make.

So my answer is yes.  Always layer on color. Lots and lots of color.

Step 4.  Distress the Surface

Once the paint has thoroughly dried, use the softest of touches and lightly distress the frame.  Since I couldn’t find any super-high grit sandpaper (like 2000+), I used old 240-grit sandpaper that barely had any grit left. 

With the vacuum in one hand and the sandpaper in the other, I slowly made my way around the frame.

Paint and distress | The first two steps to refinishing a vintage frame | #Vintage Frame Makeover | #sponsored Vintage Market & Designs | The Chelsea Project |

 Step 5. Wax on the Grunge

Once the distressing and vacuuming of the dust is complete, a clear wax was applied to the entire frame.

This company’s wax is a super soft and supple wax — almost like a gel. I applied it to every square inch of the frame, including all of the nooks and crannies, using my fingertips.  The wax was allowed to set for about 30 minutes and then given a slight buff with a clean tee-shirt.

Then a product called Grunge (below – charcoal powder) was applied. This product ages the nooks and crannies the way a frame would age as it hangs on the wall.

Some of the Grunge was mixed with wax and applied and some of the Grunge was applied to the waxed surface as a dry powder. I just worked with the product until I had my Karate Kid moment.

Wax on. Wax off.

Remember that line in the movie?

Well, it applies here, too.  It’s all in working with the product and using your eye to judge.

Find out how Grunge Powder can rock your world | #Vintage Frame Makeover | #sponsored Vintage Market & Designs | The Chelsea Project |

And remember to work the Grunge based on how dust would settle when the frame is hanging on the wall.  This is key to getting an authentic look.

Dust does not usually settle upside down.  LOL..

And it usually settles lighter at the top and heavier at the bottom — So Grunge was applied lighter at the top and a bit heavier at the bottom.

Grunge powder creates the aging effect in the nooks and crannies | #Vintage Frame Makeover | #sponsored Vintage Market & Designs | The Chelsea Project |

Step 6. Add a Touch of Glow

The last product added is a very light gold cream called Crowning Touch Antique Gold. This product is extremely translucent but was still applied sparingly to the raised areas of the frame with my finger tips and then buffed with a tee-shirt covering my finger tips. The goal was to mellow out the frame color with the matte color, but not change the new color of the frame.

Final touch - Warm glow | #Vintage Frame Makeover | #sponsored Vintage Market & Designs | The Chelsea Project |

Step 7. One More Thing

As far as fixing the frame where the FrogTape adhered — Remember that?  All I did was slide an index card between the matte and the frame and then DRY BRUSH the mixture of Burlap and Antique White onto the frame. It is the only part of the frame that didn’t get colors layered on, but it totally doesn’t show. The dry brush effect is perfect.

Solid wood carved frames can be made to look vintage, but refreshed | #Vintage Frame Makeover | #sponsored Vintage Market & Designs | The Chelsea Project |

And that’s all there is to it. 

Vinage frame gets a refreshing makeover | Find out how | #Vintage Frame Makeover | #sponsored Vintage Market & Designs | The Chelsea Project |

All it takes is a few of the right products and a little bit of time.

Vintage frame goes from gaudy gold to refreshing off-white | Full tutorial is on the blog | #Vintage Frame Makeover | #sponsored Vintage Market & Designs | The Chelsea Project |

If you have questions, please start a conversation in the comments section. We love questions and comments.

And don’t forget to have the GIVEAWAYS sent to your email….You can sign up to receive an email on the side bar……..

And, of course, here’s a handy graphic for pinning this idea for later…. 🙂 

Vintage Frame Makeover | #Vintage Frame Makeover | #sponsored Vintage Market & Designs | The Chelsea Project |

Just FIY, here’s another time I used FrogTape for delicate surfaces (Click here).

6 Tips for Painting Tight Spaces & Delicate Surfaces | The Chelsea Project |

Plus a makeover to update the colors of an oil painting (Click here).

Easy Outdated Wall Art Turned into Background Texture | The Chelsea Project


  • Reply Carolann November 9, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    I’m in love…and it’s with your frame Susie! I absolutely adore the transformation of such a fine piece of artwork. The colors are so very perfect…yes…even Goldilocks is envious! Outstanding and dreamy! xo

    • Reply theChelseaProject November 9, 2016 at 7:47 pm

      Thanks so much Carolann! I am always so encouraged by your sweet and kind words. Thanks again.

  • Reply Lisa November 9, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    This frame is now a work of art! Beautiful job Susie.

    • Reply theChelseaProject November 9, 2016 at 8:36 pm

      Thanks so much, Lisa. It was hidden away for probably 15 years so we are thrilled to have it refreshed and useable again. Tahnks so much for stopping by. XO

  • Reply Debrashoppeno5 November 9, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    The frame is beautiful. Layering the paint was the perfect way to achieve the vintage look.

    • Reply theChelseaProject November 10, 2016 at 11:35 am

      Thanks Debra…. Love having you stop by… XOXO

  • Reply Michelle November 9, 2016 at 9:54 pm

    I am in love with this frame Susie! I can’t believe you used so many colors but the look you achieved is just gorgeous!

    • Reply theChelseaProject November 10, 2016 at 11:34 am

      Thanks Michelle. Yes! Layers of color is where the magic happens…. LOL.

  • Reply loveyoumoredesigns November 9, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    Wow, what an undertaking! I would be nervous, too! You did a great job. I think that makes you an expert now:) xoKathleen Charm Bracelet Diva {At Home}

    • Reply theChelseaProject November 10, 2016 at 11:33 am

      LOL….Thanks Kathleen. Not sure I qualify as an expert, but I did learn a lot.

  • Reply Sue November 10, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    I am speechless how beautiful your frame makeover came out. It is so much better than before when it was gold. You made you priceless painting even more beautiful now. The paints you used and your how to tutorial are invaluable to me as I now remember a dark ornate frame I could do this on too. Love how the flowers look with the painting too.

    • Reply theChelseaProject November 11, 2016 at 8:42 am

      Thanks Sue! I love, love, love the products for refinishing frames and plan to do a couple more with the leftovers.

  • Reply Marie, The Interior Frugalista November 14, 2016 at 1:42 am

    I love how you meticulously did your homework first before starting this makeover and the results show it. The frame looks so much better with that gorgeous painting, making the colors look more vibrant – beautiful!

    • Reply theChelseaProject November 14, 2016 at 5:04 am

      Thanks Marie. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d study how to recreate old and dusty, but here we are. LOL. It really is a very different technique than simply doing a refresh. I do believe this is one of my all-time favorite makeovers.

  • Reply misstoni65 November 14, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    I love the lightened frame, that beautiful painting no longer competes for the attention it so deserves. You have so much skill and all the projects you’ve done to lighten your home are paying off! Beautiful job as usual friend!!

    • Reply theChelseaProject November 14, 2016 at 3:12 pm

      Thanks, Toni. You are the absolute best. Love having you stop by and leave your kind and encouraging words. XOXO

  • Reply Why Fusion's Bayberry Paint plus Espresso Wax is the Perfect Combination - The Chelsea Project November 23, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    […] ball rolling, I started by refinishing the frame.  In case you missed that post, you can click here to see the entire refinishing process. […]

  • Reply Sue March 3, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    I have frames that I’d like to makeover like this in the future when I have time and will be using this for reference and will likely contact you as you are the expert now.

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