Living Room Series: Framing William Morris Prints

Once a room is “decorated” with the bare essentials, rugs, furniture, window treatments, and lamps, the next major step is to address what’s going on the wall. Blank bare walls automatically make a room feel unfinished, and conversely, wall decor is one of the best ways to make a major statement in a room—in fact, I would argue that artwork is the single most powerful tool to completely transform a space. As an artist (and a gallerist!), this is a topic that I feel very strongly about, and it’s definitely something that I will continue addressing in future posts. Unfortunately, this topic also poses a bit of a quandary for many people; after all, most of us cannot necessarily afford to decorate our walls with real original works of art, and personally, I’m really not a fan of the recent trend for “word art” or any other types of mass-produced “decorator” art (no offense if you love it—to each their own!).

So today, I wanted to share my quick, in-expensive solution to this problem for my living room walls—framing William Morris prints! Obviously, if William Morris prints aren’t your thing, then you could frame a different type of print or decorative paper—even wrapping paper! Think of all those gorgeous patterned papers which are always lining the walls of Paper Source—you could frame them just as they are, or use them as the background and mount a photograph or a special quote on top of them. My point is, there are all sorts of creative things you can do with paper without resorting to buying something mass-produced.

In my case, I adore Morris patterns and have been painting them for years, so what better to hang on my walls than the prints themselves?? The patterned papers I am using are all taken from 12 x 12 inch William Morris wall calendars, which I just purchased off of Amazon for about $13. The frames I am using are the Ikea RIBBA frames, which worked perfectly for this project, because the opening for the mat is just under 12 x 12 inches. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial of how I did this project:

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First, I used a metal straightedge and a sharp utility knife to cut all of the patterned sheets out of the calendar.

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Next, I used a ruler to measure exactly where I needed to position the pattern, in order for it to be correctly centered in the mat. I marked this spot carefully on the cardboard backing (which came with the frame), and I made sure to specifically mark each corner of the print, so that I could easily line the pattern up again in the correct spot.

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Then, I sprayed the back of the calendar sheet with Krylon Spray Adhesive. I use spray adhesive, rather than a double-sided adhesive tape, because I think it enables you to mount the paper very smoothly, without getting lots of bumps or ripples in it (which is especially important if you are working with inexpensive flimsy paper, like calendar paper). Obviously, follow the instructions on the can to make sure you get a good application, and make sure you spray in a well-ventilated area!

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Next, carefully mount the paper to the frame backing, making sure to line up the corners of the paper with the pencil marks. Fortunately, the spray adhesive is allows you some flexibility in re-positioning if necessary. Then, I use a clean paper towel and press the paper onto the cardboard, smoothing out any potential air bubbles.

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And there go you! Re-assemble the frame, and you are done! Actually, one more quick tip: to prevent any “gaping” between the paper and the mat, I actually used little self-adhesive glue-lines to adhere the mat to the cardboard backing. You could probably just use double-stick tape, but I used these, which are acid-free (it’s always nice to use acid-free products even if the object you are framing isn’t particularly valuable!).

One last note about this project. I chose to leave the “glass” off of the Ikea frames. The one downside of these frames is the “glass” that the frames come with is a very cheap plexiglass. It really doesn’t look like glass, and unfortunately, it is highly reflective, so personally, I feel like it ruins the look of the prints. Fortunately, since these “prints” aren’t valuable at all, I’m not particularly concerned about protecting them, so I just choose to leave the plexiglass off, and I think it looks great. Down the line, if I really wanted to “upgrade” the project, I could actually have the pattern printed on higher quality fine art paper and use non-reflective glass, which looks really professional. It might cost more like $100 per print, which is certainly more than I wanted to spend now, but in the grand scheme of things, it still isn’t that bad. I was shopping in the mall a few months ago, and I found some large framed William Morris prints for sale at Arhaus for about $400!!! In the meantime, I framed six of these patterns for my living room wall for a total cost of about $100 ($14.99 per/frame and $13 for the Morris calendar)! Not bad for something that transforms my living room wall!