Way back in the day, I sourced art and wall decor for mass retail… working with a buyer (who happened to be one my best friends, so it sometimes felt like we were just shopping!) to select prints and frames, creating collections that the average shopper could quickly and easily shop. Although we worked with some amazing people and vendors (much of the art was printed in LA or Canada), I was in the midst of becoming disillusioned with the traditional retail model and my experience in this category was no different. I grew tired of dictating prints based on color and social trends and sales analysis – I felt that art should be personal and mean something and what we were selling… was the opposite of that.
I swore that I would never hang anything on my walls that didn’t mean something to me – and so far have been able to stick to that. Art doesn’t have to be expensive or an original; some of the best pieces are simple – a note, an old photo, a drawing from a niece or a nephew, a print from a favorite photographer, etc. But if you are going to look at something everyday (and nail it into your wall! does that scare you guys as much as it does me?!), it should be something you love; finding those pieces takes time.
Finding the right piece for your home is not always easy, but framing it should be. I used to find myself finding prints that I loved but not buying them because I didn’t want to deal with framing… or because the frame would end up being more expensive than the artwork. Luckily, Dara Deshe Segal had a similar problem and her experience led her to start Simply Framed in 2014. Simply Framed exists to make the framing process simple, by guiding you through the framing process step-by-step and offering a curated selection of the highest quality framing materials. Dara and I chatted a few months ago about the process – read on to learn more about Simply Framed!
WHAT LED YOU TO START SIMPLY FRAMED?
There’s a long answer and a short answer.
The short answer is two-fold:
From 2010-2011 I spent time working for pioneering online art website 20×200 and while there helped add a custom framed option to every print sold. It was incredibly hard to find a vendor that could meet all of our needs at a great price and with good timing. At the same time, it seemed like more and more online galleries were popping up, plus sites like Etsy were growing rapidly.
I personally was sick of schlepping my own growing affordable art collection to the framer and always finding the experience to be more confusing, more expensive and more inconvenient than the previous trip. In between, I tried some terrible DIY solution or Ikea hacks and found that process, though cheaper, netted a very bad-looking result.
While doing the research on framing for 20×200, the seed for Simply Framed started to form but I didn’t pursue the business full time until 2 years later when I saw how badly my DIY versions were looking and how the online art market was really starting to boom.
The longer answer a series of specific framing experiences that made me realize how badly our service was needed:
In college I organized concerts and part of the process involved designing a poster to promote the shows. Except of course they were all odd-sized. So what did I do? Like most people in this country, I went to Michael’s. I was greeted by a nice associate. He started by asking me about my room. By this time I was a senior and my dorm room was pretty awesome.
“My room is decorated in Shabby Chic from Target, mostly white with blue florals,” I said.
“Blue! What shade of blue?” He asked.
“Baby blue!” I answered.
And that’s how we came up with a design that had 3 18×24 windows cut within a baby-blue finished wood frame. While it blended “rock concert” with “Shabby Chic” well for the next 6 months in my dorm, it doesn’t look good anywhere now. Lesson learned – concert posters – always frame in black or white.
2. The Local Frame Shop
You walk in and it’s just overwhelming.
At the time I was working for 20×200, an art website based in NYC, and I fell in love with a print by renowned graphic designer Paula Scher.
I decided to go for it, my first major art purchase, a large 30×40 inch print and so because 20×200 didn’t offer framing yet, I went to the local shop and chose a simple, natural wood frame, plexiglass and no mat, and was charged $500 (for something Simply Framed now sells for $200 including shipping).
I then had to wait 4 weeks, pick it up and carry it home.
A few weeks later, I noticed the corners coming apart on the wall, so I had to carry it back, wait for it to be fixed, hope they would call me when it was ready and then finally pick it up again.
3. The Internet
So then I went online and tried 3 different websites that offered a version of mail-in custom framing, only to find more overwhelming choices, more problems and more frames arriving different from how they appeared online.
All the while, I looked around the internet in amazement of all of the industries that were being revolutionized by e-commerce like Warby Parker for prescriptive eyewear and True & Co. for buying well-fitting bras. Once complex shopping experiences were suddenly made easier through great design and curation. I thought to myself:
Why do I still need to schlep to the frame shop when all I want is a simple custom frame?
And that is when Simply Framed was born.
HOW IT WORKS
WHAT INSPIRES YOUR WORK?
Our customers, whether artists, gallery-owners or consumers.
Every piece that enters our shop means something to it’s current or future owner and we’re constantly inspired by the stories our customers share during their checkout experience. We have a section that asks for details and a description of the art and very frequently we get an essay. It’s so much fun to read them, then see the art, and then hear from the customer once they have their frame in hand.
WHAT GETS YOU THROUGH THE DAY? WHAT MAKES YOUR DAY?
What gets me through the day is that I really love what our company is doing and the great people on our team and our great clients. I’m reminded with every repeat order that our service is something that was missing from the market and that is both satisfying and motivating.
What makes my day is when a customer writes us after hanging their frame to share a photo or just that they are happy with both the finished product and our service. We do a lot of behind the scenes customer support and when a customer writes to say thank you and complement our team, that never fails to make my day!
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR FRAMES… WHERE DO THE MATERIALS COME FROM? WHERE ARE THEY ASSEMBLED?
All of our custom frames are made-to-order in our shop just outside of Miami, Florida by our growing team of framers with over 100 years of combined framing experience.
We carry a collection of frame mouldings sourced from USA-based companies but sometimes made outside of the US. For example, there is a hand-finishing studio in France that gilds silver and gold like no one else.
Our plexi, matboard, backings, hardware and packaging materials all come from the USA and whenever possible from suppliers near us in Miami to reduce the shipping of these to our shop.
WHAT ARE YOUR BEST TIPS FOR FRAMING ARTWORK?
We recommend framing each piece individually in a way that best compliments the art. It usually makes for a much more interesting gallery wall, and ensures that if you choose to hang it somewhere else down the road, it will look phenomenal on its own.
Keep it simple. Seriously though, timeless styles are timeless for a reason. A custom frame is a decent investment and there’s nothing worse than wishing you had restrained yourself so that your artwork can work better in multiple spaces or as your personal style evolves. At Simply Framed, we only offer frame and mat styles that we think you’ll love for years to come.
YOU WORK WITH SOME INCREDIBLE ARTISTS – WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR WHEN SEEKING OUT NEW PARTNERS?
Thank you, we think so too! An ideal partner for us truly cares about how their work will look on the wall. They see the frame as not just a necessity, but the addition needed to complete the experience of enjoying their artwork.
Logistically, we look for artists that are looking for us and just didn’t know a service like ours existed. More often than not, a great partnership starts when the artist says something like “this is such great timing, I sell a lot of art online, to collectors all over the country, and I personally don’t want to deal with the framing.”
Lastly, we look for partners who are friendly and enjoyable to collaborate with!
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE AMERICAN MADE BRANDS & PRODUCTS?
I’m an American Apparel Tri-Blend fabric loyalist since 2003 and I own nearly every Ohio State t-shirt from a company called Homage. I’m from Columbus, OH and am lucky to call the founder a close friend. I’ve been a fan of all things Clare Vivier since a friend introduced me to her designs in 2010. Winter Session accessories are a more recent discovery since moving to Denver. Their leather wears beautifully. Matteo Linens are amazing, despite the price tag. My go to baby gift of choice are American made Billie Blooms. Their designs are unisex and completely adorable and come in a really cute canvas pouch for re-use.
I LOVE THAT YOU’VE SIMPLIFIED AN INCREDIBLY COMPLICATED & EXPENSIVE PROCESS… HAVE YOU EXPANDED THIS SIMPLIFICATION INTO OTHER AREAS OF YOUR LIFE?
Love this question. I don’t necessarily have a uniform but I’ve always been one to find a key item I love and buy it in every (neutral) color. I’m actually about 6 months pregnant so right now my wardrobe is pretty sparse – I rotate 3 pairs of jeans or pants with Hatch or Gap Maternity tanks or an Equipment top and a loose cardigan or chambray button down shirt. For something a little less casual I have a few AYR silk tanks that I just bought a few sizes too big to get me through summer.
I was starting to feel my To-Do lists were getting out of hand so I started just blocking time on my calendar for specific tasks instead of compiling a list to cross off. I’m not 100% about sticking to it, but I’m getting better.