ORC Week 2: The Plan, the Plaster Master, and the Myth of Mega Framing Sales

So, a lot of One Room Challenge work has been going on, and the results are going to be fantastic. This is lengthy post, with an update as to the work going on first and then some investigative reporting matching up one of America’s most popular Big Box arts and crafts shops against small framing businesses as I look to frame the inspiration behind my ORC.


I would normally split this into two posts, but I think this is good information for the ORC peeps and directly related to my ORC inspiration, too. And one of my main blogging subjects is value and quality for the dollars spent, so I had to get this out. Stick around to the end, because it’s info you should know! For you locals, there is a SALE coming up. Now onto my ORC….

An Artfully Fresh Foyer: Painting and the Plaster Master

This One Room Challenge foyer/staircase was really a tough one for me. (If you missed Week 1, you can find it here.) Originally I wanted wallpaper. Why? Well, I’m addicted to it for one. I also wanted the durability of it, when I thought about the house sagging, and new cracks developing, and kids with nasty fingers running up the stairs.

However, in this case, wallpaper wouldn’t just have to cover the foyer. It would have to do the staircase (with double height walls) and the second floor landing, too. We weren’t talking 6 double rolls, it would have been more like 16. Frankly, there was nothing out there that I liked that I could afford in that quantity. Sooooooo… paint it is, and it will be awesome!

Remember my inspiration?


I loved this airy, glowy coral (heck, the name of my design company is “Home Glow”). I also wanted to bring out an accent color in the painting that would make its overall beauty sing. Most of the trim in the house is Benjamin Moore Linen White 912. Perhaps not most people’s choice these days (and frankly not one I often recommend as a color consultant when a client is starting with a blank slate), Linen White is very creamy, but it works with an antique house like mine and is warm and homey (btw, I have seen Linen White as a wall color with White Dove OC-17 as trim, and it looks really nice!). What coral could I choose that would work with Linen White but still had a luster and a lightness?

I chose Pirate’s Cove Beach OC-80. It’s actually in BM’s line of whites!

Benjamin Moore Pirate’s Cove Beach OC-80

My plan is to have Pirate’s Cove in the foyer, with Linen White trim, and to change up to all Linen White going up the stairs to have an easier transition to the bedrooms. Not to mention, I have a super charming cream and coral stair runner planned, so the walls needed a color breather. A huge thank you to Benjamin Moore and Aubuchon Hardware for sponsoring this new color palette!

The overall inspiration board:


Now before the pretty can happen, the ugly must. And in an 18th century house, there is a whole lotta ugly and usually the plaster is a major rehab problem. Fortunately, my neighbor is Ben Wilson, Director of the Bureau of Historic Sites for the State of New Hampshire — who better to ask for a recommendation when you’re trying to resuscitate an old house?!

Four years ago, Ben referred me to Brian J. Barrett Restoration. Brian has done significant jobs for the State like the Franklin Pierce Homestead and Daniel Webster’s Birthplace. If you’re looking to move to New Hampshire, check out this place that he restored from top to bottom, all to period, which on the market right now. Brian did all the plaster, paint, and built-in work in my library (recently featured in New Hampshire Magazine and on Houzz.com — see the press page) among other projects. Furthermore, not only is Brian a fine craftsman, but, in Ben’s words, he is so scrupulous that Ben “would trust him with my wallet.” Strong recommendation.

Like all of our favorite romantic comedies, we will now have a montage to show the passing of time and get through the less interesting, albeit gritty, dirty, and necessary, parts of renovation — minus the catchy soundtrack. Plaster damage, wall damage, ceiling damage, and ripping up that dingy rug. This would be so much sexier if I DIYed — but my DIY days died with the cry of my firstborn child.


The paint job is almost done, we just need the electrician to come so we can clean up and paint the upstairs floor landing (bottom right pic above — we don’t have the time or budget to refinish, so I’ll be having that painted Linen White as well).

Want a peek?


Getting fresh? Ceilings are White Dove OC-17 in a pearl finish. Looking into my dining room. I can’t wait to get that big lantern in the front hung in the staircase. (Next week — lighting!)

The To-Do List

  1. Repair plaster walls and ceilings
  2. Remove rug up to where boys’ bedrooms start
  3. Paint (mostly)
  4. Install new stair runner (ordered)
  5. Install new foyer lights, stair lighting, and second floor landing lighting (ready to install)
  6. Have window treatment made (fabric on order — this will be a close one)
  7. Frame Cloud Towers (on order — continue reading!)
  8. Take apart and rewire lamp (eBay find I already have)
  9. Get lamp shade made (ordered)
  10. Order bench for beneath console (ordered)
  11. Accessorize with entry accoutrements, stairway art, family pictures, and throw rugs

Framing my painting — number 7 — turned into a bit of an adventure, as I went on a quest to see if those mega custom framing sales marketed by certain outlets were worth their salt. Keep reading to find out!

The Myth of Mega Custom Framing Sales

Ever get one of these flyers?


Well, I got one last week for 60% plus and additional 20% off (of course, I’ve since lost it). I immediately thought, “Hooray! I have big painting I need framed, stat. Now I can afford it!” And then I thought, “Amy, hold on. Think of what your super-suspicious and never-trust-anyone-who-wants-money-from-you father taught you. There must be a mighty big markup here if Big Box can then discount so low.” So I set out to discover how Big Box matched up to Main Street USA.


I’ve had things framed at Big Box before, and the people there are always perfectly lovely to work with. It’s also wonderful how they can mock-up your potential framing job on the computer right there for you to see. Sorry for the small iPhone pics — I forgot my camera. Obviously I’m not really an investigative reporter or I would be fired.

Not loving the frames that lay over the art's edge.

Not loving the frames that lay over the art’s edge, though this one is pretty in and of itself.



Wasn’t really intending on a linen liner, but as Big Box didn’t have any floater frames, this was the type of option I liked best. Still, a little blingy than I wanted for this project, and way more pricey.



With a natural frame instead. Objectively I like this better, but I’m afraid the natural wood will disappear on the coral walls.


Small boys LOVE big stores.

Big Box gave me a quote of approximate $580 for the first option and approximately $380 for the second, which meant that my 60% + 20% coupon was saving me $1,000+ on option #1. What???!?!?!!?!!!?! $1,500 for a frame job from Big Box at regular price!? That just doesn’t make sense. Next I went to Main Street in Concord, NH.

Small Framing Business USA

There are a few of framing businesses in my area, and when I investigated they all pretty much matched up as far as cost, quality, and customer service. Here I will highlight just the framers I chose for this particular project, but I fully support the others as well!


Rowland Art Studio is right on Main Street. It focuses on artists’ supplies, fine prints, printing for artists, and framing. It also has a custom sign shop.


This is only one of two walls full of frames, and this one has multiple sliding panels.


I was looking at this floater frame — I liked that it was a burnished gold, and that they could paint the the interior black to make the painting pop, but the carved detail made it seem a little more “precious” than I was going for.


Owner and framer Scott Walton then explained that he can take any frame — one slightly more substantial, for example — and make it into a kind of floater, building it up and painting the interior black.


Hmmmm… If I could do that with a frame with cleaner lines, I think I like it!


I definitely like it — the one on the upper left!

But what would my price be? For the one on the upper left, about $360, for the one on the upper right, about $300. I know, I know — you’re saying that I’m not making a fair comparison to Big Box, but in the interest of comparing apples to apples, I asked what it would cost to add a linen liner to the upper left choice. The answer was about $200 — just about the same total that Big Box quoted me as their deeply discounted price.

For you Concord locals, Rowland has 20% custom framing orders 3-4 times per year (making their pricing even more competitive). The next sale will be the week of November 6 — in time to get your orders back for holiday gift giving!

Rowland Art Studio’s Scott Walton and Phil Gaige

Most of the frames in Big Box’s line are made of composite, not wood, and are manufactured in China. Rowland and the other local framers get their solid wood materials from U.S. manufacturers, and occasionally Italy. Furthermore, all work is done on site with the local guys, rather than being shipped out to a central location like Big Box. Not that I’ve ever had any trouble with BB damaging the goods in transit — still, it’s nice to know that if there is a problem, it can be rectified face to face.

As I said before, I have no problem with Big Box’s workmanship, and I still may to get framing done with there from time to time. What I object to is the discount farce. Let’s call a spade a spade and charge true value. And don’t forget to give Main Street, Anywhere, USA a try. It may just surprise you.


Questions, thoughts? Opinions? You can hate it all, and I won’t cry too much. 🙂 Next week, I’ll be showing you all the my ORC lighting plan, including how to mix your metals and carry/change your lighting style from one area to the next. I’m also going to throw another “you need to know this” in there, too, though not as long as this one! I’m pooped!


6 thoughts on “ORC Week 2: The Plan, the Plaster Master, and the Myth of Mega Framing Sales”

  1. Thanks! My mother-in-law is an artist and I do a ton of framing for my home and my husband’s office. This was a very helpful post. Good luck with the One Room Challenge, it is looking nice and the art is beautiful!

  2. And another great bargin is old frames, particularly for works of art on paper. You can find them for almost nothing at yard sales and auctions. The only trick is finding the right size for your piece of art work.

    1. Very true, Ellen. Good point! The one word of caution I have is to make sure the frame isn’t warped. Sometimes the warping isn’t apparent until you try to get a piece of glass in it. I’ve had that happen. 🙁 You can always use them around your front door peep hole like they did in “Friends” in that case, I guess!

  3. You are exactly right about the Big Box farce with their discount coupons! It never amounts to anything when you get in the store because it never applies to anything you want. If one part of framing has a slight discount they make up the difference else where. Try Hobby Lobby if you have one nearby and they are a Christian based company!!

    1. I love Hobby Lobby, and when I lived in Nashville, I went there all the time. Sadly, the nearest one is about 50 miles away. 🙁

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