When I was a younger version of myself, I recall holidays spent visiting my grandma in her mobile home in Lyons, Wisconsin. Though space was limited, she happily sacrificed one portion of that flimsy vinyl wall for pictures of her family. Kids, grandkids, great grandkids, and siblings organized in no particular order around a large family photo of that one time we all happened to be in the same place—probably a wedding. If anyone went through that house while she was living there, they would instantly know my grandma loved her family very much because those photos stood out. They were framed with heart and intention.

“People are much more educated consumers as far as why framing is important, why it is necessary,” says Michelle Waldeck, owner of Monroe Street Framing. “It helps to go to a professional framer. When I started, people would say, ‘Do I really need that?’ Framing almost became a last thought. They do their couch, their drapery, their paint, and then they do not have anything in their budget for framing. Now, people come in knowing what good materials are and what kind of look they want. People are more into the process of doing it.”

Done well, framing makes walking into every room its own experience. We should not be framing things so other people can ooh and aah at our lifestyles, though it can feel nice, but so that every time we enter that room, we are taken somewhere. Whether fine art or pictures drawn by our kids, if the pieces are not moving us, why are they there in the first place? Then there are the times where we fell in love with a painting or print, but hated it when we brought it home. Michelle says it is often the case that the wrong frame was used. After working her magic, the owner often falls in love with the piece all over again.

“Our goal is always to not compete with the artwork. In some ways, you’re supposed to see the whole thing as one composition, and the framing can add to the artwork. Ideally, you shouldn’t be seeing the framing, the mat, and the artwork separately.”

A professional framer will also make you feel confident in your framing choices. Michelle asks pointed questions, and her customers start filling in the blanks. “A lot of times people come in the door and are like, ‘I have no idea what I want to do.’ So we start discussing. Where do you think you might hang this? Are there other things in the area? If it is a sentimental piece, maybe you are framing a relative, did they have a favorite color? We start the process with that.

“People always know what they do not want. I can start pulling frames and asking, ‘Do you like this?’

“’No, I hate it.’

“It takes away some of the stress and anxiety some people have over it. They realize they have an idea on what they are doing.”

Going to a local framer, like Monroe Street Framing, also means an added layer or two of customization. Let’s say you have a piece of wood from your grandfather’s cabin. Michelle can make a frame out of that using her onsite woodshop. Or, if you are like my mom, you might want to frame dad’s flight jacket and cap. Box frames can really make a room something special.

That level of customization also means unique ways to save you money. “Sometimes we will say go buy a readymade frame, and we will cut the mats to fit. We try to help people as much as we can with budgets and ideas and materials and their space. There is almost always a solution.”

Oftentimes, when people do not know what they are doing, they create this sort of clutter effect. With the right frame and an eye for design, the pieces are given a sort of life, and the room can breathe.

Michelle says, “You want to be in a space that brings you joy or comfort or tranquility, so if you take it to somebody that appreciates those things as far as design and home and spaces, we can help you come to that place.” A local framer not only loves what they do, but truly understands the sentimental value of each piece you bring in. Their goal isn’t just to frame your piece, but to ensure it will be preserved for a lifetime.

Kyle Jacobson is a writer living in Sun Prairie.

Photographs taken by Eric Tadsen.

Monroe Street Framing

1901 Monroe Street
Madison, WI 53711