Frame of mind
I love art. When I was growing up, my friends would hang Michael Jordan posters on their walls while I tended more toward Salvador Dali. When I was in high school, I happened upon a small vintage poster and pinned it to my wall. After I graduated college, I had it framed. Cheaply. No conservation glass, archival mounting or acid-free mat.

Today, it turns out that poster is worth a good bit more than I paid for it. But the lame frame job hasn't helped it keep its value.

Having visited countless galleries, framing shops, design studios, and beautifully decorated homes over the past decade or so, I've seen a wide variety of art, pictures, and other keepsakes displayed on those walls. Some have been beautifully displayed. Others not so much.

Sure, sometimes it's just bad art, but that's a matter of taste. More often, the problem is the wrong frame. Wrong size, wrong color, wrong style. Or worse, wrong material, invisibly allowing a cherished piece of art to deteriorate slowly.

I've also visited art museums all over the United States and abroad and recall that the frames I've seen there always work, are always beautiful and, I would imagine, always designed to protect and conserve the often priceless works of art.

How do they do it? To find out, and more importantly, to get some tips on how homeowners can benefit from the same techniques, I decided to go where the museums go.

JLP Fine Art & Custom Framing Galleries in Baltimore is known among museum curators, conservators, art collectors and "average Joes" alike for high-quality, classic framing. The frame shop, owned by Thomas Stone, is one of the few in the area that still offer such Old World techniques as finished corners, hand-carved accents and custom gilding.

JLP was established in 1974 by James L. Pierce. Stone joined the JLP team in the mid-1990s, purchased the business in 2006 and shortly thereafter added to the midtown frame shop with an art gallery in Green Spring Station.

Featuring such artists as Philip Koch, Emily Gaines Demsky, Micah Cash and Lat Naylor, the gallery seeks to present a wide range of contemporary artwork from both local, emerging and nationally recognized artists. And while Stone's gallery features work in a variety of mediums, it's always against the backdrop of frames.

Hundreds of corner sections in metal, wood, silver, gold, cherry and pine weave a herringbone pattern on the walls. So what's Stone's advice for narrowing down the options?

"Frames should complement what is being framed. Often, more is made of the frame than the art itself," he says. "Triple mats and double frames are trends that will date the artwork instead of allowing it to be timeless."

For that reason, frames should not be selected specifically to match the decor. Aesthetic value aside, there's a reason museums and personal collections are filled with centuries-old paintings but not nearly as many tables and chairs the same age. Furnishings tend to follow trends because every decade or so they need to be replaced.

Upholstered pieces become stained or the frames begin to loosen over time. Drapes fade. Painted or papered walls need to be refreshed every five to ten years.

Because art hangs on the wall, though, it outlasts most home furnishings.

"You don't sit on it, walk on it or eat on it," Stone says. Done correctly, art pieces and their respective frames generally won't wear out, so there's really no need to replace them.

That being the case, Stone says, "with framing it's best to stick with classic styles that will work in any era," no matter what color you paint the walls.

Stone offered some framing "dos" and "don'ts," giving tips on how to best showcase fine art, limited editions, photographs, posters and memorabilia.

Fine art, limited editions

•Invest in materials. Insist on high-quality matting and glazing (glass). The added expense to upgrade from standard frame shop offerings to higher "museum grade" materials is worth it when you consider the added protection and preservation.