Woman decorating home


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For less than the price of a tacky poster from Ikea, you can decorate your home with a piece of fine art from one of the greats. Manet, Goya, Degas, Bonheur — take your pick. As Redditors on r/Frugal explained in a recent post, the key is pairing open-access fine art with a thrifted frame.

Open-Access Fine Art

There are two reasons cheap wall art — the kind you might find in the “home” section at a department store — looks tacky. The first reason is that the art is usually ugly, boring, or some combination of the two. Take this canvas piece from Ikea. Why is the color palette so offensive? Some of the lipsticks are the color of bile.

Anyway, you’ll have better luck if you download and order fine art prints from Wikimedia or open-access museum databases like The Met or the National Gallery of Art. If animals are more your thing, the Audubon Society also has a gallery of free, high-resolution images.

The internet has a wealth of these resources. To find more, simply search for things like photography or art and affix keywords like “public domain” or “open access” to your query.

Once you’ve found a piece that you like, you should download the highest resolution file (in CYMK if you can). Then reach out to local printers or order online through a service like Mpix or FinerWorks.

High-Quality Frames

You might have a great Frida Kahlo print, but if you frame it in a tasteless plexiglass frame, the piece isn’t going to shine. Instead, shop around at thrift stores. “Ignore the art inside,” the original poster on Reddit writes. “The reason rich people's walls look good and others don't is the frame.”

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Screenshot of The Met's Open-Access CollectionPhoto credit: Cheapism

Other Ideas for Cheap Framed Wall Art

Don’t limit yourself to online databases, especially if your tastes don’t align with gallery or museum art. Other ways to find wall art on the cheap include:

  • Library Rental: One Redditor reports that their public library lets members borrow art. Like a moneyed art collector or a museum, you can simply rotate the pieces when your loan is up.

  • Postcards: Most museums sell cheap postcard prints of their collections for just a few bucks. Frame them or make a fine art collage for cheap but tasteful wall décor.

  • Old Calendars: Fine art calendars often come with large, high-quality prints. For less than the price of a poster, you can buy an old calendar, cut out the pieces, and hang them on your wall.

  • Local Artists: Support your arts scene by shopping around for local art. It might not always be cheap, but at least you know where your money is going.

  • Estate Sales and Thrift Stores: While it’s rare to find great art at estate sales and thrift stores, you could get lucky. Bonus points if the piece comes with a nice frame.

  • Antique Books: “If you want something that can look more upscale and sophisticated, you can get pages from old books — I mean very old — from antique booksellers,” one commenter suggests

The Bottom Line

Whether your budget is $5 or $500, you don’t have to settle for cheap wall art. People on the tightest budgets can opt for small-scale prints in the form of postcards, while folks with a bit more spending money can make prints using one of the many open-access databases online. Both methods beat a crappy poster from a department store that 1,000 other people have.

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