23 Ordinary Objects You Can Gift-ify By Framing Them

November 22, 2016

You can turn just about anything into wall art if you frame it, so we partnered with Framebridge—an online custom framing service—to share all the odds and ends you should be framing for gifts this holiday season.

A few years ago, I found a map of a corner of the world I cherish in the $1 bin at Pageant Print Shop. It wasn't vintage or especially artful, rather a functional tri-folded type—but I loved the colors and it made my heart pitter-patter: Undone, it was five feet long and dotted with ferry paths and all the watery blue inlets in a great, sprawling bay. I got it framed, my favorite way to preserve and protect good memories, and gave it to my boyfriend as a gift. (It's his favorite corner of the world, too.)

This time of year, when my list of presents to buy looms large, I often arrive at the same conclusion: Frame something. Because so many simple, inexpensive things can become gift-worthy when you set them under glass (or plexi!) and hand them over to be admired. Here are twenty other ideas of odds and ends to frame this year for those you love.

A recipe card, my grandmother's hanky, and a map—all framed by Framebridge. Photo by James Ransom
  • Maps: Your first home together, for your person. A family home, for those who watch over it. Actually anywhere—maps are so pretty!
  • Vintage hankies and scarves: Yes, it's going to be extra-meaningful if said accessory is from a beloved grandparent or a thrift store you both love, but so long as it's lovely-looking, your giftee is going to be pleased. (The one pictured above was my grandmother's!)
  • Buttons: You've got a box full of loose buttons, right? Frame the cutest of them in a little floating grid. Nice for a fashionable friend, or someone very attached to their lucky number (just be sure to count well).
  • Pages from old books: Many will fall right out when you open the book, so this doesn't have to require literary surgery. Choose old illustrations or passages that might resonate with your giftee.
  • Coasters: Either because they're too cute to put glasses all over, or because that impromptu date at the bar was worth remembering.
  • Recipe cards: Your dad's cheese straws are a family favorite? Frame the card he wrote the recipe on, in a frame that draws attention to its petite size, and give it to him (or whomever likes them best).
  • Stamps: Have a loved one in a far-away place? Save the stamps on letters they send, snip them all off the envelopes, and frame them helter skelter on a piece of foam core.
  • Matchboxes: From any dinner you'd like to think of time and again, or a whole host of them. (Your framer can float the top piece of glass above them, so they aren't squished.)
  • Cards: Spending a weekend with your best friends in a cabin somewhere cozy? Bring a pack of pretty cards, work through endless games of gin rummy, and then frame a bunch of the cards individually and dole them out for birthdays of the attendees.
  • Coffee filters: Calm down, I'm not suggesting you frame all your trash. But the way coffee dries on filters can be very very lovely; and how many great memories are had over good coffee? Many.
  • Photos: Not to be too obvious, but you don't have to be a professional photographer to take a frame-worthy photo anymore. Instagrams count!
  • Pressed leaves: Moving with a loved one? Scoop a small branch from the new neighborhood, press it between wax paper in the pages of some heavy books, then frame it the next time you need a gift for one of them.
  • Collateral from merry accidents: A house we rented a few summers ago had a slightly torched oven mitt framed in the kitchen. The owner's response when I asked after it: "it's nothing more than a memorable Thanksgiving dinner nearly gone awry... it always brings a smile to my face to see it." We smiled a lot in that kitchen.
  • Shells and beach glass: Collect them the next time you're near an ocean, then float one or a few in a deep frame.
  • Wedding invitations: As soon as one arrives, drop the reply card in the mail and get the invitation framed. Gift, check.
  • Ticket stubs: You know what to do.
  • Jewelry: Your grandmother's brooch might be fantastic, but if it's too much for your look have it framed instead. Instant wall glitz (that a linen backing will tone down, if super sparkly).
  • A cork: I like the emphasis on a single bottle of wine, one you'll both remember.
  • Postcards: Text-up, please.
  • Quilt squares: I do not advocate cutting up any quilts, but should a beloved one get too tattered to use any longer (and you're not up to mending it), frame.
  • Wax seals: My mom collected these for a while and framed a bunch—they're gorgeous. Nobody would be displeased to receive such a thing, though your most writerly friend will love it most.
  • Centerpieces: Not the whole thing! Snag a single bud at the end of a very good dinner party, press it till crisp, and frame for your host. Slightly more thoughtful than wine.

The key, of course, is that whatever you frame means something to the person you give it to—even if that something is that you share an appreciation of the same aesthetic. Art is one of the best gifts, and framing turns just about anything into art.

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Tell me: What meaningful odds and ends have you framed for gifts?

Framebridge offers custom framing for all the photos, art, and ordinary objects you love—like scarves and recipe cards, to start!—all through their online service. Start framing with them here.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • xtine
  • Amanda Sims
    Amanda Sims
Amanda Sims

Written by: Amanda Sims

Professional trespasser.


xtine November 22, 2016
My material grandmother died about 9 months before I was born. When I was 12 or so, my grandfather gave me a box of her jewelry. Most of it was plastic costume stuff that I played with and lost track of over time. But I kept a handful of brooches, some because they're not costume jewelry and some because they're just great. I got a cheap, fabric-lined shadow box from the craft store and they make a beautiful little collection on display.

Grandma's sister, who I did get to know, was a prolific crocheter. The last thing she ever made was a peach-colored sweater vest for me. It wasn't my style when I was a child and certainly isn't now but it looks just lovely in another shadow box alongside the pins and a few old family photos.
Amanda S. November 23, 2016
Oh, these are fantastic. Shadow boxes are miraculous!