Remembering My Grandmother Irene & How To (Inexpensively) Restore An Old Frame

Remembering My Grandmother Irene & How To (Inexpensively) Restore An Old Frame

As I am opening the package that just arrived from Greece, memories unfold.

Amid broken glass and a decrepit frame, the sepia-toned photo is finally revealed: my grandmother Irene’s picture taken circa 1930 and bearing the signs of many decades, is just as beautiful as it had always been. For as long as I can remember, the frame had a dominant place in my grandmother’s living room but it has been in storage overseas from the time it was passed down to me, seventeen years ago. I can’t wait to give it back some of its past glory!


My Grandmother Irene was truly a multitalented woman.

Before marrying my Grandfather Niko, she was a “Coco Chanel” in our hometown of Volos, Greece. She directed her own fashion atelier with a crew of 18 girls, where she designed tailored clothing and elegant and stylish garments for the ladies of the upper society.

After her marriage, she was a “Martha Stewart” in her circle of family and friends.  Gifted with cooking, gardening, decorating and hosting skills, everything she made was a topic for discussion. In the kitchen, her imagination had no limits as she often added new ingredients to the most classic Greek recipes and turned them into divine dishes. With that same ease, she created new recipes which she was always happy to share. Her garden was a paradise on earth:  the fenced front yard, pruned and beautified to the detail, was partly covered with vine that provided shade for the morning coffee. The flower beds were filled with fragrant roses, blue and white jasmine, and snowy white gardenias bloomed in their huge barrels.  The backyard was more like a  farm. My favorite spot was the swing under the gigantic fig tree, right in front of the the chicken coop. I will never forget the flavor of the peaches, the apricots and the loquat fruits that I enjoyed straight from the trees.  From that same backyard, I would take ripe tomatoes and fresh herbs and mix them with water and mud to make my doll’s favorite meal.  To this day, every time I chop parsley I instantly travel back to my childhood summers.

Very carefully, I removed every little piece of broken glass that was stuck under the rusty nails.  I took off the old beige mat and doubt that I will be able to repurpose it. The photo itself is not in a perfect condition either. As for the frame, too many small pieces were missing, and even though I found some between the broken glass, there will be many empty spots around the frame, so I decided that I’ll definitely need to use black glossy paint to cover them.

I got estimates from a couple of frame stores : $58 only for a piece of glass and at least $70 for a mat were the least expensive ones.

Instead of having the glass replaced at the frame shop, I visited a glass shop.  The cost was significantly lower. For only $13, I had a piece of glass cut to fit my frame.

The precut mats that I found at the frame stores were way too small for this frame and it would cost a fortune to have one custom-made.  I decided to make a mat myself – I found a couple of tutorials online – but that required several special tools, which I did not have. So I ended up buying a black mounting board for only $4 and I glued the photo directly on it. I used rubber cement which is the best type of glue for photo projects.

To mimic a pricey wood trim on the mat, I bought a couple of balsa wood sticks from the craft store.

Picture And Balsa Wood -

Balsa wood is a lightweight material used for making models and it is so soft that it can be cut with a knife. I cut four pieces and stained them lightly. I then glued them on the mounting board about an inch away from the photo. I even made perfect mitered corners.

Photo With Balsa Wood -

Here is a corner detail after the frame was put together. The addition of the balsa wood gives texture, adds interest and makes the photo pop out, just as an expensive trim would do.

Frame Border - mydearirene.com_edited-1

When I made sure that everything was correctly positioned, I sealed the back with heavy paper and tape. I replaced the old wire with picture wire – it is much more smoother and flexible than regular wire!

Frame Back -

And now, I think I’ve found the perfect spot for my grandmother’s photo, soon to share!

Irene Picture Frame -


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Hi! I'm Angelica! For the last ten years I've been sharing my cooking, home projects and ideas with my sister Irene. "Once Again, My Dear Irene" is just an extension of our daily chats. Moreover "My Dear Irene" Continue Reading