We knew procuring a suitable piece of art would be expensive, and we set a budget, but we had no idea how long it would take. Before we could choose a picture, we had to remove a piece of built-in furniture, which would allow us to position the couch properly, which in turn would show us where to hang the picture. Once the furniture was removed, we started looking for the big piece of art. One day we saw a framed poster in a second-hand store. I was interested. I didn't care for the picture, but the frame was beautiful, in good condition, and about the size we needed. I showed it to Tom and told him that framing was expensive, and this one was a bargain at 50 dollars. He agreed. We got it home and hung it on the wall. The frame looked very good. I was willing to live with the poster for a while as a placeholder. We then had the daunting task of finding the right piece of art for the frame.
Finding a landscape to suit us both wasn't easy. Tom is a city person -- he likes energy and movement. I am introverted and nervous -- I prefer peaceful winter scenes. After considering and rejecting what must have been 50 or 60 pictures, we found one we both liked: "Venice from the Lagoon at Sunset," showing boats and gondolas on calm water under a golden evening sky. It was painted by a 19th-century Russian painter, Ivan Aivazovsky, and it was lovely. Aivazovsky isn't a household name in the United States, but probably is in Russia.
So Tom and I ordered a giclee print of the painting. In a week, it arrived, and we took the print and the frame to the frame shop. I found suitable mats, and we ordered them. A few weeks later, the picture was ready. I drove to the shop to pick it up. I glanced at it excitedly and approved it before loading it into the car. Once home, however, my heart sank. I had requested that the mats be cut with a reverse bevel, so the white core wouldn't show. They'd been cut with a standard bevel, and the white of the mats showed. It's a detail, but it's distracting. We'd paid 50 dollars for the frame, 100 dollars for the print, and 360 dollars for the non-glare glass, the oversize mats, and the labor to assemble them. I wasn't about to settle for the picture's impact being diminished by the mats. With my head hanging, I drove to the frame shop with the picture.
At first, the framer tried recutting the mats, reversing the bevel. So a few weeks later I drove back to look at it. But it was an uneven, ragged job. Sorry, I can't accept that either, I said. With my head hanging, I drove home without the picture. I had learned that the mats I wanted were no longer in stock at the supplier, and I would have to wait. For about six weeks, I waited. Tom and I wondered if the staff at the shop were angry with me and were delaying the project on purpose. When it was finally ready, I drove to the shop to look, telling myself not to be too hasty. A friendly young woman unwrapped the picture at the counter. It looked great.
The young woman was glad I had insisted on a proper job. She and I had consulted on framing jobs in the past, and we had a warm rapport. She assured me that nobody was angry about the complications. I took the picture home, and Tom and I carefully hung it on the wall, measuring and adjusting until it was right. We'd gone 10 dollars over our budget, which we agreed we could live with.
There's something different about furnishing and decorating your forever house. We're willing to work harder, spend more money, and be more discriminating about what comes into the house, because we intend to stay here for a long time. For a beautiful, masterfully painted landscape, even a reproduction, proper framing was the only good option. Securing a cheap poster to the wall with thumbtacks was fine when I was in my 20s, but not now.
So the picture hangs in its place above the couch. The scene is calm, the colors harmonious, the composition simple and confident. The picture echos the calm of the room's soft colors, diffuse light, and the emotional steadiness of a happy marriage. Every piece we add increases the house's homeyness. No other object in the house cost as much as this framed print by a little-known Russian painter, but no other object does so much to identify the living room as ours.