Lowdown: Picture Perfect

Framing shops that treat your personal portfolios like works of art

Ursula Hobson Fine Art Framing, Inc.
1600 Spruce Street, 215-546-7889; ursulahobson.com

For almost two decades, Center City’s cognoscenti have headed to Ursula Hobson to frame everything from Picassos to family portraits. The space used to house an apothecary, and the mahogany cabinets now showcase the frame samples. Hobson’s golden rules: attentive service, museum-quality conservation methods, and “sensitivity to the spirit of the art.” While high-end gilded frames are a staple, customers have been snapping up silvery styles in white gold, silver metal leaf and welded steel. The shop doesn’t just cater to the Rittenhouse crowd; metal and wood moldings can be found for around $10 per foot.

Seven Arts Framing
255 North 3rd Street; 215-923-8930

Chi Sheng Chen brought his framing business to Old City in 1986, before the area became Philadelphia’s answer to SoHo. Fueled by a reputation for great quality at fair prices, Seven Arts Framing has become the first stop for gallery owners and art collectors as well as emerging and established talent. Bo Bartlett, a customer for 18 years, enlisted Seven Arts for his recent solo show at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; two donated works hang on the shop’s front wall. The house specialty: handmade natural wood frames in ­custom-dyed colors.

The Great Frame Up
302 West Lancaster Avenue, Wayne; 610-687-3060

The staff here loves a challenge. One longtime customer had a 96-by-45-inch American flag from Abraham Lincoln’s presidential campaign — so big it barely fit through the door! — framed for auction at Sotheby’s, along with 29 other historic flags. An institution in Wayne since 1976, the store is owned by Heather Peterson, who bought the business from her mother. Peterson brings a distinctly international flair to the trade by featuring intricate wood frames from Tibet and a luxurious leather line from Peru. Another best-seller: richly textured Roma Moulding from Italy, with finishes from ornate to rustic to clean and modern.

1 West Butler Avenue, Ambler; 215-646-1012

Grandfather’s military memorabilia, Dad’s sports collectibles, Mom’s bridal accoutrements — you name it, Palladio can frame it. The shop specializes in shadowboxes, and owner Jay Davidson Susanin has a knack for creating artful archival arrangements of his customers’ treasures. (He also happens to have a master’s degree in historic preservation from Penn.) A stroll through the “idea gallery” proves that even austere antiques like silverware, tools and buttons can make eclectic, elegant wall decor. Located in a former bank building from the 1920s, Palladio takes its name from the 15-foot arched Palladian windows that now overlook Ambler’s revitalized main street.

Framing on a Budget
How to get gallery quality at a fraction of the price

With its mom-and-pop staff and low overhead, Frugal Frames (1234 Pine Street, 215-772-1150, and 241 North Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-887-5600) can feature Larson-Juhl designs at 10 to 30 percent below retail price. Regulars range from the Philadelphia Eagles to M. Night Shyamalan’s people, who hired this outfit for The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable.

What’s the secret behind the Framers Market Gallery’s longtime outlet-store prices of $4 to $6 a foot? Owners Cathy and Jerry Lakoff operate their own 10,000-square-foot factory, where loyal employees (averaging 10 years at the shop) assemble frames by hand and find the best value among 25 suppliers (Whiteland Towne Center, 195 West Lincoln Highway, Exton, 610-363-1371; framersmarketgallery.com).