Silver Leaf Dressers

I love the glam factor that mirrored furniture can bring to a room! My Rhode Island client and I were really hoping to get a little of that glam into her bedroom. Unfortunately, mirrored furniture is really expensive - even the cheapy stuff from Target or Pier 1 was cost prohibitive in this project.

When I found this image from House Beautiful, I was inspired to look into getting mirror custom cut to fit a boxy and inexpensive dresser. That also turned out to be completely out of our price range (several hundred dollars for just the mirror for each dresser).


So, we were on to Plan C! I did a little googling and found some images of silver leafed furniture...





We both thought the silver leaf was a good alternative and decided to take the plunge. I found two bombay chests at HomeGoods that were on clearance for $75 because the paint was chipping. The size and shape were perfect for the room.


Once home, each dresser was lightly sanded over the chipped parts and then given a coat of chocolate brown paint (Ralph Lauren's 'Galvenized'). Once the paint had cured, I coated both dressers with 3-hour Quick Set Gilding Size, available here and at most art supply stores. I used about a pint between both dressers.


The gilding size acts as the glue that holds on the leaf. It's applied just like a varnish, and after waiting for a specified time, the size becomes tacky and is ready to be gilded.


There are many types of metal leaf. For this project, I used aluminum leaf because it was the brightest silver tone and looked the most to me like mirror (and the bonus is that aluminum is less expensive than silver leaf). A box of 500 5.5" x 5.5" sheets is $40-$50 and was more than enough for these two dressers.


As far as application of the leaf goes, the basic idea is to carefully lay the sheets down with as little folding of the leaf as possible. Then using a soft bristled paint brush, just tap, burnish and rub the leaf down. It gets really easy with practice - you'll feel like a pro after only 4 or 5 sheets.

Here are my best tips for gilding:

1. Do this project in the garage or outside if you are working on a large scale (like on furniture). The metal leaf bits get EVERYWHERE (which is a bonus if you are a four-year old obsessed with fairy dust)


2. Start with a flat, horizontal surface (like the dresser tops) to get the technique down before you attempt the vertical front or sides.

3. Once you've burnish one leaf sheet and are ready for the next, place that next sheet slightly on top of the already burnished leaf. By overlapping the sheets a little, there will be less of a gap/crack and the resulting look will be more seamless.

4. I ended up sort of liking the cracks and gaps in the gilding (it looks like antique mirror to me, with the chocolate brown base peeping through), but if you don't want to see the "imperfections" just use a bit of extra leaf and rub it into the gap or crack with your finger and the size will quickly pick up the leaf bits.


5. I was shocked at how resilient the gilded surface was after the size had fully dried. My client opted not to seal the finish because she wanted it to gently wear over time, but it would be easy to apply some Wipe On Poly to protect and seal the gilding.

The process looks more intimidating than it really is. While it's sort of time consuming, I was able to catch up on my tivo-ed shows while I gilded (do you spy my remote?).


We used vintage lucite knobs from eBay as a final touch and I think that really moved these formally "Olde World" Homegoods dressers in the "Glam and Gorgeous" category.






129 comments:

Beth said...

Gorgeous results!

Erin from "skoots and cuddles" said...

Fantastic!! I love the final product. Now you have me wondering what I can leaf!

Donna said...

Beautiful job!!! Love those knobs!

KatieSPerk said...

How inspiring. That looks amazing!

MyLittleHappyPlace said...

Awesome! I'm inspired!

micah @ the yellow front door said...

Amazing! Why is mirrored furniture so dang expensive? I love the silver leaf look, so pretty!

Jules said...

Gorgeous! I love that RL Galvanized color. I used it to paint my 1950s vanity in the bathroom, and it completely changed the room.

The Countess of Nassau County said...

Totally impressed.

Kate @ Twenty-Six 2 Life said...

Wow! That looks so great!

Katie said...

Wow! Great job! Now, can you make me one too??

Kelleigh Ratzlaff Designs said...

WOW!! That really does look awesome! I think it looks brighter and shinier than the silver, too. Awesome that it is a budget piece that looks totally expensive! Love that!

Brigitte said...

Gorgeous! I like your end result better than the inspiration pics.

Catherine said...

I was just talking to my husband about my obsession with mirrored furniture out of my budget...and VOILA! You have inspired me.

Thank you so much!

Angepeets said...

Wow!! I've been waiting for this post ever since you showed the pictures - thanks!!
And congrats on your beautiful Evie!!!

Launa said...

What a cool project! I would have never thought to guild a dresser in a million years! Fabulous!!

Geek+Nerd said...

Seriously? Your mad skills never cease to amaze me. I love the transformation. Just awesome!

Abbie said...

They look amazing! At a fraction of the cost of the 'real deal', too! Love them.

MMW said...

On My To Do list for the new year.

WOW.

Thurgood17 said...

Why are you so flipping AWESOME??! I have read your blog forever and each time I am amazed at your talent. I also love reading how you write because it is as if you are speaking directly to me. I am obsessed with your blog - but not in a creepy, come find you way lol.

Congratulations on your delivery and new baby!

An avid fan and admirer,
Lisa D.

Kristy said...

This is stunning. I am dying to give this a try myself.

Re:Fresh Design Studio said...

Those look great and not too difficult! Thanks for sharing! Hope your enjoying your new little one!

Melissa said...

Well, this inspires me to try again. I did a mirror years ago, and it was a disaster. I like seeing the whole process-- I can see where I made my mistakes (I'm a visual girl!). Beautiful-- but I don't know how you leaned over that belly to do all your leafing!

Rebecca said...

Gorgeous! Thanks for sharing....I'm looking around for something to leaf!

Bailey @ peppermintbliss said...

I mean, this is seriously inspiring. I want to gild my whole living room now!!

Aimee said...

This is my first comment on your blog even though I've been following it for quite a while. I just had to let you know that this is the best DIY idea I've seen anywhere in recent history! Thanks so much for sharing! Huge congrats your recent addition, too!

Elizabeth said...

those look intensely amazing.

Adrianne said...

You are amazing! Love it! I did end up buying the Pier 1 mirrored nightstand on sale but still, it was more than I wanted to spend. These have such great character, great job!

Kelly Green said...

That is one amazing transformation!!! You are one clever cookie - please don't tell me you had time to did this after you had your gorgeous new bundle. Absolutely fantastic - a great job. Your client must be thrilled. Love your bog.......KG

Anonymous said...

Wow, that is beautiful and so cool! Thanks for the tutorial!

Erin said...

Thank you for explaining how you did it. Your directions make it seem easy!

ashlina said...

so i have now decided to attempt this DIY....
its off to find the perfect piece.....

:)
thanks for the inspiration.

Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality said...

What a fantastic project this is! Thanks for the step by step. I've done gold leaf gilding before, but never on furniture. This is such a great look. I might have to find something I can do this on. Saving it to my Tumblr file for inspiration.

Amnah said...

Awesome! I've been dying to have some mirrored nightstands. I am going to try this for my bedroom.

elizabeth said...

Jenny - you are so cool. Like, soooooo cool. Thank you for the tutorial. Someday when I have the cash, I am going to hire you for real to do my WHOLE house. Your taste is fantastic but realistically priced for the average person. I love it and I love your blog.

P.S. I am in the process of making the changes you suggested for my bedroom and I'll send you pictures of it when I'm done. I think you'll approve!

Bromeliad said...

Fabulous!

Jenny @ Anything Pretty said...

Oh wow....I am so inspired and you made it look so easy. This is going to be filed away for me to try. The results were amazing. Also congrats on the new baby!

Mrs. Chic said...

I think I prefer this to the mirrored furniture look! It's so elegant

Anna said...

Incredible and gorgeous!

What is also incredible is that you are able to post these lovely tutorials after giving birth --at home-- less than a week ago!

Well done, Mama!

Erika @ BluLabel Bungalow said...

All I can say is, WOW!! I love your ingenuity and creativity!

Melissa Y. Allam said...

You did a great job this is absolutely gorgeous! Thanks for sharing all your lovely ideas and tutorials. Congratulations on all the votes for AT Homies.

Beth said...

So amazing! You're so inspiring. Thanks for sharing. :)

Heather said...

This looks terrific! I've tried this technique before, and it is kind of fun, and mesmerizing!
On a simpler piece of furniture, it would be cool to try a faux marble finish on the top as well!
Hope you're having fun with your new little project! She's a cutie!

Janis@ White Alder[Home] said...

All I can say is, WOW!!!!!!!

Jenna said...

Oh my - breath taking! And you make it sound so easy!! Someday I am totally going to try this!

Jess @ Frugal with a Flourish said...

Those are gorgeous! What a fantastic idea!

Natalie said...

So beautiful! I can't wait to do something like this in my house. How does the finish keep up after your done? Does it scratch easily?

www.rockyriverfarmhouse.blogspot.com

paula said...

gorgeous! really, you are so talented.

Melissa said...

Those look great. I would never have had the patience but finished product is amazing.

Dina said...

I love it, thank you for the tutorial

Paige said...

Those are gorgeous! Thanks for sharing this project!

Madcap said...

I far prefer the silver leaf to the mirror. Lovely work!

Sarah Robbins said...

Those turned out AWESOME! Just visiting from Rhoda's- and I will definitely have to try that!

brynalexandra said...

Jenny - believe it or not I've been planning on gold leafing the wooden parts of an arm chair and this post really really helps me so much. I was going to just use spray adhesive, but now I am wondering if I should use the sticky stuff you used. It's not nearly as much "real estate" as your dressers though. Hmm...

Again, amazing job, you are the new Martha Stewart!

maggie said...

Gorgeous!

MJ said...

Lovely!! I know just the spot in my library where a silver leaf end table would be perfect...

supermandy said...

wow! beautiful!

Tami said...

I have to do this! B-U-Tiful!

Pink Pig said...

You are one talented lady! I love this technique as i have a small dresser that i have been dying to do something with other than paint. I thank you for your detailed instructions as i think i may tackle this project on my own. Wishing you a Happy New Year and i look forward to more inspiration from your fantastic read..

Cathy said...

Looks wonderful!!! I have wanted to do this but was intimidated by the material. Now that you've broken it down, I know I can do it. Thanks... You rock!

Sandra Ling said...

Wow that chest is fabulous!! Now you've got me thinking about my dining table??!!!!

P.S. I just read your post on the birth of Evie, holy moly you're quite the WOMAN!! Amazing!!!

Blessings to you and your family in 2010!!!

Debbie Mrazek said...

This is absolutely inspiring!!!:)
Where do you buy aluminum leaf??
Happy New Year!:)

Baden Fox said...

This is amazing!! So... do you think I could do this to my piano? It is an old black laquer upright that I got for FREE on craigslist. It needs to be rekeyed anyway, so I could that after the project... please someone tell me I'm insane!

Jenny said...

Thanks for all the kind comments, guys! One of my resolutions this year is to be really good about responding to questions in the comments section. So, here goes! Please let me know if I missed your question.

Natalie - The finish was surprisingly resilient! I definitely would seal the leaf though, just to be sure. Wipe on poly is my favorite.

Sandra - A silver leafed dining table would be FAB. Make sure to seal that bad boy up really well though. Two coats of poly at least.

Debbie - the link to the aluminum leaf is embedded in the post, but here it is again:
http://www.gildedplanet.com/aluminumleaf.asp
That website is an awesome resource on all things gilded.

Baden Fox - WOW! A silver leafed PIANO!?! That would be a major project, but completely amazing also. Please send pics if you decided to take that on!

jenny

court. said...

This is AMAZING....so inspired.

K & Co. said...

This is brilliant!!! I love reading your blog and getting such great ideas and inspiration. You are incredible at taking something rather plain and making it really gorgeous! Good job!

I can´t wait to read more..

Kristina from www.kandco.se
Sweden

us said...

I have to say between the shape and the nobs - your eye is amazing! I have never seen DIY leaf look this good.

keely @ luxe+lillies said...

you are forever talented! I HAD to share your creativity at my blog ( luxeandlillies.blogspot.com) Thank You for this great inspiration!

Amber said...

I really really love this! I also love the idea of mirrored dressers but find them either expensive or too cheap looking. I have always wanted to try gold/silver leaf! Great project!

6p00d8345346db69e2 said...

How fantastic! I'm so impressed with your creativity.

inthetweeds said...

A-MA-ZING! Amazing! You are the project queen!

chelsea said...

so great! you are a genius.

Mr. Goodwill Hunting said...

What a great porject! Keep up the great and inspiring work!

Regards,

Mr. Goodwill Hunting

Embellished Bayou said...

Fab.U.Lous!! Love this! I mirrored a small nightstand, but only because the mirror was free. I also used a bit of silver leaf, but I couldn't really tell the difference in the parts where I used the silver leaf and the parts where it was just the silver spray paint. Here's a link to my project:
http://embellishedbayou.blogspot.com/2009/06/transformation-thursday.html

Mrs. Limestone said...

This is so gorgeous and you did the most amazing job.

I silver leaf the top to a tiny table and it came out so much more wrinkly and messy. I don't know how you did such a perfect job here but I bow down to your skillz!

kisz4tj said...

WOW

~ ~ Ahrisha ~ ~ said...

This is brilliant! Love the finished chest.

Heather@PixieDust said...

just came over from centsational girl - those are gorgeous and i am so inspired to try a gilding project - thanks!

Evy said...

This is amazing! I would have never thought of this technique. The end product is stunning.

Magic Brush said...

Wowza!!!!!! $75???? That rocks! Leafing is amazing!!!!!! Great job!

The Junkin Chick said...

Just one word...WOW!!!

Tonya @ lovinthemoments said...

Love those! Such a great job!

Diva Style said...

Fantastic!

Mikael@starter home to dream home said...

I would so LOVE to attempt this... but I am scared! I will have to see if I can find some night stands as cute to transform. amazing job!

Sonja @ Craft-Werk said...

OMG, this looks gorgeous. And you make it sound so easy. Would love to try that with some chunky old dressers in my house.

nostalgia*gal said...

Utterly Fantastic! I love Silver furniture and so loved your project! I am new to blogging and so happy to of found your blog!

the BLAH BLAH BLAHger said...

How BEAUTIMOUS!!!!

Cindy said...

Those are so GoRgEoUs Now! You are amazing!

elisabeth (bovagoods) said...

probably the best thing i've seen in a LONG time! thanks so much for doing this and posting this. it was the kick in the tush that i needed. i have a chair and desk i've been wanting to silver leaf but was unsure how to do it. your project looks ah-mazing!!!! you rock.

bec4 said...

Fabulous--love this so much--it truly is amazing! Now to go check out the rest of your blog.

O.C. said...

Holy cow! I must subscribe to you now. Fantabulous!

Mama Steen said...

Do you think I could do this to a crib, and seal it really good, without it getting eaten off? I'm planning a nursery for my baby girl and think this would be great!

Marilyn Elizabeth said...

do you think this would work on a surface that wasn't really flat? for example, my landlord gave us this random (and large) statue of a horse for christmas.....and it would look much better silver. hmmm.

Ronda said...

Love the project! Thank you for giving us links to your sources. Makes it easy to find things. I could spend all day on your blog.

harmony said...

Why did you paint it first? I will start this project as soon as they get the aluminum leafing back in stock.

Negin Yazdanpanah said...

This is absolutely beautiful! You inspired me and I tried it! But mine isn't as smooth as yours. How did you smooth out the finish?

Tracie said...

Totally and completely awesome. This is exactly what I have been looking for. I have a dresser that the finish has chipped/cracked and want a "mirrored" dresser, but, of course the cost was prohibitive. Thank you soooo much. I can't wait to get started.

lcsmom said...

I just completed a Silver Leaf End Table - love the process.
http://thesplurgeorthesteal.blogspot.com/2010/04/diy-silver-leaf-end-table.html

Katie said...

WOW! Just found your blog, and that is BEAUTIFUL! Definitely something I'd love to try soon!

jay said...

Hi! I know you are probably sick of hearing this but, what a BEAUTIFUL dresser. I am actually about to do this to a craigslisted wooden dry sink that will be used for a bedside table slash dresser.
I have a question for you. If I were to opt to seal it with a "wipe on poly," what finish would you suggest? Satin? Gloss? Would gloss make it look more like a mirror?
Thank you for your great tutorial!
Jay

Veryirie said...

Thanks to a post from Better After, I got to read your fantastic tutorial and witness perfection! Bravo!

Morgan said...

This really inspired me, and I just completed my own! You weren't kidding when you said this was time consuming - but so worth it! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

this is awesome!

ninjagranny said...

okie dokie. Now that I've found this post, I'm going to try this on an antique kidney-shaped desk I just bought. BEAUTIFUL work, and I don't mind a little pixie dust obsession, either. :-)

Clare said...

They look beautiful. I'm about to try gilding a table, which is how I found your blog.

Anonymous said...

love the silver leaf dresser. i'm going to try and silver leaf a chest i have at home. wish me luck!!

forex bulletproof said...

wow great i have read many articles about this topic and everytime i learn something new i dont think it will ever stop always new info , Thanks for all of your hard work!

Generic Viagra said...

Great work. I really like the story. I love your blog, keep it up the good work. I can't wait to see what it is next.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the helpful post! I would not have gotten this otherwise!

Anonymous said...

Just want to say what a great blog you got here!I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work! Thumbs up, and keep it going!

Jenny said...

This is just gorgeous! I'm going to try this on my jewelry cabinet. Thank you so much for the inspiration!

Anonymous said...

I have wanted to post something like this on my website and this gave me an idea. Cheers.

Berta said...

Just beautiful! I love the mirrored look, but alas, too much for my budget :(
Jenny ^above^ and I will be having a leafing party together this next month! Thanks for the inspiration!

Hilary said...

Those turned out amazing! Great jpb!!

Kamagra tablets said...

this is so cute!

Rachel said...

I love this! Thanks or the tutorial.

Brea said...

I am in LOVE! Totally going to try this! thanks so much for the tutorial!

Bev said...

This is amazing! You did a fabulous job on this piece. Thank you so much for the tutorial.

Bev said...

This is amazing! You did a fabulous job on this piece. Thank you so much for the tutorial.

Elle said...

It looks fabulous!
I love silver leaf- such a bold statement!

Elle

Valarie Edwards said...

This is a beautiful job and it's just what I was looking for. I purchased two of the bombe chests from Bombay for $25 each from the clearance sale when they went out of business in the US a couple of years ago. The marble top is cracked/broken and I don't know how to replace them but thanks to you, I now know how to silver leaf them, which I sincerely appreciate.

ra said...

hi...u just got me inspired i saw ur post thru centsational girl...i just silvered leaf my dresser but i didnt like the way it looked well some areas looked perfect and some of them they were too wrinkley...do you think if i poly them those imperfections will blend ?i wish i can add a picture so you can give me an advise

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snixysnix said...

terrific! I didn't read all of the comment/questions, but do you recall if you used water-based or oil-based size adhesive?

citicasita said...

This is amazing! I love it! I gold leafed a mirror, but that was small stuff next to this. I have two end tables I'm working on with silver metallic paint, but I think I'll silver leaf the top. In one blog I saw, she used crinkled up aluminum foil and sizing. Awesome! Thanks for sharing.
Diddie

SometimesInspiredMusings said...

Hi! I want to try this project, but when I went to the website for the aluminum leaf, I wasn't sure which product I was looking for. Can you give me more detail?

Anonymous said...

::slow clap::

AMAZING.

You've inspired me. During my lunch break (and after 3 days of researching) I went to an art supply store and bought some imitation silver leaf and size to cover a blanket box I rescued from the dump. Wish me luck!

Nina said...

I just have to say that you inspired me too! Your blog posting was a reason I decided to aluminum leaf an old french provincial chest and nightstand that I've had for some time. I posted about it on my blog. Feel free to check it out. :)

http://diyprojectsbynina.blogspot.com/2012/05/aluminum-silver-leafed-french.html

idreamoflabels said...

This looks so awesome! I really want to try as well. WIsh me luck! Those tables were a great find too.

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