Silver Leaf Dressers - Juniper Home

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.

What did you think?
Leav a Comment

135 thoughts on “Silver Leaf Dressers

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

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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!

  11. 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!

You May Also Like
View More