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?
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135 thoughts on “Silver Leaf Dressers

  1. 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!

  2. 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..

  3. 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!

  4. 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!!!

  5. 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!

  6. 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:
    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!


  7. 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

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

  9. 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!

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

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