Silver leafing is not for the faint of heart

While I was on maternity leave with Caroline, about two years ago, I found a beautiful midcentury dining table at an estate/salvage store. My mother calls the store the emporium of earthly delights and it is her absolute favorite place to visit in Philly. Karl is the proprietor.  Here I am with Karl and baby Caroline.


Here is the table in Karl’s emporium of earthly delights:


I loved the table, and its funky pea green cane backed-chairs. I believe it is a Lane.  I had seen a very similar table in a Martha Stewart magazine and loved the curve of the legs.  Oh, and the table has two leaves, and seats twelve when fully expanded.

As much as I loved the table and chairs, they were a little rough around the edges and needed some attention – particularly the chairs =)

My to do list included, (1) silver leaf chairs and table legs edge (2) refinish table top (3) reupholster chairs (4) eventually re-cane some of the chairs.

Fast forward two years later, and a second baby, I have refinished the table top, and I am almost finished the silver leafing.  Refinishing was easy.  Silver leaf is not very easy.  In fact, it is one of the more difficult refinishing projects I have tackled– the silver leaf is just so fiddly.

I leafed one of the six chairs.  It took FOREVER, not to mention the fact that silver leaf is super expensive.   I spray painted the remaining chairs with silver paint as a temporary stop gap measure.

I also started the silver leaf on the table legs.  I got very frustrated (and also had a baby) and stopped working on the project for a few months.  I just picked back up to finish up before I go back to work full time.

So silver leafing is kind of involved.  I found a tutorial on the Martha Stewart also has a tutorial.  And here is a nice idea for leafing with aluminum foil–maybe a nice idea for walls or other large areas.  Here are the materials you need:

The short version is as follows:  first you sand the area you want to leaf.  Then you prime it with a red or yellow ground.

Next, you coat the entire area with a gilding size, which is basically a clear glue. Once you paint the size, you wait for about 10 minutes or so until the glue is tacky (basically sticky to touch) and then you start applying the silver leaf.  Check out Martha’s tutorial on this, as she shows you how to lay the leaf down with a leafing brush.  This technique didn’t really work for me, because I was working on the table base.  I cut the silver leaf into strips and then applied it by placing the silver side down, and holding on to the paper backing.

It took me two or three layers of silver to get rid of the red ground.  Here I am on the second layer of leaf:

My leafing came out pretty rough, but I actually like the look of the patina.  The Ivy Cottage blog tutorial on aluminum leafing shows how to accomplish this same look by crinkling the foil and then painting it.

1 comment
  1. lauragaby said:

    You’re hired! Can you come out to Colorado and help me beautimize my furniture? I’ll even give you 2 years to finish =)

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