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DIY: Liquid Gold Leaf

You may remember not too long ago that I posted my Ikea hack of the Vittsjo shelf which I am still absolutely crazy about. In fact, I am so crazy about how it turned out that I wanted to make it an even pair. I envisioned the pair of them flanking the sofa in some kind of fabulous glamorous symmetry. When my sister mentioned they were going to Dallas to visit our nearest Ikea, I asked if they’d do me a favor and bring back another shelf for me so I didn’t have to pay shipping.  They graciously obliged and then a brand new shelf was awaiting its assembly on Friday.  I spent all afternoon Saturday working on DIYing my new shelf. Then once I had it all said and done, it didn’t fit on the other side of the sofa (measure, people, MEASURE!). But I loved it so much, I didn’t care and thought it’d look great in the formal living room too.

I have to admit, the only thing that wasn’t my absolute favorite thing about the original DIY was that I felt it didn’t have the depth and richness that many similar (and more expensive) gilded products do. The spray paint was fine, but it wasn’t as rich as I wanted it to be. Standing in the aisle at our local Michael’s, I surveyed my options. Gold leafing was definitely an option, but my experience with gold leafing this year’s Easter eggs proved that it could be a tedious and inconsistent experience. Another option was liquid gold leaf. Now that could be interesting. Not sure of how the results would be for either, I bought both with plans to return whatever I didn’t use.

In the end, I went with the liquid gold leaf, and I have to tell you, the results are fantastic.  Take a look at this set of Pier 1 campaign tables that I have that I purchased for a steal 2 or 3 years ago. Literally a steal – I think I paid $17 for one and $35 for the other. They were both the same darker bronze finish, but I used the liquid gold leaf on the larger one and the result is exactly what I envisioned. It reminds me of this little gilded lovely but for a fraction of the cost.

Here’s what you’ll need to accomplish this DIY:

1. I highly recommend spray painting the object of your gilding affection with the same color as your metallic of choice. That way you won’t stress about using a ton of the liquid leaf because it does come in a pretty tiny bottle. Plus, you’re also looking to create an effect here. Don’t feel pressure to totally coat the entire thing in the gold leaf. The streakiness and imperfections are what create that hand-gilded appeal.

2. After the spray paint has dried, you can begin applying the leaf with a foam brush.  I prefer foam brushes to actual brushes for two reasons. One, the foam brushes are cheap and you can toss them out when you’re done; real brushes will be a huge pain to clean and you may ruin them. Secondly, the coverage you get with a foam brush is better than the bristle brush. Bristle brushes left too many streaks for my liking.  Please note that it dries almost on contact, so be super super careful. In fact, I accidentally dumped half a bottle of the liquid leaf on my parquet floor and nearly died. Luckily I got most of it up quickly and then used a toothbrush and Dawn liquid detergent to get the rest up. There are still shimmers in the parquet, though. Oh, and be sure and wear clothing you don’t mind ruining. You WON’T get it out of your clothes. Promise. In fact, I’m still peeling it out from underneath my fingernails.

You’re going to want to do all of this in a very well-ventilated area. Liquid gold leaf is kinda like inhaling a sharpie stuck all the way up your nose, touching your brain. It’s that strong.

3. Once the leaf has dried, you can apply a sealant. There’s several different kinds – spray lacquers or spread-on sealants.

4. Enjoy your fabulous find!

So now I have a lovely pair – one in each living room. Doesn’t the gold look pretty against my aqua walls? And I think it’s safe to say I’m not afraid to mix-and-match my metals as we have both silver and gold in all parts of the house. In the living room below, I balanced the silver lamp against the gold shelves by including silver-hued pieces in the display.

But it does double-duty, too. It actually houses my printer as well!

And my DIY skirted table that was previously in this corner is now living happily in the sunshiny window.  As an aside: skirted tables are FANTASTIC storage solutions. I hide TONS of work supplies underneath ours!

Of course now my wheels are spinning about what else i can gold leaf. Frames, trim, all kinds of things. I’m also loving Jude’s artwork hanging over the couch, although I feel it looks dinky on that huge wall. It’d be much more dramatic if there were 6 instead of just the 3.  ::sigh::

Finally, a last little look at some of my favorite photos now living happily on the table overlooking the front yard.

What would you use gold leaf on?


Dig a little deeper

  • Vicky

    I seriously just bought liquid gold leaf last night and painted a picture frame. I’m loving the look of it, but now I need to go buy another picture frame so I’ll have a matching pair. Afterwards I was wondering what else I could use it on too, and I didn’t even think about using the liquid leaf on bigger furniture pieces! Now I might have to do a little shopping this weekend to see what I can find to try next.

    • RachelShingleton

      No way! Small world! I’m really loving the depth it provides – much moreso than just spray paint, but less of a time commitment than actual gold leafing. Plus it reflects light so pretty too! Definitely go hunting for more furniture – let me know what you find! I’m thinking I’m going to go do a few frames …

  • Allison Hasel

    I love this DIY! We are moving soon, so I am totally going to plan for these shelves somewhere in our next house. I am thinking bedroom, office or formal living room if we have one again.

    I have to laugh because I was dying for those Pier 1 tables, but at the time we were still looking for a house and living in a hotel so I didn’t get them. I STILL regret not buying them! Haha :D

    • RachelShingleton

      Ugh! Don’t you hate it when you STILL think about The One that Got Away?

  • Jamie Howell

    Two questions, because I’m seriously doing this soon, I love it so much. :)
    1) How much of the gold leaf did it take to do the whole shelf? Just one bottle?
    2) What about that bottom shelf? Is it metal also? I’m just wondering what it would look like painted as well or if it would be just too much.

    • RachelShingleton

      1) Yes, only one bottle per shelf of the liquid gold leaf. HOWEVER, that is only because I had it spray painted first to cover the original color below.

      2) The bottom and top shelf are actually like a laminate that looks like dark-stained wood. I think it would require some kind of sanding before painting because I don’t know how well it would adhere. You could, of course, get glass cut to fit it for not very much $$$.

  • Emily Booth

    May I ask what sealant you used? Thanks!

  • DCGator631

    Question for you — I’m wondering how you think the liquid gold leaf would look applied over a darker background, more of a black, for a more cracked/slightly worn gold look. I’m not sure I want the shelf to be 100% gold, but really like the idea of an antiqued gold look.

    • RachelShingleton

      Hmm. Good question. I just used the liquid gold leaf on black metal and didn’t spray paint in advance. it looks no different than the ones I did spray paint. So that being said, this may not be the way for you to go to get that crackly worn gold look. You might benefit from using actual gold leaf; while time consuming, it will probably give the result you want.

  • DCGator631

    Also, you said one bottle per shelf, so how many bottles total of gold leaf did you use? Thanks!! I am not sure if I’ll do the single width Vittsjo or the double, still deciding.

    • RachelShingleton

      I used a single bottle on each bookshelf. So two bottles total.

  • I’m Busy Procrastinating

    Have you used “Rub-n-Buff” before? I’m wondering how similar it is to liquid gold leaf.

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  • Chloe Ivy

    I love the look of silver leaf furniture, and my mother might let me paint her old french provincial furniture, a head board, a long and tall dresser. My mother doesn’t like the idea of dealing with messy leafing. Do you think that I could paint the furniture in liuid leaf and get the same look??

    • Rachel

      You could, potentially. But that being said, I’d be hesitant to do so. I think the liquid gold leaf might be better suited for smaller-scale projects. Is the furniture expensive? If not, I’d say give it a go and see how it turns out!

  • Erin

    Thank you for this! I sprayed two side tables gold and within weeks they were spotty and rusting (other posts on spray painting didn’t mention sealants. I guess I should have assumed?). I had been thinking of gold leafing over the spray paint, but this sounds like a better option, and I will seal it this time! In this instance did you use a spray or paint on sealant? would you recommend it or suggest a continued search?

  • Molly

    Hi! Quick question – are you using a “bronze” or a “gold” liquid leaf? Is there a significant difference?

  • Gilit

    Gorgeous! Do you mind sharing the color of your walls? They are perfection with that couch and all the gold!

  • Eliza

    i love the look of these and am wondering which sealant you used.

  • beth

    This looks fabulous! I’m curious- did you paint the shelves before or after assembling them?

  • Dana

    What is the color of the walls?? I love it!

  • Laura

    Try using zippo fluid to get it off your floor. We use a similar product where I work and when it gets on things, a bit of zippo fluid on a paper towel gets it right off! A little goes a long way.

  • Eat.Style.Play

    This came out really well!

  • Paula

    Hi there! What sealant did you use? Thanks!

  • Marcia

    Could you use the gold leaf to go over an accent wall? I want to ad a little glammor to one I painted in my foyer. I want the color to show with a shimmer.

    • Rachel/Pencil Shavings Studio

      You probably could but it would be mega expensive and really time consuming since the liquid gold leaf comes in teeny tiny bottles. I think there’s got to be a better solution for an accent wall. probably actual gold leaf since it comes in larger sheets.