Nov 19, 2012

gilded nightstand

update: AAAGGH! my gilded nightstand was featured on an hgtv #lovehome commercial! it started airing in march 2013. see it here:

i know.

what IS it with me and gold???

i have wanted a gold-leafed bedside table for a while now. i was inspired by this beauty at urban outfitters...and i realized the old nightstand from my childhood -- that i already have -- has a verrry similar shape.
   don't ask how long it took me to realize that.

here's what the table looked like before i gilded the heck out of it:

i couldn't decide if i was crazy for wanting to gold leaf a piece of furniture...but after a lot of hemming and hawing, i thought: why the heck don't i just try it??

so i did.

   > sanding block
   > rag
   > water-based quick set adhesive 'size' 
         - i used about half of a TINY 2fl oz bottle
   > foam brush to apply adhesive
   > gold leaf or imitation gold leaf
         - i used about 60 5x5" sheets to cover an 18x18x24" nightstand
           with lots of curves and crevices (i.e. lots of wasted leaf)
   > stubby natural hair brush to apply leaf
   > clear coat polycrylic sealer
         - make sure it is non-yellowing
   > paintbrush to apply sealer
   > optional: gold leaf pen

- work in a space free of drafts, pets, passersby, etc. definitely work indoors. out of the package, leaf is very thin and very very delicate. and fluttery -- think feathers.

- work on a hard, crevice-free surface -- not anywhere near carpet. there will be loads of leaf fragments and a small mountain of metallic dust on your floor when you're finished.

- work on a clean surface! you will be using some of those small leaf fragments to fill in gaps and you don't want dust bunnies mixed in. or do you??

- set aside a good amount of time. you'll need a half hour for water-based adhesive to become tacky...then, if you're doing a nightstand-sized project, a couple of hours to apply the leaf. it's even longer if you use an oil-based adhesive -- it takes hours to set, but also gives a bigger window of time to apply the leaf.

- when you're finished, VACUUM up the remaining metallic dust from the floor. there's no use sweeping. the motion of the broom makes the metal bits fly everywhere.

are you ready??

first, i removed the the knobs from the drawers
and the drawers from the nightstand.

i ((or was it K?)) lightly sanded any surface that would be leafed.

i wiped the sanded surfaces very clean with a rag -- you don't want little particles trapped under the leaf! -- then brushed on the adhesive size.
it looks like milk. it had the same consistency too.
(see similar leafing medium options from dick blick here!)

be sure to get your ENTIRE surface. leaf will only stick to where the size is applied. if you miss the tiniest spot, the leaf will not adhere and there will be a bare spot you'll have to try to correct later.
   and if you correct later, it won't look as good as if you had just not missed that spot in the first place.

the size is supposed to apply a milky white and becomes clear when ready for leafing, but since i was working with a whit-ish piece of furniture, i couldn't really tell.

i set my timer for 30 minutes. 
((read the directions on your adhesive.))
then it was time to gild!

metal leaf comes in a tidy pile, separated by sheets of tissue paper.
(see metal leaf options from dick blick here!)

learn from me and start on the flattest surface until you get the hang of it. it's easy to leaf a flat surface. like an idiot, i started with the wavy drawers and while it came out wonderfully, i wasted a lot of leaf.

i ever-so-delicately picked up a sheet of leaf and laid it as flat as i could on the nightstand. you won't be able to get the sheet perfectly flat - but don't worry because it will look good in the end. just try to spread the sheet out as much as you can.

the leaf will immediately stick where it touches the adhesive. don't try to lift it up to reposition because you will only tear the sheet.

starting in the middle, i used a natural-bristle brush to smooth the leaf outward.

small bits of leaf that don't stick will flutter to the floor. don't mind them now, but save them! they can be used to fill in missed spots later.

as i continued, i overlapped the sheets by a bit. if you try to line them up perfectly, you will be left with very narrow gaps where there sheets don't touch and those are the worst to fill in.

for crevices, i held the sheet near the surface and used my brush to jab the sheet into the dip...then i brushed outward. this technique didn't work so well though:
i couldn't get into the corners.

so i cheated:

unfortunately, it wasn't the exact same color as my leaf:
but i told myself it just looks like shadows.
i'm still not sure how you're supposed to go about leafing crevices.

to protect my new gilded nightstand, i brushed on a polycrylic topcoat.

finally, i replaced the old yellowing knobs with some fancy glass ones.

...what do you think??
personally, I LOVE IT!

here's the original again:
i still need to move the "M" and buy a new lamp.
(i bought a new lamp during the january cure.)
and make a headboard.
and paint the walls. (done!)

...compared to the inspiration urban outfitters table:

i spent about $50 for leafing supplies and new knobs vs $189 for the urban outfitters version.

i love the very feminine gold curvy nightstand with the simple clean lines of the platform bed fish made:

do you love it as much as i do??

do you have any furniture that needs some fancying up?
are you thinking about trying metal leafing?

let me know in the comments!

psst! i've since replaced the lamp and painted the master bedroom:

guess what?
this was one of emily henderson's favorites in her nightstand styling contest!

...and it was also featured on knock-off decor!

Minted's Limited Edition Art Prints


  1. I can not even put into words how impressed I am with this project!! Seriously, looks like a million bucks. You did such a great job and I have to say the whole process of gold leafing scares me. I surely would have messed this up!

  2. Your table looks absolutely beautiful! And it also looks very expensive, too! You must be very proud of your accomplishment in this do over. Love it!!!

  3. thanks jennifer and gail! it wasn't very hard to do, it just took some time and patience. it was almost therapeutic! this would be a very easy diy if you were to leaf a boxy-shaped piece of furniture. it was just the curves and crevices that gave me trouble. :)

  4. Wow!! Gorgeous!!! I saw you featured on Knock Off Decor just now and had to come over and see more pics!! I love it and yours is way better than your inspiration!!! Nicely done!! :)

  5. WOW! i love your piece so much more than the inspiration one. gorgeous!

  6. thank you laura and jill! thanks for popping in to {crab+fish}!

  7. Lovely, absolutely! Now off to find a small something to transform....I can also feel my toes in the fluffy white rug...nice choice! Lyndaoflakeland.blogspot.com

    1. thank you lynda! i love the fluffy white rug at my feet in the morning, so cozy! i can't wait to see what you gold leaf... :)

    2. wow, you are my inspiration. this is amazing. #imjealous :)

  8. Your version is so much prettier than the original :) Kudos! It looks glamorous and gorgeous!


  9. i actually like yours better than the UO one!! GOOD JOB!!

  10. Searching Craigslist for a side table to gold leaf. This is stunning. I actually like it much better than the Urban Outfitters. This is my inspiration.

    1. how flattering -- thank you! good luck on your craigslist search!

  11. I like yours better!!! Nice job! Congrats on your HGTV feature!

    1. thank you, i appreciate the kind words! :)

  12. Very cool!

    Thanks for joining the Link Up this week!

  13. Wow! Looks great! Also looks like hard work, but it's worth it in the end! ;) -Mika

    1. it did take a bit of time, but was also exciting because i had no idea how the end would turn out. i'd definitely recommend doing it if you need a bit of fancy in a room. :)

  14. Yours is much more attractive than the original. Nice work!

  15. We liked this so much over at Copycat Crafts that we featured it recently! You can view it here

    We'd love it if you'd like to display a featured button! You can grab your button on the right hand side of your post. Thanks!

  16. I love your's way more then urban outfitters table. Thanks for the tutorial I've been looking fora tutorial on leafing. I have wanted to do one in silver but I'm not sure now! I love the Gold.

  17. Thanks so much for the tutorial... I'm going to gold leaf a dresser by following your directions. Do the seams show (i.e. where one leaf square overlaps another)? If so, were extra careful/intentional about the layout?

    1. hi there! the seams do show the *tiniest* bit, so the only thing i was careful of was not to line them up exactly. they get much less noticeable the more you buff them out at the end. i don't really notice the seams when all is said and done.

      hope that helps! let me know if you have any other questions. :)

  18. Beautiful! I feel like I need to recreate this asap. Must. Find. Curvy Nightstand.

    1. thank you, jordana! good luck in your quest! :)

  19. I love this! And to think I was getting nervous about gold-leafing the legs of a piece of furniture I have... If you can do a whole nightstand, I know I can do something small!

    -Megan (http://www.rentalrevival.com)

  20. Wow, this is awesome! I love the gold and I'm so inspired to find something to try my hand at gold leafing :)

    1. hi brynne, i'd love to see what you come up with! :)

  21. saw this on YHL forums and LOOOOVE it now I want to gold leaf something...... *evil laugh* *imagine my boyfriend crying*

    1. welcome morgan, thanks for stopping by! i can't wait to see what you do! :D

  22. You did a great job! It is beautiful. I have found that spray painting my piece gold and then gold leafing over that helps to get a good solid cover.

    1. that is a GREAT tip, anonymous! thank you, I will definitely try that next time I'm gold-leafing. :)

  23. Thank you for inspiring me to try this!!! I love the way that my nightstands turned out! :)


    1. Julia, your version is beautiful! thank you so much for linking to it -- and I'm sorry for the abysmally late reply! :)

  24. Beautiful, but I have an easier solution - metallic gold spray paint. I did the same thing today and it took 15 minutes and cost $3.67 and looks exactly the same.

    1. thanks, anonymous! I've actually spray painted far more things gold than should be allowed and j definitely can tell the difference between spray painted and leafed pieces -- the texture and sheen are different. if I hadn't already spray painted seventy other things in the room gold, I may have done so on this nightstand! :) so glad you were able to save the time and money. thanks for visiting! :)

  25. Amazing. Did you use real gold leaf or imitation?

    1. hi lily, sorry for the late reply! I used imitation // real gold would have been much more expensive! :)

  26. This is gorgeous and quite a job. I am doing something similar now with a wicker chest, I have, except I'm using Kraylon Metallic silver spray paint. I first applied white paint to the dresser then the silver. Oh my, such a beautiful affect.

  27. Well girl i can say only one thing the urban one looks so plain and cheep. Yours is gorgeous. Briliant work. And fully worth it!

  28. Well girl i can say only one thing the urban one looks so plain and cheep. Yours is gorgeous. Briliant work. And fully worth it!