Restore Old Furniture with Silver Leaf Sheets

Posted on: 09-27-2022

Got an antique piece of furniture that doesn’t quite fit with the spaces you have available? An old handcrafted desk that doesn’t match the carpet, wood chairs that clash with a metallic table, or ugly barstools that don’t match your stainless steel bar? Even a vase that you bought, love, and want to keep, but don’t know how to repurpose it? Using metallic paint or silver leaf to add some glimmer to a piece of furniture is an easy way to both update the object and turn it into a piece of metallic art. And, you can proudly be part of the transformation process.

Silver leaf is like a thin sheet of aluminum foil that can be bonded on the top of surface to give the façade of an entirely metallic object. In the case of the old antique desk you have in the attic, silver leaf and matching metallic spray paint can go a long way into making it over.

What you will need: silver leaf (about a hundred sheets depending on how much surface area you have to cover), matching silver metallic spray paint (Rust-Oleum has a good product at a reasonable cost), a soft paint brush to brush on the silver leaf, adhesive to bond the silver leaf to the object, a sealer, and a sponge brush for the sealer. A piece of sandpaper helps if the object is wood and needs to be touched up.

This “do it yourself” project will probably take an afternoon and will most certainly make a mess (remember playing with glitter as a kid and how that got everywhere? Same thing)—newspaper or your cheap drop cloth will help the clean up process. Ready to get started?

Take a look at the object you will be silver leafing. If it is wooden and all dinged up, take a piece of sand paper and smooth out the rough spots. This will make it easier for the silver leaf to bond to the surface and you don’t care about the nicks and scratches that once gave it character as they’re about to be covered up.

In a ventilated area, apply a little adhesive to the surface, take a sheet of silver leaf, and carefully smooth it on with your dry paint brush. It’s probably going to be easier to do this in smaller sections. Repeat this process until everything is covered—in the case of our desk, the top for now, and then use a sponge brush and sealer to seal it—Polycrylic is a good option.

As for the legs, drawers, undercarriage, and other areas that might be a little harder to smooth over with silver leaf… remove what you can ( hardware knobs, upholstery, legs) and cover the now dry and sealed silver leafed area with newspaper. Take it outside or to the garage and use the matching metallic spray paint to finish it off as well as the pieces you removed.

Once everything is dried, reattach the legs, shelving, and hardware (feel free to find different hardware to further match things up and tie things together in the room) to find you know have a piece of DIY metallic, silver leafed by hand furniture, that’s ready to be repurposed!