Tuesday, May 24, 2011

DIY: Silver Leaf Jewelry Cabinet

If I had to choose between a recent favorite project of mine, it would have to be a tie between this project and my newly stenciled wall. Both projects were such a transformation and the end results still have me beaming with satisfaction. That's my kind of high!

Here is how my silver leafed jewelry cabinet turned out. Doesn't it shine like a jewel?

Here is the before. A dark cherry wood stain. Nice, but nothing that would make you stop and take a second look.

How did I accomplish this transformation you ask?

Well here are the details...


 LeFranc 3 hour Size

3 - 25 sheet booklets of aluminum leaf,
that's how many I needed for my project.

Small soft bristle brush

Small foam brush


1. First, I printed out this tutorial on how to silver leaf a dresser since I knew nothing about silver leafing something of this size! This is also the same tutorial that inspired me to try my hand at silver leafing.

2. Next, I disassembled the cabinet in the garage and spray painted the the frame and areas that were to be mostly covered silver. No reason to unnecessarily leaf these parts of the cabinet since they were barley exposed.

3. I  then spray painted the hardware silver and let it dry before unscrewing it from the drawers and doors.

4. To adhere the aluminum leaf squares to the cabinet, I applied what is called "size" with a foam brush to the cabinet. It basically acts as a glue that once dried to a "tack", or tacky to the touch, allows you to lay down the silver leaf and adhere it to the piece. I purchased a 3 hour size, not realizing that the "3 hour" part meant that was how long it took the size to become tacky before you can apply the silver leaf. Apply your size in thin strokes. You do not want to apply a thick or goopy coat, if you do, it will only take the size longer to reach "tack".

5. Silver leafing is MESSY! And I highly recommend doing this project in the garage. The aluminum leaf sheets I bought came in a booklet of 25, with a piece of tissue in between each leaf. Very carefully, hold the booklet just above the area you want to apply the leaf, pull out a sheet and lay it down and smooth the leaf out with a soft brush moving the brush in a circular motion. You can also use your fingers to smooth out the leaf. Experiment and see what works best for you. Aluminum leaf is very fragile and WILL break apart. Don't fret! Just lay the broken pieces onto your piece and blend them in with your brush or finger. Also, overlap the sheets just a bit so they blend in better.

This project actually took me two weekends to finish, mostly because I had to wait 3 hours for the size to reach tack, and then because I picked a piece with a TON of drawers and surfaces! But the time and effort was SO WORTH IT!!

I choose to embrace the cracks and "imperfections" in my piece. I think it adds that old vintage feel and gives it character.

Here's a close-up of the drawers.

And the legs, they turned out the best I think.

A side-by-side comparison. Such a transformation!

Here are a few things I learned during this project...

If you feel the urge to sneeze, sneeze away from the silver leaf!

Imperfections = character. And character is good.

If you are working on a large piece like I was, do not apply size to all the pieces at once. You risk the size loosing it's ideal tack before you can apply the silver leaf to all the pieces. Rather work in chunks.

Clean you brush often by wiping it onto a clean cloth.

It's easiest to rub small pieces of the leaf into cracks with your fingers.

Tackle large jobs over several days. Pace yourself. Remember, it took me two weekends to finish silver leafing my cabinet.

Kneeling on a concrete slab floor is hard on your knees. I finally got smart on day two, and stood the pieces on a table so that I didn't have to kneel over.

Leafing is messy and will get everywhere. But it is also fun!



  1. I love it! Have you ever used Ralph Lauren Satin paint? I wonder if that would work as a less costly substitute?

  2. Jenny, you showed me up! Now I have to finish my cabinet! (That we started on the same day!) Just a heads up to your readers, make sure you buy enough silver leaf to finish your project!!!!!

  3. Cindy, Thanks for stopping by! I haven't used the Ralph Lauren Satin paint before. It's always worth a try. And if it doesn't give you the desired look, you can still silver leaf over the paint.

    Berta, I can't wait to see how your cabinet turns out! I hope to see a post up on your blog next week ;)

  4. You have every right to be beaming!!! This is BEYOND fabulous. And I so appreciate your thorough instructions. My grandma's dressing table from the 1920's is just begging for this - now you've put the bug in me. Thanks!

  5. Oh, Lisa, I hope you do! I bet your grandma's dressing table will look gorgeous silver leafed!

  6. How do you "clean" an item that has been silver leafed? What do you dust it with?

  7. Sherry, I forgot to mention in my post that I sealed the silver leaf to protect it. I'll have to look up the sealer I used when I get home. Even without a sealer the silver leaf is pretty tough. Although I imagine it might scratch. I plan to clean it with a duster or a damp cloth.

  8. Hi I just found you from pinterest, I did the same project you can check it out here


    If you want to fill in those craks near the drawer use Rub N buff it works like magic


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