Do y’all see that smile on my face? It’s real. Nothing fake about it. But it’s not because I figured out my paint problems. It’s because for the entire day yesterday, I didn’t even give paint a thought. I gave my brain (and my body) a rest, and I did something crafty and fun instead.
I’ve wanted to try my hand at gold leafing for quite some time now, but I just never had a project that I wanted/needed to use it on until now. Let’s revisit (for the 100th time) the kitchen that has inspired my own color choice and a few design choices for my kitchen.
See how each cabinet door has that small gold/brass detail around the recessed panels? Well, of course I wanted that on my cabinets as well. The description of that kitchen in Elle Decor says that the cabinets are brass-trimmed. Obviously that’s something that was completely custom, and probably cost a small fortune.
Needless to say, custom brass trimming for my stock Home Depot cabinets was out of the question, but I knew that with all of the metal finish products available in craft and home improvement stores, I’d be able to create a look very similar to that on my own cabinets. So I grabbed one of my antiqued brass sconces and headed to Michael’s to see what they had.
Of all of the metallic products available (spray paint, craft paint, liquid gilding, Rub ‘N Buff, metal leaf, etc.) the only thing I could find that was even close to the right color was gold leaf. Everything else was too orange, or too red, or too dull, or too fake shimmery/glittery but not quite metallic.I started on one of the four doors that will have glass added since I thought those would be easier to work with and I needed to get a feel for working with metal leaf since this was my first time to try it. I used wide painters tape and taped off the little routed detail that I wanted to gold leaf.
Then I used a small craft brush to add the liquid adhesive, let it dry until it was sticky, and then pressed the gold leaf onto it with a larger, stiffer craft brush. Then I removed the tape to see what I had.I learned three valuable lessons on the first door.
1. I didn’t use enough adhesive the first time and I was left with small voids on the door where gold leaf wouldn’t adhere. So on the following doors, I brushed on two coats of adhesive instead of just one.
2. I didn’t burnish the gold leaf down enough with the brush, so on the rest of the doors, I initially pressed the leaf gently onto the adhesive to be sure that everything was stuck down good, and then once all the areas were covered I proceeded to burnish it down with the brush using quite a bit more force in random circular motions. I wasn’t gentle with it at all, and this really got the gold leaf into all of the nooks and crannies, and removed the excess.
3. I didn’t remove the gold leaf from the painters tape, so some of it wrapped around from the tape onto the cabinet door. When I removed the tape, it tore the leaf and left jagged edges rather than crisp, clean, precise edges. So on the rest of the doors, I used 220-grit sandpaper to sand the gold leaf off of the painters tape and then did one more round of burnishing the leaf with the brush before removing the tape. This left a sharp, clean edge on the gold leaf detail on the door.
Once I did my second soon-to-be-glass-front door and had great results (after learning from my mistakes with the first one), I moved on to a regular cabinet door. I knew this would be a bit more difficult, but it wasn’t really that much more difficult. It just required a bit more taping.
But adding the gold leaf was just as easy as on the other doors.
And once the gold leaf was on and burnished down really well, I used the sandpaper on the painters tape around the outside frame just like on the other doors, but I also used a razor blade around the tape on the inside panel.
Here are three of the finished doors…
I just love that shimmery detail! And I love even more that it didn’t cost me a fortune. I purchased three packages of gold leaf, each with 25 sheets in it. Each package was around $10, but then I used a “15% off total purchase” coupon. At this point, I have no idea if three packages will be enough to do all of the doors. I think it’ll be close, so there’s a chance I’ll need one more package.
And here’s a look at the doors with one of the sconces (sans shade, which you can see sitting inside the cabinet, still wrapped in plastic, at the top left of the picture)…
You can see that the sconce has more of a brown tone to it, so once all of the doors are finished, I might test out toning the gold leaf down a bit with some sort of stain or dark wax. But I’ll make that decision once I get them all finished, installed, and get the sconces installed. If any of you have experience with gold leaf, and know of a good method for aging/antiquing/toning down the shimmer, I’d love for you to share! I’m a little nervous at the thought of putting anything on top of it, but if I get everything installed and feel like it needs to be toned down, I’ll certainly do it.
I really enjoyed the process. It’s kind of tedious (that metal leaf is super thin, and even breathing directly in the direction of the gold leaf will send it flying!), but it’s easy. It’s one of those projects that you can sit and do for hours if you just need to turn your brain off, turn on some music, and just relax. It’s a good “clear your head” kind of project, which is just what I needed yesterday.
Now I’m ready to jump back in and tackle that paint issue.
UPDATE: Here are two close up shots of the gold leaf detail. This first picture shows the very first door that I attempted, where I made the three mistakes mentioned above (not enough adhesive, not enough burnishing, and taking the tape off without removing the gold leaf from it first). You can see how it left a jagged edge on the gold leaf.
And then here’s the third door I did after I learned how to get the smooth edges (double the adhesive, more burnishing, and sanding the gold leaf off of the tape before removing).
It’s still not perfect. I think gold leaf is just one of those things that only the pros can do perfectly. But you can see that the edges are much cleaner and more defined on the second picture.