Client DIY: How to Gold Leaf a Fireplace

So I have this friend slash client (not the other way around) and sometimes I dream up little fantasies about what the world should look like.  And then I tell them to her.  And then she buys the materials off the intranets and makes them happen… Take it away, Moe!

Processed with VSCOcam with k2 preset

Amazon Prime  and its sweet, sweet free & fast shipping deal has been a freakin’ lifesaver since we entered the world of homeownership. I’ve bought everything from rolls of Cork Contact Paper for the kitchen cabinets to an Eames Rocker Knock-Off  for under $100 on that bad boy.  And their one-click ORDERING feature – well help. me. Rhonda. We’re all guilty of impulse buys from time to time, and one-click ordering is an impulse buyer’s kryptonite. Instant gratification. ShippedforfreetomyhouseintwodaysOOPS. I clicked it. My bad.

It’s dangerous. But it’s exactly how I ended up with the gold leaf in my house.

It was late at night. I was on Pinterest, dreaming.  I saw a tutorial by the ever fabulous Martha on how to gold leaf a lamp, and before I knew it I’d called up the Amazon app on my phone and whoa whoa it’s happening whoa – - – yup. I had ordered me some gold leaf via one-click for no reason in particular.

So when Whitney sent me this text as she was preparing her post on Eddie Ross’ fabulous place, I knew. It was time. Let the gold leafing games begin!

afterlightLet’s back way up.

We moved into our home on March 22 of this year.  This gilding idea was set to go down in the parlor.

Here are some shots of the parlor- top, during our inspection, and below that, right before we moved in.  It was traditional looking-  light gray with white trim, and the BIG fireplace was white with a black marble inlay. The previous owner had crowded the room so full of stuff, you could barely see the walls.

Have mercy.

valerie beforeAfter much thinking about the direction the room would go in (Historic robin’s egg blue? Paint the moulding the same as the walls? Replace the mantel?), we decided to go for a sort of worn in glam feeling. Blacks, creams, cowskin, brass. TBH, the parlor is strange to me. It’s a big girl room. I’ve never had one.

I’d like it to one day be a room where you open presents on Christmas morning. Where you read with coffee in the morning sun, and at night, where you drink bourbon and eat dessert. A room to de-screen and reconnect in.

You can see some of the process of the vision via Pinterest here and here, but ultimately, due to budgetary reasons, we decided to keep the mantel, take it down to a glossy black (a custom Benjamin Moore High Gloss paint) so we wouldn’t have to replace the marble immediately, and coat the walls and moulding in a creamy flesh tone that would reflect the light, causing the room to glow (Benjamin Moore Colonial Cream).

Parlor after painting.The chair on the left belonged to my father’s parents, the mid century modern brass tray table was a Shindig Furnishings find, and the cow was a birthday gift from Towers. The mirror is a stand in thrift store find – set me back $1 and does the trick for now.

Enter Whitney’s text. Enter a Saturday that I’ve devoted entirely to the house. Enter: Gold Leaf.

goldleafstarterThe impulse buy didn’t set me back TOO much. For a gold leaf starter kit (read reviews that said Mona Lisa is the brand to go with) that includes 25 sheets of gold leaf, an adhesive primer and a protective sealant, I only had to part with $13 of my precious dollars. I mean. Come on. Free shipping? This is a no brainer.

I grabbed coffee, a paint brush, then spread out the supplies and oriented myself with the how-to.

Gold leaf starter kit, unpacked. It seemed pretty simple. So I went for it.

Gold leaf instructions. Paint the adhesive size onto the surface you intend to gold leaf.

Processed with VSCOcam with k2 presetIn this case, I was following the lines of the mantel.

I traced the lines I wanted to cover in leaf, filling it out with glue to create a straight line (it’s not straight below, but don’t worry. I fixed it!) In hindsight, I would have taped for this. But the handwork brought me closer to the fireplace.

Or so I’ll tell myself. ;)

Processed with VSCOcam with k2 presetEven out your lines, then let the adhesive sit for 15 minutes to become tacky. Apply gold leaf lightly to the surface where you painted the tacky adhesive.

Because my glue section was so small, I began by clipping the sheets of delicate leaf with scissors into small ribbons and laying them gently on the glue.

Brush the gold leaf down onto the adhesive with a dry brush, a “velvet cloth”, or your finger. I used a dry brush for most of the application.

I realized after a while that cutting the the strips wasn’t necessary, as the gold leaf only sticks to the adhesive and the rest flakes off easily after it dries.

After I got comfortable handling the leaf, I began to branch out in my application, keeping the sheet whole for some sections….

Gold leaf application process. … and others, ripping it into small pieces…

Gold leaf application technique 2.… paint, wait, apply, smooth, paint, and so on and so on, until I’d traced each of the intended lines with a preliminary take of leaf and glue.

I did this in small sections at a time along the fireplace – because it takes time to apply the leaf, and the adhesive CAN dry too much if you can’t get to a section in time and you’ll have to reapply it.  I would recommend going in about 24 inch segments along the moulding.

It took about 3 hours for my first go at the lines.

Processed with VSCOcam with k2 presetOnce my first pass was leafed & completely dried, I flaked off the excess (it gets everywhere. Be prepared) and started getting down to the nitty gritty: time to clean up those lilting leaf lines, ladies.

I used a crisp, fresh brush dipped into the adhesive size and painted over the existing leaf to even out any lines that may have been wobbly to start. This is why I’m now saying something like frog tape would be a great addition to this project. Carefully done, you could create crisp lines to begin with and not have to go back to touch up as much.

But what can I say? I’m a glutton for punishment? I had to follow through and get detailed.

Processed with VSCOcam with k2 presetI applied leaf to the newly tacky detailed sections, smoothing it out & and flaking off after it dried.

It was time for the sealer.

Seal. That. Deal.

Gold leaf sealant. The sealer was rather self explanatory- I simply brushed a thin coat of it over all of the leaf to protect it from wear and tear.

I let that dry… and then… I had more touch up to do.

Unless you’re like a freaking robot (in which case- hey robot, hey) you are going to mess up a little bit. Don’t worry about it.

I grabbed my fireplace paint and began to clean up spots where the gold leaf had exceeded the lines of its welcome.

Messy gold leaf oh well. Of course I chose to do this at 7 pm on a Monday evening to unwind after the work day. In my work clothing. Logical.  I put a can of BLACK water-based alkyd paint directly onto my hardwood floors with no drop cloth.

Nothing happened that a few frantic wipes with a damp paper towel didn’t solve, but don’t risk that.

Don’t be like me. Provide yourself ample lighting. Protect your pretty floors.

Painting at night. I used a very thin detail brush to clean up the leaf.

Cleaning up gold leaf. I went to bed and let that shit dry. I was pretty sick of looking at it at that point.

But still, I knew the payoff was going to be great. I’d wake up in the morning to the sun spilling in the window onto my newly gilded fireplace.

And that’s precisely what happened.

diy gold leaf black glossy fireplace, benjamin moore colonial cream *cue angel choir*

All in all, gold leafing took about a total of 8 hours, cost me less than $20 (I used exactly 25 sheets – all that the kit included), have tons of adhesive size and sealant left for future products, AND I upped the glam factor in my parlor at last 50%.

before after fireplace with dentil moulding, diy gold leaf projectLike. WhaPOW baby.

It may seem an inaccessible DIY at first glance, but once I became comfortable with the consistency of the gold leaf, I promise I found fun in the process. I’m truly looking forward to gold leafing all sorts of stuff as my home making journey continues.

IMG_3969Follow along with Moe’s home adventures on her pretty-bare and newly-launched blog, Be patient while she gets it up and running. You’re gonna like it.


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