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{DIY} Updating a Lamp with Gold Leaf

By March 18, 2015 One Comment

In honor of yesterday being St. Patrick’s day let me share with you a little DIY gold. Gold leaf that is.  You are going to feel like you found the pot-o-gold at the end of the rainbow after you see this sexy Before and After.  It is a simple and elegant tutorial I did on gold leafing for the most recent issue of Design and Living Magazine, that hits the shelves today.

Here is the Before

lamp before photo

I bought this lamp for $10 at a garage sale on impulse over two years ago. I was certain I needed it and then tripped over it for two years.

I know!…shocking that I impulse buy at garage sales.  I see potential everywhere when I get in the thrifting zone.  So much so that eventually I can’t see over the pile of “potential” in my garage.

I’m certain I’m not alone in this struggle. I bet there is a 12-step program somewhere for those of us who are “collectors” of potential. One that feeds us donuts while showing us episodes of Hoarders on a constant loop until we beg for forgiveness, and promise to our spouses that we will clean out the garage.

Oh great now I’m hungry for donuts and I have no points to spare. #storyofmylife  #weightwatchers

Where was I? Oh yes, the green lamp that wouldn’t go away.  I had moved it from spot to spot and then finally put it on the sales floor at the store at a cheap cheap price and yet there is was, always in the way and nobody wanted it.  I was ready to throw it away when I had an epiphany!

I had been recently playing with gold leafing and realized that my pitiful looking green lamp was the perfect candidate for a makeover.  I quickly ran over to the store to grab it off the sales floor.  I had just seen it so I knew it was still there…but alas it was gone.  Isn’t that how it goes.  Step over it for two years and then throw it away the day before you find a purpose for it.

Then out of the corner of my eye I spotted it.  It had been tucked behind a dresser, around a corner display on the floor under a burlap sack.  Almost as if it was hiding in shame.

Well hide no more hideous green lamp, today is your day for a makeover.

I almost expected Hoda and Kathie Lee to pluck it out of a crowd and announce it had been selected for an ambush makeover, it was that exciting.  #NotReally

I quickly ran it over to the design center and started my transformation.

And Look at her now.


Here in a few simple steps is how I took this sad little lady and turned her into the beauty queen she is today.

Note:  Before starting, be sure to lay down a drop cloth or some kraft paper so you are able to catch the drips of sizing and crumbles of gold leaf.  Also, close all of the windows and shut off the fan.  Matter of fact, don’t even breathe heavily, you will scare the crumbles of gold leaf and you will be chasing them around the house for the next week.  Seriously they are flaky little buggers.

Ok, back to the steps.

Here is a look at items you will need to complete this project.


Step 1. Cleaning
I meticulously cleaned her every dimple with loving care with mild soap and water.  Ah heck,  who am I kidding.  I gave her a few blows and let the dust settle elsewhere.  She really wasn’t dirty, just a little dusty.  If your piece is grimy or oily you would clean more thoroughly and let dry.

Step 2.  Apply the Sizing
Note: You will need a small throw away brush for this step.
Apply a thin coat of sizing to only the areas of the lamp that you want the gold leaf to stick. Apply the sizing everywhere, there is no need to work in sections with the sizing.  Sizing remains workable for 24 to 36 hours after application.
What is sizing?  Good question grasshopper. Sizing is what you adhere gold leaf with, it looks like watered down Elmer’s Glue, yet doesn’t get hard when left out to dry.  It gets tacky.  For more information on tacky keep reading.

Step 3. Coffee
This is a very important step. I walked away. Seriously, I just left.  I went and poured myself a cup of coffee and checked Facebook for 30 minutes while the sizing set up.  I really mean it.  This is important, because if you start applying the gold leaf when the sizing is still  wet you will have a sloppy mess.  You need to wait until the sizing is tacky.  Not tacky like those dusty rose colored bridesmaids dresses you made your girlfriends wear in 2006, you know tacky, like sticky.  The coffee is important too, but it is more important to be tacky. Or sticky…Oh, you know what I mean.  Walk away, come back in 30 minutes and all will be tacky and well.

Step 4. Apply The Gold Leaf
Your gold leaf will come in sheets separated by white tissue paper.  Use this tissue paper to help you adhere the gold leaf.  Take one sheet of gold leaf supported by tissue paper one at a time and simply lay it gold leaf side down on the area where you applied the sizing.  It will grab. Then gently rubbing with your fingertips and press it onto the surface.  Continue this with sheet after sheet until you have covered the entire surface.  Having the tissue paper in between your fingers and the actual gold leaf gives you more control of the gold leaf so it doesn’t break apart while you are working with it.  It will crumble and tear some, and that is part of the process.  You will gather those crumbles later and use them to fill in the gaps. 

Once you have filled in all the gaps with gold leafing you are done.  Simply take a clean dry brush of some sorts and brush away the dangling flakes.  Remembering not to make too much wind…your flakes will fly.

Since I did a lamp there is no reason to apply a sealant of any kind over the gold leafing.  It really is durable enough to withstand being on a lamp.  If you were doing a surface that might see some traffic it would be a good idea to use a water based acrylic topcoat to protect from damage.

It almost seems to simple that we are at the final step.  I should have added a few more steps so I seemed like more of a gold leafing genius but it really is that simple. That is the whole point of this DIY.  You can do this!  You need not be afraid, go ahead give it a try.  I bet you will have fun, I know I sure did.   If you want to read more on gold leafing you could check out  I found them to be a great resource on gilding.

Also come on by the store and check out all of our gold leaf accessories.  You can purchase the sizing, the gold leaf (in three colors) and also our famous gilding waxes that can be easily smoothed over detailing and surfaces to add a beautiful gold left embellishment to any project without actually using gold leaf.  So many options. So much fun.

Here is a final shot with her and some other gold leaf friends.  Check out the pulls on this small buffet and the rim of the vase. Yup!  All Gold leafed.  The possibilities are endless.

Gold Leaf Lamp

Off to get more coffee (and maybe a donut),


Before & After Fun with Chalk Paint ®
The Farmhouse Project

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