before & after: copper-trimmed vanity table

Metallic leaf is one of my favorite craft materials, but I’ve never used it on anything larger than a vase or a small wood project. This copper-trimmed vanity table from Nicole has inspired me to do more with the medium, especially after seeing how it sets off the fine wood. The warm, rich tones on this vanity are so sophisticated — a very different look from its previous “princess style” finish — and it’s perfect in Nicole’s chic entryway. Beautiful work, Nicole! — Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

Read more about Nicole’s copper-leafed vanity table after the jump!

Time: 2 hours

Cost: $20 (supplies + latex gloves)

Basic Steps: The vanity had been recently stained, so there was no initial work (sanding) to be done. I already had a nice smooth edge; I just wiped off any dust. I purchased the copper leaf and the three components (base coat, adhesive, sealer) at a local art store. I applied the red base coat to the vanity and let it dry for an hour. Next, I applied adhesive to a small portion of the vanity and waited for it to become tacky; this took far less time than the bottle recommended. Just wait for the color to change from milky white to clear. I applied copper leaf to the vanity and gently rubbed it on using gloved hands (to prevent tarnishing). Any spots you miss on the first application can be touched up by tapping a piece of leaf on the spot. After you have applied the leaf to your liking, apply the sealer (still wearing the gloves). Repeat until complete.

This was my first project using metal leaf, but it certainly won’t be my last. There are a few different metals you can choose from, and there is even an antiquing kit you can purchase. My piece of practical advice is to turn off fans and shut windows while applying the leaf because it is so thin that it blows around and can rip. — Nicole

  1. Susana says:

    so sophisticated indeed! this before and after makes me especially happy

  2. Jolene says:

    This may be one of my favorite Before and Afters ever. I love that the paint came off to show that beautiful wood.

  3. Katie says:

    Wow! What a difference, it came out fantastic! xo

  4. sarah says:

    that turned out fantastic! i see these types of pieces everywhere and i never would’ve known by the after what it was before!!

  5. Rosie says:

    Wow. I had to scroll back up to make sure it was the same piece of furniture! Very impressive transformation.

  6. Max says:

    I love it, just wish I had enough space for a dresser in my bedroom!!

  7. Jennifer says:

    Great Before & After. Love it!

  8. nora says:

    wow that is gorgeous! i probably would have sold/given away the vanity if i saw it as it was in the ‘before’ photo. just goes to show, you never know what something might transform into!

  9. hyzen says:

    Holy crap, that’s amazing. Sorry, I don’t usually swear, but this requires it–in fact, that’s a direct quote of what I thought when I scrolled down to the reaveal. Really surprising, lovely transformation.

  10. Tiia says:

    Oooh, really nice!

  11. Orlee says:

    Wow, that’s SO pretty. Did you replace the top with that gorgeous oak? The original top looks like it has a beveled edge…

  12. Gigi says:

    I actually have this vanity in it’s “before” condition! The same one! I found it in the “discard” pile behind my apartment building and have been looking for the right course of action to take… and I’ve found it! Leave it to my favorite design blog. Merci mille fois Nicole…xoxo

  13. Margaret says:

    Finally, someone had the courage to paint the generic 70s girls’ furniture! This is an amazing transformation-and only a trained eye could tell its humble origins. The creative copper top is genius. Your design will be copied, I’m certain.

  14. giulia says:

    well, this is masterpiece1

  15. Cynthia says:

    Gorgeous! I grew up with a bedroom set exactly in the style of the vanity. Wish my parents held on to it!

  16. Wow. WOW WOW WOW WOW wow. I’ve seen a lot of these 70s vanities on all these design blogs I read, but usually the makeover consists of someone painting it a bright color and adding funky hardware. YOU did something few people do and (stripped?) it. And those results are amazeballs. Best. Before and After. EVER.

  17. Jen O says:

    I am guessing the wood grain is a faux finish, and not stripped and stained? Just asking, it looks great, but I was just wondering about the rest of this ‘remake’ story.

  18. Jill S says:

    Definitely one of the most successfully executed before and afters. Lovely!!

  19. Barbara says:

    That table is absolutely gorgeous!! Fantastic job! I just love it!

    Hugs XX

  20. What a fabulous project. This turned out marvelous!

  21. Excellent work. What a great way to restyle the piece.

  22. Amy says:

    @orlee, you’re right, it’s a new slab on top. found this on her blog, and probably should have been included in the description above: “My parents did most of the work to the vanity, stripping paint, staining, and replacing the whole top piece.”

  23. Elaine says:

    Oooooh, I like that. The copper colour is interesting. I’ve seen silver leaf and aluminium leaf makeovers on the various design blogs, but this is the first time I’ve come across a copper leaf one.

    *adds this post to inspiration file*

  24. Beautiful! Looks so much better…

  25. Karen says:

    This looks absolutely amazing. I would have never thought to do this. Great work!

  26. Connie says:

    I agree with all the WOWs! Beautiful transformation!

  27. Heather says:

    I absolutely love this. I will be replicating this on a piano bench this afternoon! I know it says it was recently stained, but did it have a finish on it as well? I’ve recently sanded and restained my bench, and I’m wondering if I should put my polyurethane coat on before or after?

    Also, how do you guys feel about a copper leaf edge in a room with nickel hardware? I am trying to be less matchy-matchy, but it’s a struggle. If the copper didn’t look so good with that warm, dark wood I’d probably go for a silver edge. Thought?

  28. Daphne Collins says:


  29. dawn says:

    wow what great transformation

  30. Vanessa says:

    Will it turn green eventually? You and your parents did a beautiful job!

  31. Ellie says:

    I am speechless. I had that type of furniture growing up. Had we known what it would look like underneath, I doubt we would have given em to my cousin to paint in a bubble gum pink color. Such a delightful post!

  32. Debb says:

    Sooo beautiful! A great idea. I have a chest of drawers that I am going to try this technique on. Thanks for a great before and after. Heather asked about mixing different metals…..Don’t worry about mixing different metals in a room. It adds layers of color and interest and looks more collected over time. You could certainly use silver leaf instead of copper, though.

  33. Jub says:

    Isn’t the mirror up side down ?

  34. Josue says:

    Holy shit…this is amazing. Excellent job!

  35. Mandi says:

    This is beautiful!!!!!! Such a great idea. I was wondering if you had ANY idea what color the paint is on the wall behind it? It’s beautiful also!!!


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