before and afterDIY

Gold Leaf Chair Upgrade

by Grace Bonney

I love gold leaf because it creates a surface that has texture and dimension you just can’t get any other way. When I spotted this vintage chair in the corner of my local thrift store I knew immediately that its crescent-shape back was the perfect spot for a little goal-leaf embellishment! Even though the finish was in pretty bad shape, the chair’s midcentury lines were perfect for keeping the overall look modern and fresh. Keep reading for more details on this golden project. –Megan

chair after


Here’s What You’ll Need…

-2 clean, soft-bristle paintbrushes
-An 8-oz. tub of water-based sizing (I used Dux)
-Imitation-gold leaf (I used imitation this)
-Black acrylic paint in high gloss
-Clear acrylic polyurethane
-Fabric for to recover the seat (the amount will vary depending on your chair)
-Staple gun
-Medium-grit sandpaper

Sand and Paint

The first step in bringing new life to this little chair was to lightly sand the body to remove and smooth the worn-out finish. Next, I painted it a glossy black, carefully excluding the little brass caps on the legs and the area I planned to gold-leaf.

Apply the Gold Leaf

Once the black paint was dry, I carefully applied the water-based sizing to the chair back. Keep in mind that the sizing goes on milky white and dries clear and slightly tacky. Once the sizing surface was ready, I applied the gold leaf by gently placing the thin foil sheets onto the chair back until the entire surface was covered. You can use a soft-bristle paintbrush to help maneuver the foil. Don’t worry too much about being perfect; just cover the surface, filling in cracks as you go. You can use a paintbrush or your fingers to smooth the foil and brush away any excess. Once I was satisfied with the gold-leaf coverage I added two coats of clear acrylic polyurethane to protect it.

Tip: To round out the makeover, I did a quick recovering job of the seat cushion using a staple gun and a few yards of black-and-white fabric. If you need a recovering tutorial, here is a simple one!

For more fun gold-leaf projects, check out my Weekend Decorator column on the One Kings Lane blog!

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  • hey d*s! not sure if anyone has commented about this yet, but all the “more…” links when your posts show up in feedly are broken. i’m not sure whether this is a problem on your end or theirs, but thought i’d let you know anyway!

  • Fabulous finish. Gold furniture adds such warmth and style to a room, such a timeless colour. Love this chair, the gold and black is super stylish and a striking focal point for any room. Great job

  • Oh my stars and garters – this is AMAZING! I’ve refinished so many pieces of furniture in my life that I’ve been a bit jaded, but this definitely wowed me! Thanks for the burst of inspiration, and kudos on the gorgeous work, Megan! You are a very talented designer :)

  • Looks very nice. I might have chosen a different fabric–dots aren’t my thing–but great job refreshing the chair.

  • Gold leaf is just too much fun… I love the modern touch that it adds. I’m with Veronica… I probably wouldn’t skipped the polka dots, maybe a solid? That’s just what would work better in my home. This is so adorable!

  • Just found 3 mid-century chairs near the road this week and they are perfect candidates for this treatment. Thank you.

  • Sorry but if you want to do a tutorial it would be nice to know: whther or not the chair was hand painted or spray painted, and how many coat s were used. Did you apply sizing over black paint or raw wood, for he gold leaf?

    Also, how did you cover the brass tips with tape or something else. They look so shiny did you polish the brass tips?

    It is so lovely thanks for the post. I want to paint lifre attributes on dining room chairs that are ladderbacks . I am painting them black matte tomorrow, but…..I am afraid that gold leaf lettering on the black may wrinkle or something. I want to cover it all in polyurethane so I limit wear on the chairs, and the words mostly, does that sound doable?

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