brenna bergerDIYdiy projects

diy project: silver-leafed lampshade

by Brenna

When we moved into our current rental, it had a hideous ceiling fan and light hanging in just about the oddest place you could put it. Needless to say, it was the first thing to go. This left us with the dilemma of not having a light source in our dining and living room. I found an oversized shade at IKEA and hung it on a cord and socket (also from IKEA). This solution brought the light that we needed, but the shade was missing something. Its white interior was stark and boring. I thought about painting it, but decided to follow the metallic trend (which I think I am in love with) and add a little glamour with some silver leaf. The end result is an affordable and quick eye-catching pendant shade that sure beats the look of an outdated ceiling fan. — Brenna

Read the full how-to after the jump…


  • large lamp shade preferably with a plastic interior (You want the bulb to be a safe distance from the edges of the shade. This is not recommended on small shades.)
  • baby powder
  • adhesive size for leafing
  • metal leafing
  • wide paintbrush
  • soft brush (such as a blush brush)



1. Using the wide paintbrush, paint the entire interior of the shade with the adhesive sizing. Paint the sizing as smoothly as possible, as the leaf will show brushstrokes. Also, paint edges carefully, making sure to paint only the plastic and not the fabric. The leaf will stick to any stray sizing.

2. Wash the wide brush while the sizing dries until transparent and tacky.

3. Powder your hands with the baby powder to prevent the metal leaf from sticking and tearing if you touch it. Start at the bottom of the shade, or the most visible side of the shade. My shade hangs from a pendant, so we look up into it. I wanted the bottom edge to look the cleanest. But if you have a table lamp, you might want to start at the top, depending on its height.

4. Open the booklet of metal leaf. Slide one sheet about an inch over the edge and close the booklet. Hold the booklet by the “spine” and line up the edge of the sheet of metal leaf with the edge of the lampshade that meets the fabric.

5. Use the soft brush to push the metal leaf to the shade interior. Pull the booklet away from the edge, allowing the full sheet of metal leaf to come out of the book. Paint over the sheet of leaf with the soft brush, pressing it down to the shade interior.

6. Continue with steps 5–8 until the shade interior is completely covered. Here are a couple tips:

  • After the first piece was on, I found it easier to line up the subsequent sheets with the side of the first sheet rather than the bottom of the shade.
  • Move in the direction of your favored hand. If you are right handed, the next sheet should be on the right of the first.

7. Repair any tears in the leaf with small pieces of leafing.

8. With the dry wide paintbrush, brush over the entire interior of the shade removing any loose pieces of leaf. You may want to do this outside, as the pieces of metal fly everywhere!

9. Hang the shade and you are finished!

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  • This is absolutely brilliant! I’m thinking my bedroom lampshades are in need a little leaf…

  • Great idea for gold leaf or silver leaf uses! This stuff is so easy to use and can be used for so many things!! Helped my mom re-finish a chair with it, the results were amazing!!

  • Holy moly, that’s superb. The naked light over my dining room table is about to get DRESSED.

  • A really great idea to bring interest. I’m sure it helps reflect light too and makes the space brighter. I’d imagine gold leaf would warm the light reflected and cast a golden hue.

  • love love love — there is also silver leaf (and all colors) PAINT, which I have had success with. different effect, but not exactly the same as metallic paint.

  • I was thinking of getting a diffuser for the pendant light over my dining table, but this may be the answer. Really beautiful.

  • LOVE that table under the new lamp. Where did you find that gem? It’s oak, right?

  • Awesome – I was JUST thinking yesterday of painting a black IKEA shade gold on the inside! It’s nice to have instructions :)

  • Just wondering what the reason might be to not try this on a small(er) shade?

    • Robyn, to answer your question, we don’t recommend doing this on a smaller shade because the adhesive size that you use on the gold leaf is a flammable substance. In truth, I think you would probably need a pretty high watt bulb to cause any harm, but to be on the safe side, you want a shade large enough that the bulb is at least several inches from the shade. We think it would be a bit risky to use a small shade where the bulb is within a couple inches of the inner shade surface, and we DEFINITELY don’t think you should use a shade where the bulb touches. I know this almost never happens, but just to be on the safe side, we thought we should mention it! You could spray the interior with a fire retardant spray for added safety, which might allow you to use a smaller shade—or you could use a small shade and a very low watt bulb.

  • Anyone else dying for a sneak peak feature on Brenna’s home!? This DIY project was such a tease…

  • Real silver leaf will tarnish, and fairly quickly if you have a gas stove nearby. Spray the inside of the shade with a clear acrylic to seal the leaf from the air.

  • Kate, Thanks so much for clearing that up – I would never have guessed that would be the reason! My thought was the maneuver-ability factor of application.
    Very smart warning!

  • Does the silverleaf actually help brighten the light in the room? I love this idea, and I would love to find a way to make the light in my kitchen brighter!

  • What a great touch! Especially now that golf and silver leaf comes in so many colors (I just picked up some minty green!)
    PS mention: Metallic leaf will stick to any regular white glue just fine (I like 50/50 diluted Elmer’s) which is a nice, non-flammable option. Less stink too. The special adhesive sizing is good and thin for detailed/textured stuff like old frames, though.

  • Can’t believe this: I have this same black shade AND have thought about this same idea! :D Only difference was that I want to use gold leaf! I haven’t done it myself yet, but it’s great to see that it works so well. So, thanks for the instructions! :)

  • hi all,
    thank you for the comments!
    to answer some of your questions…
    yvonne, we picked up the table at a furniture store that was going out of business. it is alder, which is soft and scratches and dents easily. i love the patina it has taken on with daily use, it reminds me of how much we love it.

    faith, most leafing is now a composition leaf made of aluminum alloys. it is called immitation sterling silver leaf and it costs a lot less than the real thing. it will not tarnish or discolor so there is no need for a sealing layer.

    anna, i found that it directs the light over the table a bit more, reflecting the light both up and down out of the shade, and the light no longer shows through the sides.

    hope this helps!

  • Thank you Brenna for your beloved table history, and I hear ‘ya! We have cherry wood floors which are also soft and scratch and dent so easily. There’s lots of love in them too, and now we don’t sweat it when our boys take a scooter through the living room.

  • So expensive looking! You took a simple shade to the wow factor. And of course, I like anything that blings. :)

  • Silver leaf is such a great idea! The reflectiveness of the material can also help save on power. You can get low wattage light-bulbs and be eco-friendly. I did the green thing and when I got my Austin replacement windows I made sure to get eco-friendly ones to match the style of lamps I chose which are similar to this silver leaf one.

  • I just bought the most beautiful brushed nickel lamps and loved the shades until I turned the lamps on. thought they were opaque, but you can see through them and they cast a faint yellow light. Will silver leafing them make the shade opaque? And it appears that the lining is fabric. Can I still use silver leaf on it? By the way, LOVE your taste in decor!

  • Love this, and if you’re worried about fire safety, I recommend using an LED because the heat output is minimal at most. Many LEDs are made to give off a warm white glow, which will flatter silver, gold, bronze, and most any other color.

  • I like it ,very much !
    Do you know how many sheets of metal you used to do it?

  • Has the lampshade maintained it’s look over the years or did you need to re-apply the silver leaf?

  • I tried this with gold leaf and must warn anybody who still wants to use the light to brighten a whole room. It made the shade very dark and hardly any light can get through the gold leaf. It is very pretty though with the light reflecting off the gold, but it’s more of a decorative accent than a functional light fixture.

  • I have used copper leaf on a large black metal shade from IKEA. It looks great. I have got a big LED bulb and removed the inner plastic shade. The only thing is that I didn’t do a perfect job with the leaf ( not bad for a first time but the are a few scratches and a couple of patches). Is it possible to put on a second layer on top?

  • I tried this with my lampshade but the leaf wouldn’t stick- I used the glue I got with the gold leaf but the glue just didn’t seem to hold onto the inside of the shade!! What did I do wrong?!! Any help appreciated