DIY: Silver leaf chest of drawers

Have an old wooden chest of drawers that’s looking a bit lacklustre? Upcycling pro Sacha Olivier shows you how you can give it a glamorous new persona using sheets of silver leaf

How to prepare your chest of drawers

1. Remove the handles and sand your piece of furniture. Wipe it down with a damp cloth to remove sanding residue.

2. Spray it with a coat of Rust-Oleum primer (grey will work best for this project). Allow to dry.

3. Prepare the paint for the base coat: mix Plascon Cashmere Plush Matt, colour Nautilous, with water to water it down – you’re looking for a medium consistency that’s not too runny or thick. You can use any paint you like, just ensure that it’s water based.

4. Using a large paint brush, roughly paint the piece varying your brush strokes to give it a washed look. Don’t worry about getting it perfect, some of the paint will show through, but most of it will be covered with silver leaf. Allow to dry.

Applying the silver leaf

1. You’ll need to do this in stages working slowly and carefully. Start by using a small craft brush to paint some size onto a manageable section of your chest of drawers – I’d recommend an area large enough to accommodate about six sheets of silver leaf. Leave the size to stand for a few minutes until it’s set, but still tacky to the touch.

2. To apply each sheet of silver leaf, gently press it down flat onto the size and then rub over the back with a soft cloth before peeling off the backing paper – you can only apply one sheet at a time. Next use a soft, dry, medium-sized paintbrush to brush down any pieces of silver leaf that haven’t stuck or to remove any excess.

*Note: To give your chest of drawers a worn antique look, like I’ve done here, position the sheets of silver leaf next to each other to allow some of the base coat to show through in between. For a more uniform look, overlap the sheets.

3. Repeat the process until you’ve covered your chest of drawers. Then give it a protective coat of Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Multi-Purpose Paint Clear Spray. Allow to dry.

4. Attach your new handles; I chose crystal knobs for added glamour.

Sacha’s tips for working with silver leaf

  • Silver leaf comes in packs of 25 sheets and is applied with an adhesive glue referred to as size, both of which are available from arts and crafts stores. I used about 6 – 7 packs of silver leaf to complete this project. I only did the front, top and sides, and left the inside of the drawers and back painted.
  • When silver leafing your chest of drawers, it’s best to start in a corner and apply the sheets to the large, flat areas of your piece first. Leave the tricky bits like the legs until last when you’re feeling more confident.
  • Silver leaf is light and delicate so ensure there isn’t a draft in the room when you’re working with it; it’s easily blown around by the wind and can tear or stick to itself.
  • Each sheet of silver leaf comes with a piece of backing paper; it’s easiest to pinch the edges of the two together when picking them up.