DIY Gold Leafed Shelves

DIY Gold Leafed Shelves

diy gold leafed shelves

Hello hello!

I’ve taken a bit of a break this last month from blogging.  Unplanned.  Just with client work, and family, and flu season, and holidays, etc., the blog has gotten pushed to the side for a time.  I do appreciate your emails and messages, and I do try to respond to all of them, though I am not quite caught up yet.  So thanks for being here, I’m excited to show you what I have been working on.

I have written about my Guest Room/Office Makeover a couple of times – the first post talked about how the color palette and trim was inspired, and the second post was how the paint and trim came to be, quite a feat!

But my beautiful new space would not be what it is without my dear friend, Jen.  You may know her from her really great blog, IHeartOrganizing, or her shop where she sells her practical and pretty products to help make your life more orderly.

jen and grace

We met at the BHG Stylemaker Event the year before last and hit it off.  It was funny too because after reading her blog all of this time, I had thought before that “we could be friends”.  This past year at BHG Stylemakers, we were roommates and stayed a couple of days extra to pal around together.  It was so fun and truly one of my most enjoyable trips to NYC ever.

I had told her before about this cough, rather hoarder looking “storage room” of mine (basically the “receiver” of projects around our house – i.e. “the bathroom is getting redone, so throw everything in here room”), and we both said, “wouldn’t it be neat to collaborate?”  It sounded awesome, but I was skeptical it could ever really happen.  We live at basically opposite ends of the country and both have businesses to run and families to raise.  But she hopped on a plane, and we did it together.


image via IHeartOrganizing

The above photo is courtesy of Jen and showcases what we had to go through.  This is the previous state of the closet.  Yes, it had gotten so bad, I would literally throw things in here “that belonged” and shut the door, thinking I would get around to organizing it “later”.  Anyone else have any “later” spaces?

Much to my surprise, Jen did not run away screaming.  She stayed with me for days, going through this mess, sorting it and putting it away, long into the night(s).  This is true friendship.  Love you, Jen.

jen grace kids

Jen wrote about this makeover, especially focusing on the organizational aspects of it here and here.  There are TONS of good, practical ideas here, so check it out.

Now onto the shelves…

I bought a pair of these Stairway shelves from CB2 when they were having a major sale a couple of months ago.


I bought the gray instead of the white because at the time, they were cheaper and in stock!  The white was backordered, although if I had gotten the white, I could have skipped the lacquering of the shelves since the shelves would have already been lacquered white.

I knew I wanted/needed two large shelving units on either side of my desk for storage and prettiness (and Edith Wharton’s design philosophies – see this inspiration post), but the room is not huge so I needed to be mindful of scale.  We have nine foot ceilings in our home, so I knew it would be a good idea to take advantage of height.  These CB2 shelves are eight feet tall, which is giant for this type of off-the-shelf piece, so it was a good choice.

The shelving supports were pretty non descript before.  Gray. Metal.

shelving supports before

I spray painted them gold before I gold leafed them just to ensure they would be gold even if I missed a tiny spot.

spray paint

I could have stopped here, but I am so glad I didn’t.  The gold leaf gives so much dimension to these shelves.

Now I have never gold leafed a piece of furniture, and I will tell you, I need a long break after this project.  (ha!)  This took several hours/days, BUT the shelves look very high end, and I am super happy with them.

Gold leafing is something that can feel very intimidating, which in fact, it is not.  Now messy…yes, it is messy.  Here is how I did it.

I used three books of these gold leaf sheets for this project.

gold leaf sheets

You will also need “size”, which is metal leaf adhesive.  If there is one major tip I can give you on gold leafing something like this, it is how important it is to buy the right size.  When I started this project, I used a really thin size, and the glue was so thin and drippy, and it made everything so much messier.  But then I found this thick size, and everything was better.  THIS size is what you want.

extra thick adhesive

The gold leaf can oxidize and lose its lustre if you do not seal it, so you will need this sealer to brush on top when you have gold leafed everything.


You will also want a boar bristle brush (or a brush with really really soft natural hair bristles, not synthetic) and a couple of little foam brushes.

I used the little foam brushes to lay the size on the metal.  You use pretty thin layers and make sure there are no puddles.  Size is really milky when it goes on, and you know it is dry (and you are ready to gold leaf) when it is clear and sticky to the touch.  It takes about 30 minutes for the size to be ready for gold leaf application.  You want to be darn sure the size is ready because if you get impatient and apply it too early, your gold leaf will not adhere.  

When the size is ready, you lay a sheet of gold leaf on and press it down gently with your fingers.

I used my boar bristle brush to make sure the leaf was really flat against the piece with no bubbles.

Then you brush the extra gold leaf away and sort of buff it with your brush.

You are going to have tiny pieces of gold leaf everywhere, but do not toss them!  They are your friend.  You will have small spots where the gold leaf did not adhere, so simply place the small pieces in the holes and brush and buff with your brush to get a completely covered surface.

The “filling in the holes” part of gold leafing is the most time consuming, but after you finish this, you can apply the sealant in a thin coat (I used a foam brush), and then my friends, you are done.  I did let my sealant dry overnight before I attached the shelves to the supports.  This length of time is probably overkill, but after all of this work, I was taking no chances!

However, when you are done, it is a good good feeling.  Plus I really love how gold leaf brings such lovely texture to a project.

NOTE: Because I was gold leafing a four sided object, I did three sides of size and gold leaf at once, then I flipped it, and did the other side.  I sealed everything at the same time once the gold leafing was all done.

The previously gray shelves were painted using my favorite lacquered look paint from Benjamin Moore – their Advance line in High Gloss.

benjamin moore advance paint

I did not want to pay for professional lacquering, and the Advance paint is a fantastic look for the price!  The thing about the Advance paint though is that it is water base, but has oil base properties.  Therefore, it takes a looooong time to dry.  I would give it a couple of days before I handled anything extensively that has been painted with the Advance line.  I had Benjamin Moore Advance paint made up in the color of the walls – Capitol White from the Williamsburg Collection.  I LOVE its creamy color, it is a new favorite of mine.

styled shelves

Of course, styling the shelves was one of my favorite parts of this whole makeover.  They needed to be pretty, showcasing things I have collected, like the vintage typewriters.  But they also needed to be functional and practical for office needs like a printer, paper, files, etc.  The old sewing machine was a gift from my husband long ago, and the black worked perfectly in this space!  Plus the acrylic file folder makes for a really handy paint sample container.

styled shelves

You may notice the shelves look a little different from Jen’s photos because we actually did not finish going through everything before she had to go home.  We completed the large majority of work, but there were still a few piles, so I had to add more storage once I surmised what else I needed to put everything away.

Working at a real desk has been really wonderful for me.  I feel more efficient, and in a strange way, more powerful.  Like I’m more able to accomplish the things I need to do.  I’m still working on a few details pertaining to the “guest room” part of this space, but wow, what a transformation, right??!!


More design aspects of the space coming soon, be sure to check out Jen’s posts on this room – Part 1 – brace yourself for some bad bad befores, and Part 2 – the Reveal & How To, and please feel free to ask questions and leave comments below.  I’d love to hear what you think!

Written by Grace

  • sarah
    Posted at 14:41h, 17 December Reply

    this is so beautiful. that must have been so much work ha ha, but it was so worth it!I love your posts. Please keep writing!

    • Grace
      Posted at 09:35h, 18 December Reply

      Hi Sarah, thank you! It was a ton of work, but I am glad I did it! They really do look like they were super expensive! xo

  • Susan M.
    Posted at 17:10h, 17 December Reply

    You’ve been missed! Glad to hear that all is well.

    Love the shelves!

    • Grace
      Posted at 09:37h, 18 December Reply

      Hi Susan, thanks so much! I do enjoy writing and sharing, and I have missed it. I have missed the interaction with my readers for sure. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, I really appreciate it. xo, G

  • Emily
    Posted at 09:57h, 19 December Reply

    This looks amazing! I am intimated by gold leaf–probably because it does look messy. Once again you have impressed me! Missed you, and have a wonderful Christmas Grace!

  • Alena
    Posted at 21:25h, 19 December Reply

    I’ve been missing your posts & then somehow, I miraculously found the reveal on your friend’s blog, even though I hadn’t been following her before (I am now, though!) I saw those CB2 shelves and I was so enamored, I immediately went to their site and was a tad disheartened to see the price tag. Maybe someday…or on a super sale day. 🙂 I would love to know where you sourced the amazing campaign style desk, is it a vintage find or a retailer that may have more gorgeous desks for your faithful readers?

    • Anonymous
      Posted at 11:16h, 14 March Reply

      Where has she gone? Just found this blog! Please help a DIYer out

  • Erica
    Posted at 15:24h, 29 December Reply

    LOVE the transformation. Would you mind sharing the source for the large flower print?

  • Ashley
    Posted at 11:16h, 10 January Reply

    It looks amazing! Where did you get those lamps?

  • Marielle
    Posted at 22:18h, 15 February Reply

    You’ve inspired me to gold leaf my ikea desk legs!!
    Thanks for the inspiration & instructions!
    Hopefully it’ll turn out nicely like yours!
    love love love the room!
    & i’m in love with those lamp shades!
    may i ask where are they from?!

  • Julie D
    Posted at 08:40h, 19 March Reply

    I LOVE this! I recently did a similar IKEA hack. I am a brand new blogger and yours is definitely one that inspired me to begin blogging myself. Thanks for the inspiration!

Leave a Comment