Golden Rules

By Kate Riley March 30, 2012

Greetings everyone and happy weekend!  Today I’m so excited to have a special guest sharing some simple techniques for decorative gilding with an inspiring Easter craft.  Please welcome Matthew Mead, the stylist and photographer behind Holiday with Matthew Mead, and author of his most recent publication: Flea Market Finds.

matthew mead flea market finds









Here’s Matthew with some fantastic tips on gilding!

“I have always collected vintage gilded items. There is a warmth and glimmer about accessories with a touch of gold that make an interior feel a bit more sophisticated and special.  In my new book Flea Market Finds we celebrate classical decorating with a story titled “Greek Revival” which highlights items that have been embellished with gold to feel like relics of the past.



An easy way to “get the look” is to find simple but detailed shapes at the flea market and revive them with gold leaf paint.  I gather a mix of hues at the crafts store and then go about adding age and patina to flea market cast offs.



Easter is coming and I always think of “the golden egg” so why not add some gilding to the dining table by gilding a classically shaped urn.  We found two sizes of urns at a floral supply and then used several paints in a process that creates an aged, vintage patina.



Cover your work surface with craft paper and work by an open window to reduce the odor from the metallic paints.

There are many types of gold leaf and gilding paints at the crafts store… among my favorites are Liquid Leaf and Rub ‘n Buff.  I begin by lightly brushing each of the pieces with Liquid Leaf.



I apply it in sparing amounts with a foam brush and allow it to dry between coats. Apply two coats and let it dry fully between applications (about ½ hour for each).  Once fully dry I apply a layer of Rub ‘n Buff and work the paint into the surface of the urn with a soft rag, allowing it to dry for at least one hour.



Lastly, I use metallic pigments in multiple shades to rub over the finish to create depth and highlight the details of the urn.



The small urn makes a perfect perch for a hard boiled egg embellished with a letter sticker. Simply fill the urn with natural excelsior and top with the egg. Add flower blossoms like apple or cherry for a final flourish.

matthew mead gilded urn


For the centerpiece we placed a larger urn on a gilded round tray with delicate metal trim.  Fill the urn with hard boiled eggs and embellish with robin’s egg candies and flower blossoms.

matthew mead easter gilded urn


The gilded effect brings the details of the urn forward highlighting not only its classical shape but also the decorative interest in the design.  With just a simple paint finish an inexpensive piece is elevated from something simple to a beautiful and engaging centerpiece.

Gilding a piece can completely transform it and a small jar can be used on several small to medium sized pieces. Paints cost between $4 and $10 dollars.


Thank you so much Matthew for your step by step on getting the gilded look.  That Easter urn is simply stunning, don’t you think?  These tips couldn’t be more timely because looked what I found at a thrift store the other day: 

thrift store chair


This chair is destined for a nine year old girl’s room – I’m thinking soft pink or pale turquoise paint and gilding that gorgeous scroll detail with gold and liquid leaf.  You like?

Matthew’s Flea Market Finds is available on Amazon and it’s such a favorite source of amazing (and ad free) inspiration, now sitting on my nightstand.  Grab your copy here.

flea market finds matthew mead


Psst . . . congratulations to the winners of the three copies of the Flea Market Finds giveaway from last weekend: #110 Anna Altman, # 296 Susan Taylor, and #300 Emily J.  Emailing all of you today. 

Thanks so much again Matthew.  Have a fab spring weekend everyone.


kate signature image





  1. Hi Kate! Would love to pin this for future reference, but it says no images available. Do you know if Matthew has this on his blog somewhere?? Thanks for the help! Great post BTW!!

  2. Kate thanks for featuring Mathew great projects. I wonder where he bought the palette of colored metalics?

    Please come visit to enter the amazing Cross Bottle Giveaway!

    Art by Karena

  3. I had always thought that gilding was a process that involved glue and pieces of gold akin to aluminum foil. I didn’t have a clue that it was as simple as painting the item gold! Thanks for the step by step tutorial!

  4. Love this! I was on a gilding binge and everything that was in sight was gold or silver, lol. The good thing is that I learned how to work with leaf, and that is a lesson in itself. I can’t say enough about the real thing and the rub and buff. We are bbfs forever!
    I LOVE this letter egg holder! You truly are so talented. I just finished making you lavender scrub.
    Happy Saturday.

  5. I really enjoyed this post.
    As I am doing picture frames in gold leaf Rub and Buff, when I post it, I will link this so others can read your fine post. :))

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