Gold Leaf Desk Chair

By Kate Riley April 10, 2012

Hello everyone, how are things? I’m busy busy busy with a very cool new project I’m working on, I’m very excited to share it with you, that’s coming next week.  Meanwhile, you may recall this $7 thrift store chair I scored a few weeks ago.  Well lah dee dah, look at her now!

gold leaf chair before and after

She was all by her lonesome at a local thrift store and I adored that scroll back and figured she’d be a great piece in my neighbor’s daughter’s room.  Now she’s all fancied up with some paint, new fabric, and (ooh la la) gold leaf on that gorgeous scroll.  It’s the perfect little desk chair for this space under the window. The room is mostly white and turquoise, so we were going for a dash of glam, and as always metallics will do the trick – this time it was gold leaf.

It was sanded lightly then primed with my fave primer – Zinsser Cover Stain. (You can see how gorgeous this chair would be in white too!)

cover stain primer


Next came the water based enamel paint – a popular color around here since I painted this blue bureau with the same.  (Benjamin Moore’s ‘Thunderbird’).

enamel paint on chair


Next came time to add the gold leaf, I used this product found at my local craft store.  I learned long ago that simple spray adhesive works great for applying silver or gold leaf (see this lamp and this chair).

gold leaf kit


With the spray, you don’t have to wait for a brush on adhesive to get tacky – that I love, but you have to tape off the surround sections where you painted.  Or I could have just applied the gold leaf first, but well, I didn’t, so I just taped the surround off to avoid the spray adhesive.

Apply a small amount to your first section.

spray small amount


With one sheet of gold leaf at a time, simple press and carefully peel away.  Use the tips of your fingers to get it to stick to your piece.

press and peel gold leaf

Applying gold leaf is a flaky messy business and sometimes a little frustrating, especially when you’ve got crevices and corners.  With patience you can eventually get it into all the cracks.  But I’m impatient, so I cheat sometimes.

gold leaf detail on chair


I use this.

liquid leaf to fill in blanks


I’ve had this Liquid Leaf in my stash since this gold table project and Matthew uses it to achieve the gold leaf look too.  It’s stinky so beware, but it works great for giving you the look of gold leaf without all the trouble of actually applying gold leaf.

Here’s the detail up close.  I like that subtle crinkly texture of real gold leaf but you can only see it when you’re about 2 feet away (or less) so if you could care less about texture, just skip the gold leaf process entirely and use the Liquid Leaf paint instead, it will give you the same look without the time, expense (or headache) of applying gold leaf.   Heck, you could use a great metallic spray or craft paint too, why not?

gold leaf detail cg


The seat was reupholstered too – I’ll share some tips on that soon.

reupholstered seat cushion


The gilded detail adds a touch of glam to this transformed chair, and it’s a big hit in my neighbor’s daughter’s room, the perfect addition to her feminine space.

gold leaf chair cg


By the way, for anyone who’s curious, the rug is the Espana from Home Decorators, and they have several colors in that circle pattern!




  1. it looks gorgeous! how was the craft bond adhesive? i used the one that the craft store sold with the leafing and it worked well at first but as it got to the end of the can it seemed to not be as sticky. it wasn’t empty, just not as sticky.

    • Hey Cassie, the simple Elmer’s brand worked great – that adhesive is useful to have for a lot of crafts and projects, but who would have thought for gold leaf too?

  2. Gorgeous!!! Love it all Kate. I love it in your daughters room. I love blues and white together. Thanks for sharing what a little love and some paint of course can do for your older furniture. :)

  3. Where to you buy the Zinsser in a spray can? I have looked everywhere! That is such a beautiful chair. I heart everything you do! :)

    • Hey Ashleigh, I find my Zinsser spray at Orchard Supply, Lowes, Home Depot and True Value, they should all carry it!

  4. I’m really not a gold girl, but that sure looks pretty. Love the cheater step too. That is right up my alley ;) Gorgeous makeover!!

  5. Super cute! I’ve been meaning to try gold leafing (especially since seeing that entire dresser makeover from My Champagne Taste). I think once I find the right piece I’ll give it a whirl! …even though the paint sounds pretty easy :)

  6. Does the gold leaf, either the sheets or the paint, flake off when you rub against it? I have a similar chair and an iron end table I’d like to try this on, but I wasn’t sure if it would come off. BTW, I love the gold coffee table you found at Goodwill. It’s stunning.

  7. What size rug do you recommend under a desk like yours? We are on a budget and those larger size ones get so expensive! Can you achieve a cool look with a smaller one?

    • Hi Shelby, that’s my friend’s daughter’s room, the rug is 3 1/2 x 5 1/2 but I think the sizes vary based on the space itself, not just the desk. In this room, it’s being used just as an accent under the desk so it’s proportional but for a larger desk and chair, I think it probably looks best to have both the desk and chair sitting on the rug, even when the chair is pulled out. Hope this helps!

  8. Kate, Love the chair and the lovely treatment you gave it. I love the glam of the gold. When doing gold leafing I like to use a 1 1/4″ used fluffy soft artists brush. You can use it to help lay down your sheets (if your fingers get sticky and to keep it from tarnishing) After its set-up you can use the same brush to brush away the crumbs. If using brush on adhesive, you can easily cover any places you missed with a bit of adhesive and small piece of gold leafing. Seems like traditional gold leafing has black or red paint underneath and its desirable to have some of the paint color showing through. But that info. is from YEARS back. I’m older! Vicki

  9. Oh Kate I forgot something! If it is true “gold” leafing it should have either brush on or spray on oil based varnish of some variety. Nothing water based. In time the true gold will tarnish from fingerprints or moisture. Vicki

  10. Wow, what a great looking chair! Do you use any kind of top coat with the BM enamel paint?

  11. Wow, what a great looking chair! Do you use any kind of top coat with the BM enamel paint?

  12. Kate, it’s just darling. So funny. . . I came over from Chris’ blog where she said everything you touch turns to gold. Very timely project. And tell me about that amazing gun type thing on your spray paint. Just had a can explode on me . . does this thing keep it even and spraying nicely?

    • Hey Courtney thanks so much! I love Chris’ blog, so happy to be her guest. I use that spray paint gun handle all the time, it really helps distribute evenly because your fingers aren’t cramping up above, they’re pulling a trigger and I think it makes for a better application. Clearly mine’s had some use! They’re only a few bucks in the paint department and worth every penny.

  13. So happy to come across your site. Never thought I would do metalics/gold yet you have totally inspired me with your blues, silvers, grays and gold. My neighbors have come to hate me as I become a spray painting queen. I think you would really enjoy the Luminous Gold by Martha Stewart and Champagne Mist by Rustoleum. Just finished using these colors on lights, mirror, shelf and dresser! LOVE IT! Got a way to go. Keep all the beautiful ideas coming!

  14. Hi Kate – love the chair makeover! You have written some excellent posts on basic paint/refinish techniques and steps, but one thing I have been wanting to ask for awhile is where all this magic happens. This chair post looks like you are outside. Do you have any tips and hints on setting up a space to paint furniture? Or am I making it too complicated – maybe I just need a drop cloth and go for it?

  15. Some DIY blogs seem to scrape around for bottom of the barrel projects just to have something to blog about. I love reading about your projects because they range from sewing to furniture to cooking to homemaking but you never give the sense that you are just making something to have a post for a Tuesday. Your projects are classy, elegant, and I can genuinely tell that your ideas and creativity come first and thus you blog. Keep it coming!

  16. Your site is so fabulous. I have been trying to catch up on all I have missed. The colour of the chair is so fresh. Love your Easter display too.

    I do not know how you have the time to put all your wonderful things onto your blog and have such great write ups as well. I can’t even get my pictures taken. lol.

    I have put you up on a pedestal which you are so deserving of. Maybe one day I can join you.

    My very best, Sheryl

  17. I had to smile when I saw the liquid gold leaf. I’ve had it in my stash for about two decades (no lie) and I would totally ‘cheat’ just like you did. A girl after my own heart :). The chair is beyond lovely. Your friend is a lucky lady!

  18. This is so beautiful! The combination of that blue with the gold is awesome! Classic and modern at the same time! Looooove!

    Barbara @ Chase the Star

  19. I love this chair the treatment came out great I know leaf can be a bit much to deal with at times. Great job. I love the color too.

  20. OMGosh…that chair would look fabulous in ANY room…any color that one might want and then adding the gold leaf makes it look magical. Love your idea…..

  21. Kate – So glad you posted this! I’m actually in the process of refinishing some dining chairs and am at a stopping point while I wait for my fabric to arrive. Am anxious to see your tips on upholstering since I’ve never attempted it before!

  22. RE: Your blog…What Rachel said, TRUE DAT!!!! And something about your blog is so lovely and calming too. Hands down my FAVORITE place to visit, virtually speaking, of course!

  23. It turned out beautiful Kate..please do share your tips on re-doing the seats as I have 4 vintage kitchen chairs that I will be re-covering in the near future..Thanks

  24. Beautiful! I’ve been so inspired by your blog and have tried a few projects, but they’re not turning out with the beautifully, polished look in your pics. I wonder if you might share tips for painting that can help make the pieces look professionally done? Like how to get a smooth texture without brushstrokes–or drips?

  25. My custom color was icy blue! Hmmm….. I like it but also tend to lean toward your sea glass colors too. Very fun quiz and great results! Thanks for the info.

  26. I was wondering if you could share your tips on reupholstering. I’d love to try it.

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