From Bronze to Silver: Lamp Transformed

By Kate Riley March 29, 2010

Over the past months, I’ve been putting just a few finishing touches on my stepdaughter’s bedroom, and one of the last things I wanted to do for her was inject the space with a dash of big girl glam.  As you know from my fixation on metallic finishes, I’ve been wanting to silver leaf something, anything, for quite some time.  An inexpensive bronze Kmart lamp became the victim.  I’ve had this lamp for over three years and it was just looking a little, well, plain to me.  So rather than buying her a new lamp, I just decided to give it a glitzier look. 

For the faint of heart, the lovers of standard lamp bases, and the devotees to dark bronze, avert your eyes, look away, look away !   Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Now, for those like me who adore all things shiny, feast your eyes on my latest transformation, a lamp refinished in silver leaf. 

silver leaf lamp

Before and After:

silver leaf before and after

This project was incredibly simple, and took only a few hours to complete.  Here’s the play by play. 

But first, peeps, come a little closer, I’m about to say something that the silver leaf company doesn’t want to tell you.  There is no need to buy those expensive adhesives and coating sprays that are sitting there next to the metal leaf products.  Sssssh.   It wasn’t me who told you.  Pass it on.  This message is brought to you by a gal who has silver leafed only one thing in her entire life.

But seriously, other than the $10 dollar package of silver leaf available at a craft store, I used products I already had for this project including multi purpose spray adhesive and Minwax Polycrylic to seal.  I’m sure the other products designed for applying metal leaf are fine and dandy, I’m just a cheapo, and I wanted to save the $15 bucks. 

silver leaf package

The instructions tell you to use wax paper to ‘iron on’ the leaf with your fingers to the wax paper before you apply it.  Hey, it worked !   This stuff is incredibly thin and prone to flaking so it helps to use the wax paper as a guide. 

iron on with hand

And may I just say that my wrist looks particularly chubby today.  I’m gonna blame the lens and not my latest melted cheese binge. 

I applied my spray adhesive to the area of the lamp where I wanted to apply the leaf, and used the backs of my fingers to adhere it to the lamp. 

applying leaf

I cut smaller sections for the skinnier and curvier parts.

smaller sections

When I was done, I applied two coats of Minwax Polycrylic to the lamp to protect the finish.  That’s it ! 

lamp after

silver leaf lamp 2

Flirty gray lampshade from Tarjay.

Some of you spray paint devotees are thinking why not just use silver spray paint ?   You’re right, I thought of that.  After all, I am a self confessed spray paint junkie, and there are a ton of metallic spray paints available.  Valspar has an entire ‘metal’ series that is fab !  However, I’ve been wanting to experiment with silver leaf forevah, and I like the subtle textural difference between a smooth spray painted surface and an silver leaf crinkly surface.  Glamour injection ?  Check.  And my daughter loves it ! 

What about you ?  Have you ever danced with the silver leaf in the pale moonlight ?  Er, I mean, have you ever used this product, and what were your results ?



  1. Lovely. I’ve been dying to do some picture frames in this method though with more of a burnished, aged look. Will have to get on to it!

  2. It’s really pretty! I love the texture! Do you think this works better than a silver spray because it leaves a nicer texture?

  3. Can I just say your daughter is one lucky teenager to have a mom with such talents and fabulous taste! in about 10 years my 4 year old will be very jealous.

  4. I came across a silver leaf table recently and I’ve been dying to try it out ever since. The lamp looks fantastic!

  5. oh la la! so sexy!! and LOVE the shade. I have a plethera of those bronze beauties in my home and have been slowly switching them out- may have to get me some silver leaf.

  6. Oooh la la. That is what thing I have never tried before. I even got some for free from a friend. I guess I have had the inspiration strike yet. But silvers are growing on me. I am redoing my master bath in blues. white and silvers. I am going to paint my nasty oak cabinets in there. And you, my dear, are my inspiration. In my head I want to do a Silver Sage base with some sort of blue wash and a opulence pearl over the top. Plus wallpapered insets like your cream cabinet makeover. I love your patina dresser too. However, my cabinets are not real wood everywhere so I feel like I can’t do the same treatment as you did. You are queen of finding cool inspiration pics. Have you seen anything like that?

    I want you cream cabinet makeover with your patina dresser mixed together but with more of a blue than a turqouise. Confused

  7. Are you kidding me, I love this and I love even more the fact that you gave us such great hints about not needing the extra steps. You always do such great work and I think this one is just as good as all the others. Thanks for always inspiring me .

    Cha Cha

  8. oh my goodness – so so beautiful!! I too have been wanting to try silver leaf and now I am more inspired than ever to do so. Well done!! :)

  9. Oh my goodness!! I love this project!! I have wanted to do something with metallic leaf but I’m too afraid to try. Isn’t that awful. The worst part is I have bought it and the sticky sizing and all, but it kind of just sits on the shelf. This is some serious push here. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Oh yea, your room is beautiful. I love the colors, so pretty.

  10. Gorgeous, as always! I especially love it with the colors in the room and those beautiful flowers! I silver leafed a mirror once. It was my first time and I didn’t put a dark base coat on, which I should have. I am going to redo it. I didn’t realize you didn’t need to use the sizing. Good to know!

  11. Hi I just popped over from Traci’s Linky party at Beneath My Heart. I love your lampbase – it is just perfect for a girly room. Thanks for including pics on how to do it and your fabulous tips! I love the silver next to that gorgeous splash of turquoise blue. Wishing you a wonderful day ~ Tina

  12. Super scary that you’re in my head right now. I’ve been looking for THE right shaped bedside tables to give this treatment to, it’s the only glam I plan on adding to the grand master bedroom reno plan. Haven’t found them yet, but good things come… :)

  13. Gorgeous! I’ve been wanting to try out silver leaf and I just got 2 matching lamps from goodwill the other day. I think they’re going in my bedroom. I think you just assigned me a new project.

  14. You know, I did your brass/ crystal lamp makeover with the Heirloom White and have thought about switching it up with silver leaf. I love how this silver lamp turned out, so I believe you’ve just inspired me to move forward with my idea. thank you & awesome job!!!

  15. Hi again Katie,
    loved your playday feature yesterday…. a delightful day for your precious family… and yum… the coup d’etat… the fab chowder at the end of it…. so fun to read… I was almost right there with ya!
    Instead we’re in the middle of painting the kitchen… and I almost scored on your pulls from Tar-jay- but when I went back to get them- THEY WERE GONE! CLearanced out over the weekend!
    So The Home Depot version will have to do… meanwhile, I started to tell you before I digressed.. the silver leaf lamp is too wonderful in that room… Kudos on picking that lamp for the treatment… once again you’ve done another WOWza project!

  16. LOVE IT!
    And it’s convinced me that I’m right and I do need to make the currently green lamp in my living room silver.
    I used silver leaf on plastic easter eggs last week and although they are tricky because you have to hold them and I wanted them to still open, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

  17. To heck with the silver leaf… tell me more about the melted cheese!! I thought I was the only one who appreciated this fine food! Please tell me how you prepare yours! (Feel free to use my Email)

  18. I love your tips. The last time I used silver or gold leaf OMG the mess. It all just flaked and fell apart!

    Art by Karena

  19. I &heart; this lamp…the colors in the photos are so serene! lo, and how funny that you quoted the Joker… I ♥ that movie too…the original(first one) was the best! By the way, thank you for all your wonderful inspirations…keep em coming :)

  20. It looks beautiful against that fabulous wall color. I bet that room only brings good dreams! With colors like what I see in the picture, how could it not?

  21. Very pretty, and I am digging that side table. Where did you find it? It is just the right size that I”m looking for on my side of the bed.

  22. I’m yet to silver leaf, but have to say that lamp is GORGEOUS…and the shade is simply perfect. I’m feeling motivated to get my hands on a lamp over here now. :)

  23. Hello, luh-vah! I really enjoy the texture of the silver leaf compared to what you would have gotten with spray paint. I’ve never silver-leafed, but this definitely makes me want to. Like now.

  24. GORGEOUS, Kate! I silver leafed a letter “R” when I was in college, but it I used a kit that was WAY more complicated than what you’ve done and yours turned out so much better! I may have to give it another go.

  25. Well Shut Up! That’s awesome. You will be inspiring all of blogland.

    I never silver leafed anything but there’s a good chance I will now.
    Beautiful Room!

  26. It looks great! Where, may I ask, did you manage to find the silver leaf? Did you have to buy it online? I searched the aisles of three different craft stores and still have not managed to find it. Do you know any stores that carry it? What section is it in? Thanks in advance!

  27. I have danced in the pale moon light but I was under the influence of too much sugary goodness. There there were children involved. And silliness. Much silliness.

    How well does the poly protect the silver leaf from flaking off? Metal leafing is a project I’m dying to try but I’m afraid of it flaking off after much hard work. How is it holding up? Did the poly affect the finish?

  28. Thirty years ago (30) my sister wanted to have a silver frame for her wedding picture that was taken 30 years prior to that and was in black and white. Silver leafing wasn’t a crafting item at that time….so I had to bright idea to use the thinnest and cheapest aluminum foil I could find at the grocery store and some good glue. Yep!! I covered the wide wooden frame with pieces of randomly torn foil, burnished it with a soft cloth and it still hangs in a place of honor in her living room. Just thought you and your followers would like to know of another option if they don’t want to spend the $$$ on silver leafing. LOVE your blog.

  29. The “new” lamp looks very expensive! I want to try leafing, but probably won’t splurge for real silver leaf. I found a recipe for the adhesive I may try – 2 sheets(diamonds) of plain gelatin to 1 cup of water. I gotta say, yours looks simpler and I appreciate the tip about the aluminum foil.

  30. I LOVE IT!!! ive always wanted to try silver leafing something, but never knew what to try it on! you always provided such wonderful inspiration :) and just so you know, i am fixated on transforming lamps (and have been since i saw your crystal and bronze lamp that you re-made). every lamp i see, i think “what could i do to make this lamp pretty and loved again?” thank you for all the time you take doing posts, detailed explanations, before and after pics, etc :)

  31. Now you tell me! I just bought that exact pack of silver leaf and the gold leaf starter package sitting next to it on Saturday! However, I’ll redeem myself with the fact that I had two 40% off coupons so I didn’t pay full price for either item. I cannot wait to tackle my first shiny project – a small baroque-style framed mirror!

  32. I love it! I just got this lamp at the goodwill and was wondering what I should do with it! I think I’m going to try this, yours really turned out amazing! It looks so expensive!

  33. I have been wanting to try this stuff too! So glad you shared your little secret. I won’t tell. :) I am wanting to try this on some little birdies for my mantle. I’ll let you know if I try.
    Thanks so much for linking up to my party!!

  34. Love Love Love! I just claimed 2 old brass lamps from my mom’s basement. I didn’t have a specific plan for them until now! I can’t wait to try this out!

  35. I’ve tried the metallic spray paints and they just don’t give a very nice finish. The silver leaf looks so much nicer and doesn’t look like it would be too difficult. Thanks for all of the tips!

  36. This lamp is so stunning!!! I love it. I have done some gold leafing in the past and it is not hard. Great job!! Love & blessings from NC!

  37. This lamp is gorgeous! I think I am going to use this idea for a lamp in my sitting area! Thanks for the tutorial!

  38. mmmm, I just bought a metal basket at the Restore, and I haven’t decided what to do with it yet. It just may get the leaf treatment.

  39. Hmm… as another self-proclaimed spraypaint junkie, I think I would prefer the spraypaint. A nice hammered texture. I will keep this in mind, but putting this sort of texture on a lamp seems a little like putting carpet on a wall. But then again, I don’t recall ever having seen this texture up close. The lamp is pretty though and definitely meets the glam look.

  40. Should I go and warn my husband now that I will be silver leafing our bathroom vanity?!

  41. absolutely delightful! I can’t wait to cover something with this cool stuff! I hopped over from A Soft Place to Land and am so happy that I did. Please accept my invitation to drop in at my place one day this week when you get a moment. I have become a follower and I hope you’ll do the same. until later…

  42. I love gilding! It is so much fun. Check out the gilding materials from the Country Living Artisans Collection by Caromal Colours. I teach with this in CA. It is way easier than the spray stuff. It’s all waterbased, and we have silver, gold and copper leaf. I have some pictures on my website as well as Facebook. We are gilding everything from pumpkins, gourds, apples, leaves, picture frames, cabinet handles, gilding through stencils on walls, trays, etc. etc. So much fun!! If you want to know how to get some just let me know.

  43. Oh, I forgot to mention, with the addition of our toner, you get this really rich patina to the leafing that can make it look like it is antique….very cool stuff.

  44. Do you know where to find nice lamp shades? I love the Anthro’ shades, but they are too expensive for my budget.

  45. This is so great! I’ve been on the hunt for some simple silver lamps but haven’t found the design I want. Now I can just make it!! Thank you so much for all of your great ideas!!!

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