Gold-leafing, or gilding, has embellished everything from furniture to picture frames for thousands of years. Today, gold leaf can add a touch of old-world luxury that still feels modern—whether it's peeking from underneath a pendant lamp or boldly glowing on cabinet doors.
The rich, deep hue of gold leaf is a far cry from the shiny brass of the '70s, so don't be afraid to experiment with this earthy metallic. Big, bold statement pieces or a handful of shiny accessories will all look beautiful.
What is gold leaf? Gold leaf is sometimes confused with metal leaf, but they are different products. Metal leaf typically describes thin sheets of metal (of any color) that do not contain real gold. Gold leaf is made of real gold. I use gold-colored metal leaf for most projects, as it would be prohibitively costly otherwise.
The phenomenal screen in this room probably uses authentic gold leaf, and adds a perfect dose of opulence to an otherwise calm and serene setting.
Here, a pair of chairs goes from pretty to perfectly extraordinary with gold-leafed backs. The gold gives this sophisticated space a moody and sexy feel that would be lost if the chairs were plain white.
But deciding to work with gold leaf can be a big commitment. Starting with something small first is usually a safe bet.
I decided that a client’s giant, antique, Ming-style coffee table needed to be gold, and it sounded like a really amazing idea when I first explained it to her. I envisioned this mass of previously unloved teak as a found treasure—something casually tossed aside from a palace (yes, I really went there). We decided that the table should be gold-leafed, because there is something incredibly special about the squares of gold that transcends anything paint can accomplish. I then spent countless evenings painstakingly applying fragile metallic sheets to a table that seems to grow bigger with time.
Know what you're getting yourself into when you decide to use gold leaf. Any surface can be gold-leafed as long as it’s prepared properly. Channel your inner alchemist and attempt some home-leafing. Most craft stores sell packages of gold-toned metal leaf and adhesives. But as I said, start small.
Add carefully selected accents. Gold gives off a warmth that both reflects and absorbs light. Nearly every room can use a touch of metallic, whether it’s a gold-toned drink table, a gilded mirror or the glint of an antique frame.
This antique Italian mirror is a classic example of gilding that works with any style. In a modern minimalist space, it would be the set piece. In an eclectic home, it would complement surrounding treasures.
Play with scale. Today, gold leaf shows up in larger furnishings, such as this elegant foyer cabinet. Adorning just the doors, the gold makes a statement without overpowering the other objects. It's the sort of laid-back luxe that makes a room special.