10 October 2012

DIY Brass Etagere – Gold Leafed Ikea Vittsjo Hack!



I think etagere is just a fancy french word for shelf, but it’s so much lovelier to say :) Whatever you want to call them, I’ve been crushing on brass and gold étagères for ages. They’re so stylish and elegant and the perfect way to display a few pretty treasures.

I fantasized about finding a fabulous vintage étagère, though I never bothered searching for a new one – even if I could afford it, I wouldn’t know where to look (where do fancy people who buy these kinds of things even shop?). So when I came across this DIY version by Ana Antunes, I was instantly inspired! And I had the perfect spot for it in my new living room :)

I started with the Vittsjo shelving unit from IKEA. These units come in 2 sizes, for my space I went with the larger one - it's $90 in Canada but only $70 if you're in the US.   

I love the soft and elegant gold Ana painted her Vittsjos, but I had no idea how to recreate it. I tested out some different spray paints and initially went with Krylon’s metallic brass. But after a few weeks living with it I was kind of disappointed. The colour was more yellow than I wanted for this project, and the finish was flat. I decided to try gold leaf instead, and I’m so happy I did - this time around I’m completely in love!


The finish is smooth to the touch, but it still has a really cool distressed look that I love.


Plus it’s more reflective than paint (which was just sort of glossy), giving the étagère a metallic effect.


I love that bit of sparkle that it adds to our living room! Plus after moving into this home we moved our bookshelves upstairs to the study room, so I like the height of this piece in the space too. 


I’m still playing around with the styling of the shelves, but it’s so nice to have a space in our living room to display some of our favourite things. A few special books, sentimental knick knacks, and other accessories that make me happy :)



Eventually I want to change the bottom and top wood shelves into mirror or glass, but for now I left the original ones. The bottom shelf is housing some of our drum collection.



I have to admit, the process was pretty long, and at times a bit discouraging. If you’ve never used gold leaf before like me, think twice before starting on something this big! That said, I did eventually get it done, which also means it’s totally doable with a little time and patience.


To hack your own Vittsjo, here’s what you’ll need:
  • 3-4 books of gold leaf (for this size Vittsjo; they usually come in 25 sheets per book, I found mine at a local art shop for $5 a book, they’re also sold online or at craft stores)
  • size (leafing adhesive)
  • a couple foam brushes
  • a soft artists brush - I used a makeup brush instead
  • sealer (optional)
  • a vacuum (the gold bits will get everywhere :)  
 For any first-time gold leafers like me, here's what I did:


Before you start, think about doing a few practice pieces in inconspicuous areas (like the back legs). I did a few test pieces to make sure I liked the finish of gold leaf since this was my first time using it.  

 
Step 1: apply an even coat of the leafing adhesive (found in my local art shop) with a foam brush, working in small sections. Be careful that it doesn't puddle in the corners! Let it dry until it’s clear and tacky, according to the package, in my case it was about 45 mins.

Step 2: cut the gold leaf books in half - half a leaf was plenty to wrap around the thin sides of the Vittsjo. It’s much easier to cut the sheets in the books, or at least between pieces of the wax paper they come in, than cutting them individually.
 

Step 3: lay a sheet of gold leaf (one sheet at a time). Handling the leaf is a bit tricky - if you even breathe too hard on it it’ll flutter away - but after a bit of practice I got into a good groove. The easiest way I found to handle them was holding the leaves using bits of the wax paper. 

Step 4: gently smooth out & flatten the leaf using the tip of your finger (or a brush, I found using my finger easier, just remember not to use sticky fingers!). As you're smoothing it out, wrap it around the sides of the Vittsjo.


Step 5: burnish the gold leaf (basically rub it) to smooth it out, flake away the excess pieces and also buff it up. I used my fingers in some areas as well as a soft make-up brush, which was good for getting into the corners. You can also use a soft cloth.
 

Repeat steps 1-5 until you've covered the whole Vittsjo. You can even do step 5 all at once after leafing the whole shelf. As you work, you’ll likely have some areas where the leaf didn’t stick, which you can go back and redo with some of the bigger flakes that fell off. Don’t freak out about it, my inner perfectionist had a hard time with this, but it’s almost impossible to get a totally smooth application without any little pieces that you have to fill in. The little imperfections are hardly noticeable once you’re done though, and they add to the distressed/textured effect of the gold leaf. 


I worked on this project a little bit every day for over a week. You might be able to knock it out in a day or two, but I just preferred doing a little at a time. That way it was still fun and it didn't become too tiring or frustrating :)

Step 6: apply a sealer if desired. It won’t really get a lot of wear & tear, but I wanted to make sure the finish was still somewhat durable, and it only took about 10 minutes to do. This particular sealer didn't dull the finish at all. 

The gold leaf was definitely a lot more work than painting, but I’m so happy with how it turned out! I didn't really love my Vittsjo with my original spray paint job, but now I totally do :)


Our new etagere looks great in our living space - reveal of the full room coming soon!

Linking up at the Fall Pinterest Challenge, Furniture Feature Friday, well as the November Before & After Party! ! Be sure to check them out for tons of great projects :)

32 comments:

  1. amazing!!!! I saw a spray-painted version in silver metallic and it too looked great, but I agree witht the shimmer this gold leaf brings Samaa!!! Love it!!!!! I want to do this too soon!!!! I'm so inspired, thanks for sharing! Hey, btw, have you ever tried gold-leafing a painted wood furniture? I'm liking those dipped-leg furntitures and thinking of trying it out on my entry table. :-)

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    1. Thanks soooo much Vel!! I'm so happy you like it :) I saw a silver one too (on Centsational girl?), it was beautiful! Even Ana's is just painted and it's gorgeous, but somehow my paint didn't come out that nicely. You should totally go for it! Maybe you have better paint options near you than I did. Otherwise the gold leaf is totally doable too. This was my first time using gold leaf but I'm pretty sure it can be used on wood - there is a tutorial on Little Green Notebook for gold leafing a frame and it looked like wood. I love the dipped look too :)

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  2. This looks SO good!!! I have been wanting a Vittsjo shelf for a while now. Love how you styled it, too! :)

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  3. So elegant! I am totally inspired to try the gold leaves some time too.

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  4. Jackie & Kin, thank you so much! I really appreciate it :)

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  5. I TOTALLY LOVE THIS! I am also totally in love with your nick nacks, especially the blue and white balls. Where did you get those??? When/if we ever move...I'm totally doing this. Great Idea Samaa!!

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    1. Thanks sooo much Dehdee! You're so sweet :) The larger ball in the middle I randomly found at a store called Fabricland in Toronto, but then I found all the other ones at Bombay Company, which I think they also have in the US? They have all different patterns and sizes, and they were on sale for $2.50!

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  6. Ooooo love this! love the glam look of gold leaf. I've been going gold crazy around my house these days. : ) Can't wait to see the rest of the room.

    Smiles!
    Sammy ~ Renew Redo

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    1. Thanks so much Sammy! I've been going a bit gold crazy too, and I think my husband's getting a bit sick of it :)

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  7. This is truly Amazing! Everytime I see this hack I get inspired to hack my own version. This piece is just so versitile and can be personalized so many different ways. I love your application! I wonder....since Im waaaaaaay too intimidated to attempt to gold leaf this, do you think rub n buff would give it a similar effect? Last night in the new House Beautiful I discovered a new paint from Benjamin Moore that creates a hammered finish. Maybe that'll be my hack. I really love your styling as well. Your drum collection is lovely. Thanks so much for sharing.

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    1. Thank you SO much Shavonda! You're so sweet :) I'm already dreaming up a pink and navy Vittsjos! Rub n buff is a great idea too - I've never used it on something so big but I love the effect it creates on small projects. That BM paint sounds amazing though, I have to look it up!

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  8. oooo, I love this! I love your style too!!

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  9. This is so great! I love how you styled it too! Simply wonderful!

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  10. Megan & Amber, thank you sooo much! I'm so happy you ladies liked my style! I had been thinking I should have styled it a little different just for the photos but now I'm glad I kept it real :)

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  11. Having use gold leaf before, I take my hat off to you for tackling this. It looks AMAZING! Sooo much more expensive than an Ikea piece. I've been contemplating adding the narrower version to my guest room, but I would want it to be either silver or a fun bold color. Perhaps I'll have to take inspiration from you and silver leaf my own version?
    Sarah

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  12. I've seen so many of these around the internet that have just been spray painted, but I love the look that you were able to achieve with leafing. Awesome.

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  13. This looks amazing! I just bought this same shelf two weeks ago and would love to gold leaf it. A little nervous, but you make it seem much less daunting.

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    1. Thanks so much Brit! You should totally go for it - it's easier than it seems! Especially once you get the hang of it and get into a good rhythm :) I'd love to see what you end up doing!

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  14. Hopping over from Apartment Therapy. Wow, it is so beautiful!

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  15. I absolutely LOVE this!! I spray painted my Vittsjo - but I'm totally considering leafing it now. Yours looks so fab :)

    www.livintheglamlife.com

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  16. This is one of my favourite Ikea hacks. I've featured you on my blog (http://www.amdolcevita.com/).

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  17. Did you use a composite leaf or actual gold leaf? There are so many choices, I'm unsure what's best!

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    1. Sorry to be replying so late! I believe it was composite (as it not real karat gold) - the type you can get at arts & craft stores. Mine were about $5 a book. Actual gold leaf would be amazing, but I'm guessing a lot pricier too! Are you working on a gold leafing project? I'd love to see it!

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  18. I just gold leafed a 4 x 6 wood picture frame for the first time. It was exhausting and I kept thinking, how did she do an entire bookcase?! Hats off to you! Looks wonderful. I'm going to stick with painting my ikea bookcase for now.

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    1. Haha thank you so much! I have to admit the thought of ever doing it again is pretty daunting :)

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  19. Hello-

    I stumbled across your blog and I am so happy I did. I bought the Vittsjo laptop table from Ikea and I spray painted it with Krylon Metallic Bronze as well. I was in search of the results that you got with the gold leafing. Question, you already spray painted the shelving unit, correct?

    Ifey

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    1. Hey Ifey! thanks for stopping by :) Yes, before gold leafing the shelf, I had already spray painted it in Krylons metallic brass. It wasn't the look I was going for, which was why I ended up doing the gold leaf. I think I also would have been good with the spray paint on a smaller application (i.e. I've used the same paint on mirrors and a smaller side table), but this shelf is pretty big! But I've since read about a few other gold-ish spray paints that might produce better results. Feel free to let me know if you have any other questions :) I'd love to see your table too!

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  20. What a gorgeous bookcase! I definitely want to try it. Question - was it helpful to have a gold painted surface to begin with? I mean, do you think I would get as good of results if I begin with just regular metal or should i spray paint it first like you did? Also, you mentioned in your last response above that you have heard of other goldish spray paints that might produce better results than your Krylons metallic brass. Can you share? I'm also super interested if you can gold leaf on wood, so I will check out that post you mentioned on Little Green Notebook for gold leafing a frame. Thanks! - Erin

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    1. Hi Erin! Thanks so much for your sweet comment :) As for painting the surface first - I don't think it's necessary. This was my only time trying gold leaf but it's pretty opaque, so other than any areas it chips away, it should cover any surface pretty well. And I'm pretty sure you can use it on wood too!
      In terms of good paints - I'm personally partial to Valspar over Krylon and Rustoleum, but in this case none of them turned out to be quite what I wanted (picky much!) I haven't tried them out myself yet but I read that a brand called "Design Master" is really nice (probably sold at places like Michaels), as well as a professional grade paint called "Montana". You can check out some of these posts that do a really good comparison of some paints out there:
      http://www.brittanymakes.com/2013/04/03/finding-the-perfect-gold-spray-paint/
      http://www.chrislovesjulia.com/2013/02/answering-which-gold-spray-paint-is-best.html
      Hope that helps!

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  21. I got a real vintage one for 75 bucks at the Goodwill. Appraised at 2500.00 took some time and looking and a little luck but a lot easier than the DIY.

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    1. WOW - that's what I call a FIND! Congrats! I used to live right by a Goodwill and I could go pretty often but these days I don't make it out there as much, but you're right - sometimes with a little luck you find the most amazing pieces, better than anything you'd find new!

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