The Shaw penthouse in San Diego required a glitzy decorative treatment that would reflect the Italian Baroque style. Reflect is the right word when you consider I covered nearly every square inch of ceiling space with either gold leaf or silver leaf.

In all, I must have applied some 60,000 sheets of gold and silver leaf to the ceilings. And believe me, applying small individual 5 inch squares sheets of very delicate leafing is no cake walk. Not only must you be careful to not rip the very fragile sheets of leaf as you handle them, but you must also apply them in a tight overlapping grid to achieve that classic gold leaf appearance. The real challenge comes in applying the leaf above your head and working against gravity.

And, you only get one shot at correct placement of the leaf. Remember you have to apply the leaf to a sized surface. Sizing is essentially the glue that holds the leaf to a surface, so you have to be very precise with your placement. Once all the leafing was applied to the ceilings, I needed to wait a day for the sizing to dry fully.

The color of pure gold leaf and silver leaf is much too garish in my opinion to be left untreated. I wanted to tone down the glare while also providing an elegant aged appearance to the leafing. My solution was to give the leaf a top coat of a water based satin polyurethane to protect and isolate the leaf. After this top coat dried I applied glazes using a fine stipple brush. For the gold I used a water based glaze tinted with raw umber universal tint available at paint stores. For the silver I used a glaze tinted with burnt umber.

The end result was a muted metallic appearance that radiates a warmth yet still looks hi end. Using metallic leaf in place of metallic paint gives a distinct look of workmanship. Try the above techniques and discover the beauty of leafing.

By the way, I also leafed 8 toilets in silver leaf as well, transforming a standard toilet into a throne, for lack of a better word. Very cool looking.


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