After a Claremont homeowner designed her new master bathroom and had it built, she felt the dramatic octagonal recess in the room needed a little more drama. So she brought in Dan Gallagher of Gallagher’s Decorative Painting and Design (Lic. No. 733972) to add more dimension. First Dan applied paper-thin sheets of copper to the area (a process known as gilding), then did a trompe l’oeil (French for “fools the eye”) treatment to make it look as though a blacksmith or sheet metal fabricator had stopped by.
According to Dan, the purpose of his decorative paint work is not for it to stand out and call attention to itself, but to complement and highlight the other architectural elements. He succeeded on that count here, bringing out the warm beauty of the beams and chandelier. And the recess is now luminescent, reflecting a warm glow back into the room.
If you wanted to try some copper leafing at home, Dan says one of the best places in the whole country to buy copper leaf, silver leaf, gold leaf and all those other leaves is right here in Los Angeles at: Easy Leaf Products, 6001 Santa Monica Blvd. The phone is: (323) 469-0856.
Gilding tips from Dan Gallagher:
Make sure you have a good, clean, sound surface that is either primed or painted. Draw a grid or lines on the surface if it’s big to help guide you and also help the appearance to look proper and uniform.
If you’re leafing (gilding) for the fist time, use water base size (glue). You won’t have to wait long and it’s easy clean up.
Thin the size a little bit, maybe adding 5% to 10% water, and apply with a brush roll or spray. Wait 20 to 30 minutes and it is now tacky and ready for applying the leafing. With water added, size will remain this way for the next 24 hours, which means there is no rush.
This is the part where you need to take your time and be patient. All metals are paper backed in book form. Hold the book on the paper side and carefully slide the metal onto the sized surface following your guidelines. Metal will only stick to the size. The sheets are 5-1/2-x-5-1/2 inches. So after the first ones goes down you’ll side the second across the first one, and so on.
Once it’s completely applied, use a gilding softener brush and lightly brush over the surfaces which flattens the metal out onto the surface. Let dry for a day and varnish with shellac. This is important because these metals will tarnish if not properly sealed.
This is a trade all on its own and takes many years to become a master. Have fun with it and know a lot of beautiful finishes are rendered all the time by people with very little prior experience.