Gold Leafing with Some Risqué Ladies

I have a new entry on my Things To Grab In A Fire list. My mom found a set of six vintage pin-up girl cocktail napkins that used to be my grandmother Tinker’s and let me have them. Here they are in all of their buxom glory:

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They are too fantastic to keep in a drawer or risk staining by actually using, so I decided to frame them and hang them in the living room next to the bar. I measured them and decided to use one long 40″ x 10″ frame. I blithely went to the framer who quoted about $250. I thanked her and fled the building. Next plan – copy the fabulous Jenny over at Little Green Notebook and shrink an existing frame. Fragers quoted me about $25 for the glass I would need, so I was feeling pretty good about reducing this price of this project by an order of magnitude.

I headed up to the Goodwill in search of a frame. The only suitable one was a pretty beat up black one. However, there was a reasonably attractive 30″ x 11″ frame and it occurred to me that it would work perfectly if I only frame 5 of the 6. Done. Since there are two of the women bicycling in the set, I decided that nixing one would be fine and I could be off and running for $9.95. So here is where we start. In case you are wondering, yes, that is painted velvet.


The finish is that sort of fakey-patina-ed gold, so I decided to try gold leafing it and mount the napkins, while making sure they are not damaged and I am not doing anything permanent to them.


Supplies (I am trying a new format here)

Project essentials:

  • Frame
  • Gold leaf – I used Speedball Mona Lisa Composition Gold Leaf (not real gold) that I had already. Had I noticed that when I bought it, I would have used real gold. Not at all as extravagant as it sounds.
  • Adhesive leaf size (glue)
  • Vintage napkins – I found similar ones by searching “Pin-Up Napkins” on eBay
  • Linen
  • Spray adhesive – I used 3M Super 77
  • Flathead pins
  • Extremely sticky double sided tape – I used this

Other tools:

  • Utility knife for cutting the existing paper on the frame
  • 100 grit sanding sponge
  • Scissors
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Paintbrush for glue
  • Foam brush for smoothing the sheets of leaf
  • Iron and starch
  • Carpenter’s square

First I removed the paper backing of the frame with a utility knife to find out what I was working with. All was well, nothing weird. I used needle-nose pliers to pull out the small nails holding the picture in and set those aside to reuse.

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The velvet was backed with foam core! Perfect. I set the glass and the foam core aside, and got to work on the frame. I used a 100 grit sanding pad to rough up the existing finish and then wiped off the dust. Next, starting at one end and working my way to the other, I spread a thin coat of size over the parts of the frame that would show.

After about 10 minutes (much faster than the bottle predicted), the size had gone from milky to clear so I started applying the leaf. I cut it into strips as I went, making it much easier to put on. After putting a section of leaf onto the frame, I used a foam brush to tamp it down onto the frame and then used my finger to sort of burnish it into the grooves. There were lots of flakes, so I would recommend doing this outside. I tried to stick the larger flakes onto bare spots as best I could. Once I covered the whole thing, I let it dry overnight before going back.

While the frame was drying, I mounted the cocktail napkins. I bought some linen yardage at a garage sale last year and finally found a use for it. I ironed it once, then laid the foam core down and figured out how to cut a piece that would leave the largest solid piece of linen left over, and cut it out leaving enough to fold enough around the edges of the foam core.

I re-ironed and starched the cut section to be sure there were no creases. Before I sprayed the adhesive all over the foam core, I tested a section because the can advised against using it on foam. You may remember that I discovered that spray paint melts styrofoam cups whilst making Phoebe’s animal clock, and I didn’t want to repeat the mistake. The cardboard on the foam core proved to be protection enough, so I went for it. I sprayed the whole piece and then put it facedown on the ironed linen. I used the super-sticky double sided tape to wrap the linen around the edges to keep it smooth.

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I ironed the napkins with lots of starch, but I avoided spraying the ladies themselves. I am pretty sure it would have been fine, I mean, they are supposed to be for cocktails, but I would be SO bummed if the color ran or something (really, I would be devastated, but “devastation” in regard to cocktail napkins seems like something I should keep to myself). I arranged my nice flat napkins on the linen covered foam core and used flat head pins to hold them in place. I used a carpenter’s square to get them generally evenly spaced, but in the end I eyeballed them until they looked even. Measuring failed because it turns out neither the napkins nor the foam core was really square. Story of my life. Stay tuned for the day, probably mid-December, when I finally tell you about The F***ing Bookshelves we are working on. I pushed the pins all the way through the foam core and then trimmed them as close as I could with the needle-nose pliers.


The next morning, I touched up the gold leaf and let those bits dry. Once that was dry I put the pieces back together and replaced the finish nails. Since I only used five of the six napkins, I put the sixth in a plastic bag and taped it to the back to that the set at least stayed together. I hung and hung it next to the bar and, voila! Now I can hang out with these fab ladies any time.



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Light at the End of the Elfa

Hi! I am following up on Monday’s post with more on our new shelves. I am a bit obsessed with them. I had fallen into a trap in with those Elfa shelves and not even realized it. When we moved in, we immediately unpacked all of our “shelf stuff” onto the two sets of shelves and there it alllll sat. All the way up to the ceiling on both sides of the dark fireplace. WHY SO MUCH STUFF??

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When we took them down to paint the walls, we realized what could be if we just didn’t put them up.  It dawned on me that we could use the matching shelving units on both sides of the fireplace. They are two types of the Ikea Vittsjo – we actually got this one, the single tower, last fall to use as a bar, and ran to get this one, the double tower, Sunday morning. They are tall enough, and airy aaand black. So what’s a girl to do? Break out the spray paint!


I used a few light coats of my current favorite gold spray paint (of those that I have used) which gave the shelves a beautiful warm gold finish. Here is the one we had already with one coat. I decided to paint them after putting them together. I could have saved a little paint, maybe a can, by spraying all of the pieces before putting them together but that would give me infinitely more opportunities to scratch or smudge the finish. I would definitely recommend going this route. This particular paint dried extremely quickly, which is something I love about it.


Once the walls and the spackle filling the Elfa hardware holes was dry, we moved the shelves inside. And I all but died of happiness.


I got to work putting everything back together. The things on the bar shelves didn’t change much, but I did move the glassware to a higher shelf and moved the cocktail mixing stuff lower to lighten the top a bit. You can also see that at some point in the paint fume fueled frenzy that was last weekend, the console table that the tv sits on got a couple quick coats of green paint. No more red!

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The other side needed WAY more editing and fussing. I started by putting all of the books in the bookshelves behind the couch. Yes, that couch table is really just an empty Ikea Expedit. Now, not so empty.


After a few tv shows worth of fussing, this is where I ended up. There will definitely be more tweaking, but it is about a million times better. It includes a few of my prized possessions, like the wave radio that I got in 1999.


And finally, the whole thing.


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The Nuclear Option

Hi! I am EXTREMELY excited about this post. It blows the last post out of the water and basically renders it moot. You see, while I was fussing around trying to make our living room brighter despite the lack of light and the dark brick, there was one other option that Sam and I had been kicking around without being ready to pull the trigger. I give you The Nuclear Option:

Painted brick fireplace by Just Something I Whipped UpInstead of trying to mitigate the brick, we painted it white. While we were at it, we painted the walls white, got rid of the Elfa shelves that we inherited from the previous owner and painted the tv console table. The whole thing sort of snowballed – kept saying “should we paint this while it is out? – and suddenly we had a whole-room makeover on our hands.

Painted Brick Fireplace by Just Something I Whipped Up

Painted Brick Fireplace by Just Something I Whipped Up

Painted Brick Fireplace by Just Something I Whipped Up

Painted Brick Fireplace by Just Something I Whipped Up

Today I will talk about the brick painting part and cover the shelves next time.We had been hesitant to paint the brick because we do plan to sell the house at some point – it is pretty tiny – and we didn’t want to do anything that future buyers might not like. You know, the value of exposed brick and all. I was the very first thing I wanted to do when we moved in but we hemmed and hawed and put it off. If it was our “forever house” it would have been a no brainer. With the encouragement of some friends who know what they are talking about – both design and real estate wise – we decided to do it. It was not nice looking brick and the opposite wall is still (nice-looking) brick down the full length of the house. This is the view of the side of the room opposite the fireplace. Thrilling, I know. I have plans for it but have not gotten around to executing them.


And lastly, it just looks. way. better.

Now to the nuts and bolts.


  • Dropcloth
  • Painter’s tape
  • Primer (we used Zinsser Bullseye 1-2-3)
  • Roller with 1″ nap for textured surfaces
  • Flat latex paint in white (we used Benjamin Moore Extra White)
  • Paint trays
  • 3″ Paintbrush (medium quality – it will probably be ruined but you don’t want hairs in the paint job)
  • 1″ Artist paintbrush
  • White paintable caulk

First we lifted off the mantel which luckily was super easy. Then we spread the dropcloth around the chimney and used painters tape to secure it. We knew we’d be painting the walls and the ceiling is already white, so we decided to skip taping those off. We rolled on a coat of primer. The thick nap picks up SO much paint. After the first coat, we decided to only use one roller because using two was a huge waste of paint. After the first coat went on, I used the larger paintbrush to get primer into the mortar lines where the roller couldn’t reach, and around the edges. Then I went back with the 1″ artists paintbrush to get the even tinier spots.


There were lots of nail holes in the chimney that became extremely prominent once the bricks were white. I filled the nail holes with paintable caulk and while I was at it, realized how much better it would look if the spaces between the chimney and the ceiling and walls were filled as well, so I went around those with caulk as well.

DSC_0739After about 2 hours we repeated the painting steps – rolled on and then touched up. The next morning, I rolled a coat of flat latex paint over the primer and touched up around the edges, but didn’t need to go back with the small paintbrush because the little crevices were already white and I couldn’t tell where I would need to touch up. Darn.

We planned to leave the apron until everything else was done so that we could stand on it while we painted the rest. However, when it came time to paint it we realized that we really liked having just a bit of the brick left. Once the paint was dry we popped the mantelpiece back on and moved on to the walls. And there you have it. I could not be happier with it. It is basically a whole new room.

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The Nuclear Option

I will be back tomorrow to tell about our awesome new shelves!



Three Quick Living Room Updates

Hi! I have been a little scattered and working on a few things at once and so most of those things are not done done, just almost done. So, I am going to share the three little things I have updated in the living room in my continuing quest to brighten it up.

The very first thing I did was take a picture to determine exactly which dark things were bugging me. I think it tends to be easier to tell in a picture, but I am not sure why. This is what I was working with. The other side of the room is a bit better, but today I am focusing on the side that needs most help. Incidentally, it is basically impossible to take a good picture of this room.


A few things really jump out. First, there is just way too much stuff, but that’s not a problem I want to work on until the other shelves in the study are done. Second, the brown blinds practically punch me in the face, and the dark fan makes the ceiling, which is not low, feel like it is resting on my head. Also, the fireplace just looks so, so messy. Those are things I could fix. I found that clock broken, requiring an outlet, and looking super dingy at Miss Pixie’s and fixed it up, and my mom made the driftwood sculpture in college and then my dad and I turned it into a lamp last year, so even though they are dark, they are definitely staying.

My plan was to paint the fan blades white. At some point I would love to have a room where the sort of British Colonial woven ceiling fans work, but that is not this room at this point. Did you know that most ceiling fans blades have ANOTHER COLOR ON THE BACK?? Stop laughing, adult family members of mine, not all of us knew this. I was all ready to paint, but when I climbed up the ladder to get the blades down, I was greeted with the delightful surprise of MUCH lighter veneer on the other side of the blades. Yahoo!


Changing them is really simple.  The little wing-nut-esque guy is really a sort of switch that slides the bent pieces of metal out of the way and allows you to lift the fan off of the two rivets. In the end, it took about 3 minutes to flip them over and be done. Ignore the exposed cords. I keep trying to tape them up “for now” and they fall down, so I gave up. There was a light fixture there when we moved in that was the first thing to go when we moved in and then someone who will remain nameless has not quite finished the job. But the wires are better than the light fixture, so there’s that.

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I think having the light wood there will be good in the end. I don’t want to go too far accidentally paint myself into a white box in there.

Moving on to those blinds. I just took the whole thing off. It was remarkably simple and only required a screwdriver. We are going to need a curtain there at some point but that one change made the biggest difference of all.

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The last bit is going to sound a little counterintuitive, but it was a great step. I painted the firebox matte black. DO NOT USE REGULAR PAINT FOR THIS. I ordered Rutland 1200° Brush-on Flat Stove Paint from Amazon because it was the only one I could find that specifically mentioned being ok to use IN the fireplace. Rustoleum has a high-heat paint that I have seen around a lot, but the guy at Frager’s said not to use it and since we actually use the fireplace a lot in the winter, I went with his advice.

The application isn’t hard, just EXTREMELY fumey. I vacuumed out the fireplace and then brushed it on straight from the can. And almost passed out. When they say well-ventilated, they MEAN well-ventilated. If I owned a respirator, this would have been the time to use it. But, it made a huge difference and all it cost me was paint and a few brain cells. It just looks so much neater.

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There is obviously plenty left to do in there – a larger piece of art over the mantlepiece, paint the red console table another color, get curtains – the list goes on. But I think chipping away at some of the smaller stuff in the meantime is making a difference and I am really excited. So, a not-so-memorable before and after.

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