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Spending a Day with My Sister in Law: Learning how to Silver Leaf a Light Fixture

You know, in-laws are tricky things. When you get married, especially when you're in your 20s, you literally have no idea what it really means to have in-laws. You just know your parents had them and sometimes the relationship can be tricky. I've been married into the McPhail family for 16 years now. When my husband and I got married, I had no idea how much it really meant that I was marrying another family. The McPhail family does nothing small. Everything is big and celebratory. I should've know when I asked for the guest list for our wedding, my mother-in-law submitted over 150 names for invites, and Clint said she missed a few. (HA!) The family is huge and over the years, I have really learned to love them all.


This is Jenna at her store, Moxie. She's a real beauty.


Especially my sister-in-law. Her name is Jenna and she is really just an incredible person. Jenna is a dreamer. She has dyslexia so sometimes things take her a bit longer to complete, but I am here to tell you when it is complete, it is always magnificent. Jenna fights every day to be nearly perfect. She has to. She is an architect and interior designer and her clients expect nothing but the best. I love hearing about her projects and her travels. She gets to go to places like Paris and find special pieces of stone to put in people's houses. She gets to dream the big dreams and then see them come to life.


I adore her. She just is special inside and out. I'm one lucky sister-in-law to have someone so unique that I can love and appreciate.


Right now, we are building a house. If you follow my blog each week, you've seen the progress pictures and have even read about Jenna before. Jenna also is co-owner of a furniture store in Houston called Moxie. Moxie is an incredible space and store. I love to go in the store and be in awe of the creative beauty inside its walls.


These are a few of the vignettes at Moxie.


When you have a sister-in-law like Jenna, you tap into her creative brain when you're building a house. She comes up with some of the most creative ideas, or she simplifies spaces and I just love hearing her opinion. When you build a house, one of the things that often gets missed or skipped, due to budgets, is lighting. In my opinion light makes or breaks a house and Jenna agrees. You can really show off a space and it's personality with the right light fixture. So, when it came to this part of the project, Jenna quickly intervened and told me we had to take a day trip to Dallas to go to "market".


Spending the day with Jenna is a treat in and of itself. The things we talk about are not ordinary things and as we are walking around market, you really get to see Jenna in her element. You can't help but be drawn into the creative energy. I get mesmerized by her ideas....I float around from storefront to storefront trying to figure out how these things would work in my space, and with my life . Then, I am quickly reminded about my Paris-traveling sister when I ask how much things cost and am brought back to reality of a budget. The good thing was that on the day we went to market, several of the stores were selling floor samples for their light fixtures. We just hit the jackpot that day and I was there for it!


One of the very last stores we shopped had a light fixture the right scale for the stairwell in the new house. BUT, the light was the wrong color. It was a dark bronze and although I like the color, it's not what I like to build a style off for an interior space. Jenna, in her creative wisdom said (and this is one of the biggest reasons you hire a designer to help you do anything), "All you have to do is silver leaf the fixture and it will be perfect. The scale and style is right. It's just not the right color." To which I replied, "Oh yeah. How will I go about silver leafing a light fixture?" Jenna says "Oh it's not that hard. I see the guys doing it all the time in the store. The process is actually quite simple. I'll teach you."


This is where my relationship with my sister-in-law comes into play. You see....I am NOT paying Jenna. She doesn't charge me for her ideas. She just creates and I figure out ways to afford those nuggets of goodness. When this conversation occurs, I KNOW she is not going to teach me to do anything. I also know she will go back to her incredibly busy life and won't be able to take my call the next day, so finding out how to silver leaf or get in the store with her "guys" is highly unlikely as well. The lady is busy and so is her team...they work for people who are paying for these things (HA!).


At this point, I scoop up the fixture at the sample price because I trust Jenna's judgement and expertise. We pack up my car to the gills with light fixtures and go have a light lunch before I head home for the day. Back to reality and out of the fantastic bubble where Jenna gets to live life.

This was what filling the car with light fixtures looked like. Please disregard the fact I forgot to take all the baseball equipment and car seats out. (HA!)


When I got home, my husband helped me get the fixtures into the rent house and says "That one is the wrong color. What are you going to do?" To which I reply, "I am going to learn to silver leaf." He gives me a smug look, knowing this was a 'Jenna idea' and also knowing I will have to execute this on my own. You can tell he is not too sure about this plan, but he has been married for 16 years so he bites his tongue.


Fast forward a few weeks and I decide I am really going to do this. I am going to learn to silver leaf a light fixture. Now, I am 40 years old and I am considered a zennial, not a millennial. BUT, I do know if there is anything good that has come out of the millennial generation it is the 'How To' videos on YouTube. If you've spent any amount of time with a millennial, they will mention YouTube more than once and encourage you to learn a new way of styling your hair, or something like that, by watching YouTube. So I channeled my inner millennial and I watched THREE videos on how to silver leaf. Then, I drove to Michaels to buy the supplies.


So today, I am going to tell you how to silver leaf a light fixture. And before you dive into this much further you have to know, I REALLY enjoyed this process. So even though it was unspoken that Jenna wasn't going to teach me how to do this, she secretly knew I would love it and that I would figure it out...and there's just another reason I love her...because she was right!


Step 1: Buy the correct supplies. At Michaels, they have a whole section for silver leafing stuff. After a few questions with the lady, I bought just a few things.

Materials needed: 1) Silver leaf sheets, 2) Modge Podge Glue, 3) Metallic Finishing Wax, 4) Silver leaf correction pen (I never actually used but YouTube told me to buy it) 5) Sponge brush.


Step 2: Clean the fixture and prepare a work space. Easy peasy.


Step 3: Read the directions and apply the glue. The directions say it will take up to 40 minutes for the glue to dry. I am have no idea where they were located when they determined these directions because it took more like 3 minutes. I guess the drier air of the Hill Country was not the location when the directions were written.


Step 4: When the glue gets tacky, apply one sheet of sliver leaf, while still adhered to the wax sheet as well. Kinda like a temporary tattoo, you rub the area you want silver, and delicately remove the wax paper. When I say delicate, I mean it too. I had silver flecks everywhere. And instantly the silver that I adhered to the light fixture started to split. At first I was freaking out because the light fixture was bronze underneath the silver. BUT as I kept going and the silver kept cracking, I realized this was what gave the project the aging look. I also realized this is why artists do this technique. It was not hard but it did require patience and finesse to make it look right.



Step 5. Cover the whole fixture, from top to bottom, with silver leaf. This included the bases where the light bulbs sit. Let's just say that did NOT look good at all. I could not get enough leaf of those puppies, so I ended up giving up on those wells and actually just spray painted them (little trick but honesty at its fullest).


Step 6: Add the finishing wax. The silver leaf will literally flake off if you don't put a finish on it. Any sort of bump and it was like starting over. So this is why the finishing wax is so amazing. I got this little tube of wax and applied it to the entire fixture with my fingers. The wax has a metallic nature to it and when it is applied to the silver leaf it actually takes off the shininess and gives it