Finishing Furniture Using Foil

Metallic furniture is a shiny decorative option for modern, industrial or contemporary home decor motifs.

Initial Adhesive

An aluminum foil finish on a table is bright and shiny.An aluminum foil finish on a table is bright and shiny.
If you prefer a more authentic finish than metallic paint, you can use aluminum foil to create a visually appealing masterpiece. An aluminum foil finish doesn’t require prepping or sanding your furniture, so there’s no need to buy or rent expensive tools or invest hours in elbow grease. The result is a stunning piece that adds beauty and sheen to your overall room design.

The best way to get aluminum foil to stick to furniture is to apply a generous coat of all-in-one glue/sealer/finisher to your table, chair or headboard before you apply the foil. Use a paintbrush to apply the adhesive but don’t worry about keeping it neat and clean. Your aluminum foil will cover the entire surface, so the glue doesn’t require a specific application technique. Apply adhesive to all areas, including the sides of the furnishing, if you plan to cover the entire piece with foil. Protect your floor surface to safeguard against adhesive drips.

Cut and Crinkle the Foil

Measure your surface and cut foil strips to fit. Cut each strip approximately one to two inches wider around the entire perimeter so you have extra to wrap around corners or bends in your furnishing. The pieces don’t have to be exact, because you can cut away excess as needed. For example, cut one piece to fit the top of a table, four pieces to wrap around the legs, and two pieces to fit on either side. You can also cover part of the furnishing without foiling the entire piece, such as the drawers or tabletop only. Lightly crinkle the foil with your hands by conforming it into a large ball -- but don't compress it tightly -- and open it back up again. The foil will naturally crinkle as you attach it, but wrinkling it beforehand ensures symmetry in the pattern and texture.

Attach the Foil

Secure the foil to the furnishing by gently pressing it in place. Place the shiny side of the foil down so the slightly duller side is visible from the surface. Use the side of a wooden ruler to smooth the foil as you go. Table legs are tricky so you might need to cut the foil and remove excess as you wrap it in place. If you make a mistake, just cut another small piece, apply more adhesive, and reattach the foil. For a layered look, similar to silver leaf, cut smaller pieces, crinkle and open them, and apply them on top of your initial foil application. Use more adhesive each time you add a layered strip of foil.

Reapply Adhesive

Once you’ve covered the furnishing with foil and have molded it around the corners, ensuring there are no bald spots or lumpy sections, reapply a thin layer of glue as a sealer and finisher. Use your paintbrush to spread the glue so it’s smooth and silky, or purchase an aerosol can of the same glue and apply a thin coat. The adhesive helps the foil stay attached to the furniture and also provides a protective coating against scratching or peeling.

Weathered Top Coat

The best way to ensure your furnishing has an appealing finishing touch is to use a top coat that makes the piece look slightly weathered and antique. Opt for a glaze in a metallic color, such as pewter or steel, and apply a thin coat to a small area. Rub most of the glaze off with a cloth towel and work the remaining into the cracks and crevices of the foil. You can also use steel-colored paint, rather than glaze, and wipe it off quickly if you want a slightly darker color. You only want a small amount of the color to remain on the piece. Apply a final coat of glaze over the paint.

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.