Magical Pink, Ivory, and Gold Frame Tutorial

I just finished refinishing four frames for another beautiful wedding in Ravello, Italy! I really love how they turned out, so I thought I’d share the process.

When choosing frames, I look at weight (for shipping), condition, dimensions and style. Vintage and antique frames tend to be more majestic than modern frames, however they are rarely the right color. So I then refinish the frames to match the rest of the event. In this case, I did something similar to the last wedding I helped with in Italy. I wanted to capture the magic of Villa Cimbrone with gold leaf. But I also didn’t want to gold to overwhelm the design. The wedding planner, Exclusive Italy Weddings, had already designed the tables with gold & ivory Florentine chargers, so I incorporated ivory paint to match. And as a final touch, I custom made different pink waxes and dusts to match the wedding’s romantic color scheme.

Frame Inspiration: Florentine Chargers

The Frames are Inspired by this Tablescape & Florentine Chargers, Designed by Exclusive Italy Weddings


These are the brands that I enjoyed using for this project. I am not sponsored by anyone and am always trying new products:

* This project uses imitation leaf. Real gold leaf crumbles easily and can be hard to handle. I’ve always been happy with both types so I went with the easiest option. The following results use imitation leaf and will probably vary with real leaf.

Project Steps

The following steps are how the project is *supposed* to go *in theory*. In reality, as you will see in the videos, I often re-did steps out of order, sometimes many times over, when I decided I didn’t like the paint color or gold effects enough. Hopefully when you try this, you won’t need to re-do steps like I did 🙂 I highly recommend: 1.) being VERY sure of your paint color before applying 2.) use a separate non-contaminated batch of shellac for sealing, so that your final result is nice and shiny and not muddy 3.) using an ivory base coat and 4.) applying several base coats. Those were my mistakes!

surface preparations & gilding

I won’t go into much detail on the first three steps, if interested I cover these in depth here. Clean up the frames, two coats Gesso, and at least two coats ivory base color. (It’s important not to skip the base color step — I did on the first frame and really regretted it later. It made it so I had to re-guild a few times, because the colors that shown through the gold were too dark.) Then cover the frame in size, wait 15 minutes, and then guild. Touch up gaps if necessary. Wait until size cures. (Note: If the frame is already gilded, you can skip these steps.)

french soda wash & paint

Mix up a batch of Washing Soda & water, at a ratio of 1:1 in a plastic cup. I found two tablespoons soda to two table spoons water to be more than enough for one frame. Be sure to use gloves when handling soda wash, as its an acid and will irritate your hands. Apply soda mix into the ornate groves of the frame. Let dry until soda is hard, typically overnight. Once dry, sculpt into the desired look using a small steel brush (like one you would use for a grill).

Cover frame with clear wax. Wait 20 minutes, then apply 1-3 coats of ivory paint, depending on how much gold you want to show through. Expose some the of gold below the paint by using clean rags with a bit of mineral spirits. The amount of gold exposed is a personal preference.

pink wax & dust

Pink Wax & Dust

Ingredients to Make Pink Dust & Wax

Mix up different shades of pink wax using clear wax, calcium carbonate & different amounts of red & pink powders, and mineral spirits. Apply colored waxes to select accent parts of the frame, like the corners. I like to apply a darker pink to the lower parts of an ornate accent, and lighter shades at the top. Let dry, then apply a clear wax to select parts, wait 2 minutes, and pounce on blush colored dust, again mixed from calcium carbonate and pink powder. Wait for wax and dust to dry (at least 30 minutes), then brush off excess. Clean up all areas where dust overboard with a clean rag.

re-guild accents & seal with shellac

Mix up two separate batches of homemade shellac. One is used as size, and the other to seal. The reason I like to separate the batches is to avoid contamination. Shellac that has dust residue mixed in it, will produce a muddy effect, where I want a clear, golden look that enhances the shine. Apply the size shellac to the corners and any select area on the frame you want to stand out. Shellac dries very fast, so you will only want to do small sections at a time. Wait a minute or two after applying shellac and then add gold leaf. About an 1-8 hours after applying leaf (will depend on amount of shellac you used and temperature), you can use a soft brush to remove excess. Seal with fresh batch of shellac, being careful to clean brush every time with denatured alcohol and a clean rag. Let dry overnight.

The Four Finished Finished Frames

The Four Finished Finished Frames


Tatiana and Constantine’s Stunning Wedding in Ravello, Italy

Happy one year anniversary to Tatiana & Constantine! One of the highlights of 2016 was making the seating chart, drink signs, and card table sign for the this beautiful couple from Brooklyn, NY. The completely beautiful photos are the work of Fabio Mirulla. The gorgeous event design is from Exclusive Italy Weddings and the venue is Villa Cimbrone.

Kind Words from the Bride & Groom

“Susan is one of the best professionals we came across while organizing our wedding! She is very detail-oriented, personable and sweet, not to mention hard working. She is a true artist who works with her heart!♥ She worked on our mirror frames for seating chart, special cocktail sign, open bar sign and gifts & cards sign. We know how much work she had put into our project, and we were amazed with the final result! All our guests complemented the frames, so magical they were! They looked even better than what we imagined – very classy, antique, with the blush powder (to match bridesmaids’ dresses – Susan’s idea!), and worked perfectly with the wedding theme over all! We organized our wedding overseas, and thanks to Susan, shipping was a bliss: she stayed on top of it, sending us daily updates, and ensuring it will get there on time! I mean who else would be so devoted to her customers? Susan is amazing, and if you want to add a unique touch to your wedding design, contact her! She is super talented, she loves what she is doing, and she does it the best way possible! Thank you so much!

– From Tatiana & Constantine :)”

Bay Area Bridal Social

It was such an honor to help with this year’s Lafayette Bridal Social in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is a one of kind, intimate bridal social. It’s a sampling of tons of local, hand curated vendors, free gifts, and great tips for starting your wedding planning journey. This special event was put on by the incredible sister team Linen and Lilac at the beautiful Lace and Bustle bridal boutique. The beautiful photographs are courtesy of Jessica Kay Photography. The mirror sign is framed in a stunning authentic French Antique — one of my favorite frames in our collection!
Berkeley Bridal Social -- Laser Engraved Mirror Sign
Berkeley Bridal Social -- Laser Engraved Mirror Sign

Mike & Andrea’s Magical Wedding by the Italian Sea

It was truly an honor to make a seating plan and memento sign for Andrea & Mike’s magical seaside wedding in Ravello, Italy. This beautiful couple from San Francisco, California had the most incredible foggy day that made all the photos dramatically mystical! Foggy days are quite rare in Ravello and that’s what makes this day so unique. This fun loving couple was such a pleasure to work with. Topiaries were a big part of their design scheme, so naturally we used leafy green elements throughout the sign.

Laura Frappa of Exclusive Italy Weddings planned and designed this very special day. Flowers were the fabulous Malafronte Fiori and the venue is the outstanding Villa Cimbrone off the Amalfi Coast of Italy. All photography is the work of the extremely talented Gianluca & Mary Adovasio. From the happy couple to the candles and flowers, every part of this wedding is just too beautiful for words. Congratulations Andrea & Mike!

Stunning Italian Wedding Table at Villa Cimbrone
Dreamy Ravello Italy Wedding
Luxury Mirror Seating Plan for Ravello, Italy Wedding
Italian Wedding by the Sea
Dreamy Seaside Italian Wedding, Luxury Wedding Signs
Beautiful Couple at Luxury Italian Wedding
Stunning Italian Wedding at Villa Cimbrone
Happy Couple Celebrating in Ravello, Italy

The Claremont’s Wedding of the Century in Berkeley, California

One of the best parts of last year was The Claremont’s “Wedding of the Century.” The Claremont, a beautiful historic hotel in Berkeley, California, hosted a generous contest to win a wedding valued at $75,000 to celebrate the hotel’s 100 year anniversary. Kim and Leon were the lucky winners!

Kim and Leon are a very special couple with a great story! These high school sweet hearts had a heartbreaking start to their engagement when the groom was diagnosed with cancer. After all the cancer treatments, they had nothing left over for a wedding. This one of a kind event was a great start to their beautiful life together.

We are so grateful to work alongside Alexis Garhammer of The Claremont and Linda and Leslie of Linen and Lilac. The beautiful photography is thanks to Gary Sexton.


We were thrilled to contribute many mirror signs. We especially loved making a beautiful “Welcome to Our Wedding” seating chart and two “Signature Cocktails” drink signs. Our antique mirror table numbers and two “Wedding of the Century” hashtag signs really brightened the room.


Thank You To These Amazing Individuals

Event Planning: Alexis Garhammer of The Claremont

Event Design: Linda and Leslie of Linen and Lilac

Photography: Gary Sexton

Video: Thomas Hughes Films

Florals & Décor: Ornamento

Wedding Dress: Kinsley James Couture Bridal

Chairs and Linens: Especially Yours

Printed Menus: Creative Designs By Mimi

Custom Mirror Signs and Table Numbers: Susan Dodge of Dodge Design House