DIY: French Washing Frames Part 2

This is Part Two of the DIY: French Washing Frames Post. Click here to go back to part one. In the previous post, we covered the Base Color, Gilding, and French Wash. Now we are continuing on with the last remaining steps: Splatter Seal, Wax & Dust, and Highlighting!

Splatter Seal

Splattered shellac was another great idea that from ! It creates a pretty, light-catching effect of “years gone by.” Horowitz explains it best, but the idea is to create multiple rounds of random splatterings using a brush. As you can see in the video below, I used a steel brush but you could also use a tooth brush.


Splatter Seal Shellac

splattered shellac catches the light in different ways and creates the illusion of “years gone by.” this close up shows how moving the brush closer or further away from the frame creates bigger or smaller dots. randomness is key.

Dust & Wax

Blending the dust was my favorite part! I’ve always wanted to try an aging dust, but found dust of ages looked too “dirty”. So I decided to make a custom dust that matched the bridesmaid dresses – blush! I ordered commercial whiting online (after checking local stores) as well as red and yellow cement color.

I found it was easiest to pick out a Pantone color to match it to. The one that seemed the most "blush" was Pantone 7604 U.

mix dust from commercial whiting & cement color. i found it helpful to pick out a pantone color to match. i thought the perfect “blush” was pantone 7604 U.

I didn’t follow an exact formula, but started with white and mixed in only a tiny amount of red and yellow. (Easy tip: add gold leaf scraps to the dust for a “fairy dust” effect.) I blended until I matched Pantone Color 7604 U. It helped to have a specific color goal – otherwise it’s hard to know when to stop adding color.

The dust sticks to the frame with wax. After trying dark, clear, and liming wax on my practice frame, I instead opted for a custom wax blend. I found the clear wax was too clear, the liming wax too opaque and I wanted something in between. So I blended clear wax, blush dust, a drop of acrylic white paint, and mineral spirits. It went on like butter!


It finally comes all together! I used normal aging dust instructions. The video explains it best, but you apply an even, thin layer of wax and wait until it becomes tacky (roughly 5-10 minutes) and pounce on dust. (if you apply too soon, you risk altering the dust color.) Let everything dry for another 30 minutes or so, and then brush off excess. Buff with a clean rag.

Excess dust comes off with a rag or q-tip and a little bit of water. I especially highlighted the gold corners with industrial q-tips, and then i finally buffed with a little clear wax to seal the work!

After Photos

Finished Frame for "Gifts & Cards"

this is the finished Frame for the smallest sign “Gifts & Cards”. as my final step, I added a little more gold leaf to the corners. there will be lots of candles at the wedding and i want the accents to romantically catch the light. 


Final Three Frames

this is how they turned out! they are especially stunning under dim lighting.

Video Summary

This video is a quick summary of all these techniques!



Now for the best part — adding the signs! I’ll include those photos soon! Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, please email — Susan

Stunning New York Summer Celebration

Stunning Summer Celebration in New York

It was such an honor to help with Stefanie and Andy’s stunning summer wedding at the historic Kittle House in New York. Stefanie is an unbelievably kind and creative person and she came to us with quite a version for her big day. Stefanie wanted lots and lots mirror signs to complement all her beautiful ivory and gold color scheme.

The table numbers set the tone for the project. She wanted an entirely custom table number set made all of antiques. It took months of hunting at antique stores all around Michigan — from Detroit to Jackson to Tawas — and each table number was completely unique. After finalizing the 17 beautiful table numbers, it was easy to find the frames for the Sweet Heart Table, S’more Bar, Guest Sign In, and the Welcome signs. Stefanie was such an fun bride to work — she had such great ideas that made it so that each sign come out completely unique, while maintaining one cohesive brand.

Two of my favorite signs were the The S’more Bar and Sign In & Enjoy! The two antique frames didn’t quite match, so we completely remade them with beautiful bronze paints, and then accented them with French Gilding wax. Everything turned out just perfectly and we are so thrilled that this was published in Artfully Wed. The beautiful photography is from Sarah Tew Photography. Stefanie left us the kindest reviews, and to that we are so very grateful! Congrats Mr & Mrs Horn!

Stef & Andy: Mirror Welcome Sign in an Antique Frame for a Fancy New York Wedding Brunch
Brides Dress For a Fancy New York Wedding
Beautiful Bride and Flowers for a Fancy New York Wedding
Table 8: Laser Etched Table Number Antique Sign for a Luxury New York Wedding
Table Number 6: Wedding Mirror Table Number in Beautiful Antique Frame for a Beautiful New York Wedding
The Wedding Cake Shot
The Beautiful Wedding Cake for a Fancy New York Wedding

See more great photos from this luxury wedding on Artfully Wed.

the dream team

Photography: Sarah Tew Photography 
Bridesmaid Dresses: Dessy Group 
Florals: Forever In Bloom 
Officiant: Hudson Valley Officiants 
Bride’s Shoes: Jimmy Choo 
Makeup: JKFlashy Makeup Design 
Jewelry: Kenneth Jay Lane 
Accessories: Justine M. Couture 
Venue: Kittle House 
Bakery: Lulu Cakes Bakery 
Music: Marcus Reid Band – Hank Lane 
Hair: Melissa Scrofani 
Invitations: Minted and Modern Vintage Paperie 
Bride’s Dress: Stephen Yearick 
Laser engraved Mirror Signs: Dodge Design House

DIY: French Washing Frames Part 1

This week I am antiquing three frames for a gorgeous wedding at the famous villa cimbrone in Ravello, Italy. This historic villa needs frames that match it’s history and beauty. Real antiques could potentially get caught up in customs, so I am transforming three new frames into lovely antiques. Gold leaf (or gilding) creates the most authentic and richest gold. I am still an relatively new at gilding and this post walks through my attempts to match this stunningly romantic candle-lit venue.

Villa Cimbrone in Ravello, Italy

these frames are headed to the beautiful Villa Cimbrone in Ravello, Italy.



It’s worth noting that this project is truly a labor of love! This is not a “do-it-yourself-er” that saves time or money. It’s not “cheap” or “quick and easy.” But I would do everything again because the finished frames are so special.

What really “makes” the frames is the finishing process. Gold leaf is beautiful, but by itself it’s too shiny and overpowers the sign. I’m so glad I found this technique that includes: shellac, french wash, and blush dust. It was my first time trying these and I was quite intimated. But I’m glad I tried! Blush on gold looks like fairy dust out of “a midsummer night’s dream.”

inspiration frame -- french wash

This is the first frame I ever thrifted! It has a beautiful white wash that I’ve always wanted to recreate. I’ve tried white chalk paint and it just doesn’t come close. I looked far and wide and am thrilled I found soda wash, shellac, and blush dust.



Note: There are so many amazing antiquing products. I happened to use these for this project but I am always trying new ones 🙂

Note: 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 quite a bit with real leaf.

Base Color

Before and After

The base color or “bole” shines through cracks in the gold leaf to mimic years gone by. You can use any base color, but I went with brick red for it’s warmth. A clay bole is ideal, but I decided to simplify with spray paint. I’d eventually like to try something like this technique that strategically varies the bole color in the highlight zones.


The base color shows through the gaps in the gold leaf. I planned to use gold, but after seeing it on in the frames I thought it looked too "great gatsby". so I warmed it up by adding another layer of brick red.

The base color shows through the gaps in the gold leaf. I planned to use gold, but after seeing it on in the frames I thought it looked too “great gatsby”. so I warmed it up by adding another layer of brick red.

Mix Size

I chose shellac as my adhesive (or “size”) and splatter sealer. I used to use acrylic spray adhesive. It’s easy but has downsides: 1.) a long drying time (24 hours), 2.) you can’t spray inside and when it’s too hot or cold, 3.) it dulls the base color, and 4.) you can only seal it with a clear acrylic sealer, which dulls the shine of the gold.

I started researching and it seemed that most experienced gilders used homemade shellac. It sounded like a huge upgrade! It’s 1.) non-toxic (made from lac beetle secretion – it’s technically edible), 2.) has a quick drying time (1 hour), 3.) used indoors (not the spray kind) 4.) comes in many pretty colors and 5.) nicely ages the gold leaf.

Mixing the size was relatively easy. I used this recipe100 ml denatured alcohol to 25 grams Garnet shellac flakes in a sealable bottle and let sit overnight. Only the first batch was a little tricky – I needed a kitchen scale. After that, I always used this 4 oz bottle, filled the shellac to the 4th dash line & the rest with alcohol.

homemade shellac is both an excellent adhesive and sealer. garnet shellac looks dark but is surprisingly subtle on. Combine 100 ml denatured alcohol and 25 grams garnet shellac in a sealable glue bottle and let sit overnight.

homemade shellac is both an excellent adhesive and sealer. garnet shellac looks dark but is surprisingly subtle on. Combine 100 ml denatured alcohol and 25 grams garnet shellac in a sealable glue bottle and let sit overnight.



I was surprised at how easily the shellac paints on. It was just like painting on a thin coat of paint. After waiting a few minutes for it to become tacky, you apply the leaf and after an hour it’s dry! It helped that I had a good brush. I splurged on an escoda brush. With cheap gilding brushes, like these, the bristles come off too easily and get stuck in the glue. Tip! don’t use a foam brush. Apparently, foam dissolves in shellac and you end up foam bits everywhere. 

I wont go into much detail on applying gold leaf because there are some many excellent resources on it already. You will want to learn from the experts! I found these resources helpful: the gold vault, amy howard’s tutorial, and these impressive masters.



At this point the gold leaf is too shiny and will overpower the sign.

French Wash

I learned about french washing through amazing frame maker . Horwitz uses this technique from Arm &amp Hammer Super Washing Soda and water. You are essentially making a caustic acid wash and Horowitz cautions to be very careful. once the wash dries into a solid form you can sculpt the wash to the most beautiful effect.

The recipe combines 2 ounces of water (1/4 cup) to 2 tablespoons of washing soda. Mix thoroughly and apply with a brush. it goes on easy but make sure you really get it into the fine grooves. At first it’s a little scary because it looks like you applied dirty water all over the frame. But soon it becomes a translucent pink and hours later it’s dry and ready to refine!

Refining is fairly easy with the right tools; I had the best luck with soft rags, industrial q-tips, and occasionally steel brushes for stubborn parts. A little water was helpful for stubborn areas.




the frame after the soda wash has dried

after the soda wash has dried you can began to refine it with steel brushes.

This post is broken into two parts. For the second part of the post click here.

Colorful Summer Soiree in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Mr. and Mrs. Alex Marlow were joyfully married on a beautiful summer day at Barton Hills Country Club in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The summer months in Ann Arbor are simply magical and this happy couple couldn’t have had a better July day. It was such an honor to help with this colorful, creative and incredibly happy wedding.

Dodge Design House contributed a custom gold foil & laser cut invitation suite, many lovely laser etched mirror signs, and one of a kind plated table numbers. Most noteworthy were the very unique table They were made with antique china, laser cut stencils and real gold leaf. The bride adores antique blue and white chinoiserie — she decorated the reception with dozens of blue vases and the table numbers fit in perfectly. The guests loved them so much that some tried to take them home with them!  

The one and only Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, where the happy couple got engaged, inspired the black, white and gold design of the invitation suite. Mrs. Marlow loves The Grand Hotel’s green topiaries and they were featured throughout the reception. By far our favorite part of the design is the pocket door invitation that guests open to reveal the wedding details. These photos are just a sampling of a perfect day!

From The Bride

“Our wedding day couldn’t have gone better. Both the groom and I recently graduated from Dental School. We were long distance all through school and the wedding was a wonderful start to our new lives together in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My hometown of Ann Arbor is beautiful in the summer and we couldn’t wait to show it off to out of town guests. The groom, Dr. Alex Marlow, and his family are from Iowa and we wanted to honor them by making everything beautiful and easy. We married at the beautiful St. Andrews Episcopal Church — the same church my parents married in 30 years ago! The ceremony was very intimate since the pastor, Dr. JoAnn Kennedy Slater, is a close family friend. Our puppy French Bulldog, Barry Sanders, was even able to be there!”

Danced the Night Away

“The reception venue Barton Hills Country Club is where my grandfather, who sadly isn’t here today, and my parents have been members for decades. It’s a magical Donald Ross course set back far in the country. Being from Southeast Michigan, we all love Motown and we danced the night away to an amazing seven piece band called Motor City Beat. The photographer, Sam Doyle captured everything beautifully. The groom and I love pie, and we served gourmet pies from Sister Pie along with a stunning cake from Ruth Monteith of The Wedding Fairies, who also made the cake at my parent’s wedding! My sister Susan, the maid of honor and a graphic artists, handled all the creative aspects. A very kind gift from my dear uncle Charley, a lover of the arts, was to cover the creative costs of the wedding, so that we wouldn’t have any limitations.”

“I adore blue and white chinoiserie and wanted to find a place for it in my wedding aesthetic. The reception was filled with antique blue and white vases, and my sister Susan made a whole set of table numbers with gold leaf and antique plates. The night was perfect and immediately afterwards we headed off to Paris for a two week honeymoon. We’re so grateful to everyone who made it possible!”

The Dream Team

PHOTOGRAPHER: Sam Doyle Photography 


FLOWERS & CAKE: The Wedding Fairies

GOURMET PIES: Sister Pie in Detroit, Michigan

LIVE MOTOWN BAND: Motor City Beat Detroit

DRESS STORE: The Gown Shop Ann Arbor

DRESS & Veil: Amy Kuschel



BRIDAL HAIR: Lily Grace Ann Arbor

BRIDAL MAKEUP: Fabiola Giselle

PUPPY BOWTIE: Pecan Pie Puppies

CEREMONY: St. Andrew’s Episcopal 

RECEPTION VENUE: Barton Hills Country Club

PASTOR: Dr. JoAnn Kennedy Slater

Style Me Pretty: Winter Wedding Inspiration

This dreamy Winter Wedding shoot turned out so pretty, it was just wonderful to be included. Winter weddings can be so magical, and this shoot really captured it all. I can see why Style Me Pretty wanted to publish it. Special thank you to Lissa Ryan Photography and Pop The Cork Designs for putting the whole concept together. We contributed a laser engraved “Bubbles and Beer” mirror sign in a refurbished gold antique frame, as well as a lovely little mirror “Table Number 8”. See even more photos here.

Beautiful Chair: For a Styled Shoot Featured in Style Me Pretty
Laser Engraved Mirror Table Number: Featured in Style Me Pretty
Bubbles and Beer: Laser Etched Mirror Sign Gold Antique Frame

The Dream Team

Photography: Lissa Ryan Photography
Event Planning: Pop The Cork Designs
Floral Designer: Petals and Promises llc
Wedding Dress: Enaura Bridal
Invitations: Little Bit Heart
Bridesmaids’ Dresses: The Boutique At Body Wellness
Hair: PSC Hair Artistry
Venue: Private Residence
Bridal Accessories: Jaclyn Jordan New York
Favors & Gifts: Marigold & Grey
Film Processing: Alpine Film Lab
Garters: La Gartier Wedding Garters
Make-up Artist: Tiyana Robinson Beauty
Model: Jackie Dolan
Signs:Dodge Design House