Furniture detail has been tremendously popular through the centuries. Dressing up your dresser and chests is almost like wallpapering your bedroom; it can be incredibly personal and customized. Wood appliques have been used on fine furniture since the 17th and 18th centuries, and are still widely used today. Before the invention of plastic in the early and mid 20th century, the only substances that could be molded were clay and glass. Today there is a wide variety of decorative molds that can be made with plaster that can simulate intricate carvings of the 17th and 18th centuries for just pennies of what they would retail in stores.
French and Italian furniture historically have been known for their attention to intricate detail. At the beginning of the 17th century France greatly prospered and French furniture moved in a new direction. Life became more grand and luxurious and the demand for fine home furnishings became more widespread.
Louis XIII at the age of age of eight began his reign in 1601, and it was at this time when new and exciting forms of furniture started appearing. Both the grand and luxurious furniture became available and also furniture for everyday use became was more accessible.
Styles of ornament in the 17th century became varied, and more ornate with much scroll designs and shell carving. Typical motifs included birds, vases, bouquets, garlands, branches of leaves and fruits. Baroque style peaked popularity in the 18th century, and originated around the 16th century in some areas around Europe. The style was excessive and the ornaments were grand. Oak, walnut, chestnut, and ebony were frequently used for the majority of furniture, while the ornamental portions were fashioned out of the exotic woods such as rosewood, sandalwood, and tulipwood.
Guilding was excessive and utterly beautiful! Everything was gilded or accented in marquetry with mounts and inlay of onyx, porphyry and lapis-lazuli. Rococo styles closely followed after and was associated with Louis XV's reign but started at the beginning of Louis XVI's reign between 1720 and 1730. Rococo styles were as grand as Baroque styles but less imposing in scale.
Decorative accents otherwise known as ormolu were made out of brass and colored woods. Exquisitely carved decorative accents adorned furniture with great use of of motifs consisting of shell decoration, plant and flower motifs, C scrolls and S scrolls. Rococo styled rooms featured many decorative moldings from the ornate furniture. It didn't end there, small sculptures featured ormolu details, ornamental mirrors were adorned, and complementing architecture featured substantial reliefs. The decorative impressions were seen everywhere during this time. Furniture has never been made the same since this point in history.
Our suggestions for TOP QUALITY Brass Ormolu:
Ari's Luxury- features authentic classical furniture ormolu for your french and Italian furniture.
Today, you can buy quality brass ormolu from Ari's Luxury on ebay. Their selection is simply the best on the market for neoclassical decorative mounts and appliques. The decorative designs are made from quality metals, and feature very rich detail. If you can afford it, and are investing in a quality antique, I do suggest to buy brass accents from them. You will find at Ari's Luxury authentic designs which you cannot find in wood, plaster or clay molds. I would imagine Ari's Luxury has spent years building up their authentic collection of decorative Ormolu.
Wood appliques have one distinct advantage over the rest of the appliques. - They can be stained, as they are real wood. If you are after an authentic carved look, wood appliques could be what you are after. Today decorative wood appliques can be purchased and hammered on to furniture. These appliques can be stained and are mentto replicate carved wood for a fraction of the cost and talent. Plaster motifs can also be painted to replicate wood with faux wood painting, but it does take some skill to make paint look like realistic wood.
Here are some of my faux wood painting projects. You can paint faux wood too!
Wood will always be more durable than plaster.
Here are some of the best sites on ebay that feature decorative wood appliques:
Grand River Wood Products- Features a variety of decorative wood appliques as well as table legs and corbels
Wood N Shop- Features a generous amount of decorative embossed wood appliques which can be hammered on to any chest front, table leg or chair.
Habbys Sports And Collectables- has a small selection of wood carvings. They have some beautiful carved bell flowers and other neoclassical designs
Joslin Home Products- Features a small selection of beautiful embossed wood appliques
DesertRoses Designs Craft Shop- features a nice selection of finials, hardware and decorative accents
Plaster Molds have a benefit that they can be produced for a fraction of the cost and mass produced from your home for a wide variety of projects. A large wood relief can be purchased for 20 dollars, while a whole bag of plaster can be 9 dollars and could serve multiple projects. Working with plaster can be incredibly rewarding especially if you enjoy a wide variety of ornate decorative details. The draw back to using plaster on your drawers is plaster can be easily broken, compared to wood, or resin molds. If you have children who like to play, the plaster could be broken compared to wood appliques.
Our best suggestions for Plaster Molds:
Victoria Larsen- Has a very nice selection of hand picked architectural molds and stencils. Many of her stencils (such as her tree stencils) can be used with plaster to create a 3 d effect on your walls. She just features molds which could be used on cabinetry, drawer fronts, ceilings and walls. What I enjoy about her selection is her molds are typical designs which would be found in the 18th century homes.
Go Statue- Go Statue is highly recommended in my books. I have ordered a few of their molds, and I have been impressed with their service. They carry a variety of molds. The ones I have ordered are very durable and capable of producing thousands of molds without breaking. Their Tuscan molds are my favorite, and I have used them for a variety of projects.
Do it Yourself Chic - Sells ready made Furniture appliques. They carry a large selection of shabby chic large molds for drawer fronts and headboard frames. They have over 200 appliques to choose from.
Go Statue Embelishment Molds can be used for dresser drawer fronts and furniture. Some of their more delicate frieze or pediment molds can be used with polymer clay instead of plaster.
Simply Craft has a beautiful selection of molds which could be used INTEAD of keyholes. Although the purpose of the molds were intended to be used as soaps, the decorative portion of the mold can be used with Polymer Clay, and gold or silver leafed for a decorative accent on your dresser. They have some pretty shell molds perfect for a nautical themed dresser, and some horse molds that would look very nice in an equestrian girls room.
Making Molds From Plaster of Paris
1. Mix according to the directions on the Plaster of Paris bag or box. Use a plastic bucket and pour your water into the container. (We recommend using a plastic bucket or margarine plastic container to mix in. As you are finished your project, after a day, the concrete or plaster will dry and can be easily removed from the edges making an easy clean up) For example 1 cup water and two cups of plaster. A metal whisk makes mixing relatively quicker than a regular mixing spoon. Don't mix up more than you need, as any extras just go to waste. NEVER, ever rinse compound down your kitchen sink It can harden in your pipes.
2. Spray your mold with a release agent. While some sites recommend cooking spray, it has turned out disastrous for me. I have found a light coat of Vaseline works well, although this may not work with concrete because I have never tried it. Mud Art suggests that diesel oil has worked the best and doesn't cause adverse reactions with the concrete. Mold release sprays are designed to help release the cured concrete from the mold and eliminate air bubbles and pockets. Thicker oils such as baby oil, mineral oil and some vegetable oils actually cause air to be trapped in the concrete more than usual, which I can confirm happens with plaster of Paris also. They tend to create small indents in the plaster which ruins the plaster mold.
3. Pour the plaster mixture in to the center of the mold. Once the mold is filled to the top, tap the edge of the mold to bring any air bubbles to the surface. Level out your mold with the edge of a knife, paint mixing stick, squeegee, or any any other flat edged item to level off the plaster which will allow you to have a smooth backing to place on your dresser front, or walls.
4. Let your plaster cure for 1 to 2 days. My general rule is to leave the mold to set for thirty hours. This will allow the smaller delicate details of the mold adequate time to set and harden, eliminating breakage by removing it early. If you intend to "hang" your plaster pieces on the wall instead of mounting them to the walls or dresser fronts, simply fashion a "U" wire hanger and insert it in to the back of the plaster while it is still wet.
5. Releasing the mold should be done with careful patience. Turn the mold over and lightly press around the mold until you feel a release. As you use your mold over and over, the mold over time will extract the pieces easier.
6. Again with careful hands, round any rough edges with your fingers. If the mold is quite hard, you can use a finger nail file for the edges.
Applying your Mold to Your Dresser or Walls:
1. Before beginning, be sure your mold is absolutely dry. With Plaster of Paris, it should almost be lightweight. Let your molds dry for several days before adhering them to the wall. If you don't let them dry, the existing water in the mold will make the mold too heavy for the wall. Take the extra time for it to dry so it can adhere correctly.
2. Joint compound does a wonderful job of gluing your plaster ornaments on to dressers and walls with ease. Simply trowel the compound on the back of the piece where you wish to mount it on the wall or drawer front. Hold the ornament in place for a few minutes. Larger pieces may need extra time. Clean up any compound that has spilled over the sides. You want to create a seamless flush look between the wall and the ornaments. I leave my pieces to dry over night.
3. After it has dried over night, use water and compound and fill in the areas that are exposed between the ornament and the wall. Smooth it as you go. The overall effect should look part of the wall, not a decorative piece just stuck to the wall. A little bit of water on your fingers will create a seamless look. This step creates a more "professional" and "finished" look.
4. Once the compound has dried and you are pleased with the overall look of the dresser drawer or wall, you will want to paint your ornament. Plaster will not take paint well. Mix together a solution of 1/2 white glue such as "Elmer's" mixed with 1/2 water to seal the porous plaster so that it will accept paint evenly and smoothly.
How to Make Polymer Clay Molds:
1. Always slightly dust your mold with Baby Powder. Next, gently tap out the remaining excess power before pushing the clay into the impression. If it does get stuck, try putting the mold with the clay in it into the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes this will help it release. I tend to use a very fine crafting knife to gently lift the mold from the back. As you lay your finished molds on a cookie sheet, trim around the mold for greater detail. Again, I tend to use a craft knife with a very fine point to do my altering. Bake according to the clay manufactures directions.
As you take your molds out of the oven, they are ready to be hammered into place.
I have found that withsmaller details, Polymer Clay is the very best choice to decorate a dresser with. It doesn't shatter to pieces like plaster of parisdoes, and it allows me to hammer the pieces in place compared to plaster of Paris. Although it doesn't work so well with very large castings, it can be used for decorative edging, and making key holes. Simply gold or silver leaf these castings and it replicates brass decorative ormolu.
Reccomended Stores on Ebay for Polymer Clay Molds
Premo Sculpey Polymer Clay stays plyable until you bake it in the oven. It is available in a number of colors, but gold seems to be a good base if you plan on gold leafing your molds later on. Black is the other color I use most often. Buy it by the pound, for a better value than any stores can offer.
Beauty & Craft has a large selection of Polymer Clay molds. I especially love the animal molds which can be used for both Jewelry and dresser ormolu. The swallows bird would look spectacular gold leafed and hammered on to a dresser. The decorative molds are especially beautiful for small accents. The sea life molds are very pretty for a nautical dresser.
How to Use Concrete Molds
1. First you want to lubercate your mold before using it. Oil the mold lightly with concrete form oil or light machine oil before pouring the concrete. There should be a light film on the mold, but not pooling amounts of oil.
2. Next mix your dry concrete in a plastic bucket and add water a little at a time while mixing. Using a plastic bucket will allow any remaining concrete to be easily removed and cleaned after it has dried for a day. The concrete mix should be thick, not thin. Powdered colorant can be added after both water and concrete are mixed together. Liquid colorant should be added before adding your water into your concrete mix.
3. Tap the edge of the mold to bring to the surface any air bubbles trapped in the concrete or plaster. Tap the edge of the mold until no new bubbles appear on the surface.
4. Let your mold dry for about 24 to 36 hours. One good indication that your mold is cured is when you can no longer scratch the concrete or plaster with your thumbnail or a toothpick. Removing the plaster or concrete before it is dry, will result in it breaking in half. To many times I have ruined a mold because I was too excited to see what it looked like. A general guideline is to leave the wet concrete in the mold for thirty hours. This will help elimate the breakage of delicate parts as you extract the mold.
5. To release the mold, place a support board on top of the mold, and gently turn the mold over. While holding the mold, be very gentle to push down around the mold to extract it. Additional drying time is needed for the mold to fully dry. Plaster when dry should be relatively light to lift. Leave it dry for several more days before using.
Mold Creations gives their instructions along with the recipes for different concrete molds. They also carry colorants which can be mixed into your concrete and plasters.
Recipe for Concrete
Concrete is made of up sand + gravel + cement. Cement is the glue that holds the sand and gravel together. The gravel or aggregate as it is referred to is what provides the strength in concrete.
Mortermix is just sand and cement. If there is no gravel, your molds will have no strength. Morter mix is generally used just to "glue" things together like bricks and stone.
It is highly suggested that if you are wanting to make wall hangings or fence art, and so forth morter mix is great. If you want to actually walk on your stones do only use concrete mix.
A Mix Recipe without Gravel:
- 1 3/4 - 2 quarts of water
- 5 quarts of sand
- 2 1/2 quarts of portland cement
Recipe for Concrete Mix with Gravel:
- 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 quarts of water
- 2 quarts of portland cement
- 3 quarts of rock
- 4 quarts of sand
In a mixing bucket, mix all dry ingredients together. Next in a seperate bucket add 3/4 of your water slowly into the mix of dry ingredients. Continue to add the rest of your water until you reach a pancake batter consistency. You may not need to use all of your water
Sand, Vermiculite and Perlite are all variations that will achieve looks that simulate granite. Vermiculite give a somewhat sparkly look. The overall look can duplicate smooth concrete than aged
- 1 quart of water
- 3 quarts of portland cement
- 3 quarts of peatmoss
- 3 quarts of medium or fine perlite
- 1 1/2 quarts of water
- 3 quarts portland cement
- 2 1/4 quarts sand
- 4 quarts peatmoss
Recipes for Lightweight Concrete
- 1 quart of water
- 2 quarts portland cement
- 3 quarts sand
- 3 quarts perlite
Variation for Lightweight Concrete
- 1 quart of water
- 2 quarts portland cement
- 2 quarts sand
- 3 quarts vermiculite
We hope this guide will help you design the ultimate dresser of your dreams using decorative accents to kick it up a knotch!