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Decorative Wooden Appliques to Turn Gingerbread House into Gingerbread Heaven

They’re called gingerbread, these decorative wood carvings that you add onto your furniture. Embellishing your dressers, picture frames or tables isn’t hard, but it will take some work. I will cover how to apply a carved wood applique  to your furniture so you can transform your home into a Rococo dreamland.

Table Completed with Appliques by Karen Golden Russell
Table Completed with Appliques by Karen Golden Russell

Step One

Take some measurements. Find the true center on your furniture, mark it with a pencil, and then measure where your applique will go. If you are ordering it online, compare its measurements to that of your furniture. This kind of project can get messy and it will take time for things to dry, so I recommend doing it in the garage or a tool shed or a workshop if you have access to one.

Shell Onlay Decorative Hardware
Shell Onlay Decorative Hardware

This shell onlay would be gorgeous adorning a headboard. You could place it right in the middle and color it to match.

Step Two

Time to clean. For the best end result in projects like these, patience is key to a professional looking end product. Take all the necessary precautions. Once you have your applique in hand, dust it and your furniture with a soft bristle brush. Wear gloves because even the oil on our skins can make the wood glue less effective.

 

The Acanthus and Egg Wooden Applique
The Acanthus and Egg Wooden Applique

This beautiful acanthus and egg applique is the type that really gussies up the drawers on a dresser. Here’s an example of what can be done on a dresser.

The Bella Rose Dresser
The Bella Rose Dresser

Step Three

There are a lot of detailed steps, so bear with me. It will be worth it in the end. Mix 1/4 teaspoon of wood soap with 1/4 cup of water. Dampen a clean washcloth with the mixture and gently clean your furniture and the applique, moving with the grain of the wood at all times. Allow it to dry completely.

Curved Wooden Applique Decorative Hardware
Curved Wooden Applique Decorative Hardware

It is also very pretty to combine something like two of these curved appliques with a carving like the shell in the center.

The Shell Decorative Hardware
The Shell Decorative Hardware

Step Four

Place the Furniture in a way so that when the applique is glued on, gravity will pull it into the furniture. For example, a dresser received an applique on the front of a drawer would be laid on its back with the drawer faces up.

Corner Applique Decorative Hardware
Corner Applique Decorative Hardware

Something like this corner applique looks fantastic fixed to a kitchen cabinet. If you love all things French you can even decorate your cabinets with the fleur de lis applique.

Fleur De Lis Wooden Applique
Fleur De Lis Wooden Applique

Step Five

The fun part at last! Use wood glue to make a thin line across the back of your applique, keeping your adhesive away from the edges so that it is not visible after you’re done. Your wooden surfaces will use the glue effectively and once you stick the applique to the furniture and hold it there for about a minute, the bond will be nice and sturdy.

Acanthus Wooden Applique Decorative Hardware
Acanthus Wooden Applique Decorative Hardware

The Acanthus applique is the kind of decorative hardware that works at the bottom of a fireplace.

A Fireplace at the Palace of Versailles
A Fireplace at the Palace of Versailles

Step Six

Place wax paper over the applique and then set something heavy on top. Allow the glue to dry a minimum of four hours. It might need all night if the air is especially humid.

Art Deco Corbel Decorative Hardware
Art Deco Corbel Decorative Hardware

An door frame archway looks so much more enchanting with something like the art deco applique in its top corners.

Step Seven

Now it’s safe to paint the applique. It’s very popular to paint or stain the furniture all one color to create the illusion that it was all carved from one piece of wood. Like the blond Mr. Perfect from Meet The Parents, you can modestly tell the tale of how you tediously carved the exquisite furniture from a single piece of wood.

Turned Bunn Foot Decorative Hardware
Turned Bunn Foot Decorative Hardware

The decorative hardware isn’t always so complicated to install. For the feet on a chest of drawers, you can just unscrew the old ones, toss them, and screw in these turned bunn feet as a cute replacements.

Decorative Hardware Appliques on a Headboard
Decorative Hardware Appliques on a Headboard

As many steps as there are for glueing on wooden appliques, it’s easier than carving ornate furniture out of wood and way less expensive than buying a well cared for baroque antique. And let’s admit it, it can be a lot of fun, like decorating a cake for a little girl’s birthday party. Maybe that’s why it’s called gingerbread.