Maintain Your Mod Aesthetic with DIY Stained and Painted Nutcrackers

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Seasonal decor, while delightful, often complicates a demure and modern aesthetic. The loud colors and patterns have on occasion even made me reconsider decorating for Christmas at all. That is, until I realized that I can make my holiday decor suit our house’s everyday color palette and style.

Take my DIY embellished nutcrackers for example. Although I love the idea and symbol of a happy little nutcracker, the painted detailing and over-the-top colors make me turn the other cheek. But then I found out that craft stores sell unfinished wooden nutcrackers ready for crafting, and I had a change of heart. With a bit of stain and paint, I was able to make my own budget-friendly nutcrackers that don’t kill the stylish mood in our house. Here’s how.

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Things You’ll Need

  • Foam paintbrushes
  • Detail paintbrushes
  • Rag
  • Paint stirrer
  • Stain for raw wood finishing
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paint palette

Let’s start with the stained nutcracker.

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Tip: Go for name-brand stain. Budget stains will save you a buck or two but in the long run won’t live up to your high standards. They could leave your wood with a sticky, gloppy finish that will leave much to be desired.

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After giving your can of stain a thorough mixing with a paint stirrer, coat your nutcracker with stain as though you were using paint.

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Using thin and even brush strokes, cover the entire surface of your nutcracker — use a detail paintbrush for those hard-to-reach areas — and finish each coat with an all-over wipe-down with a rag.

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I gave my nutcracker two coats of stain to achieve the richest possible color, but rely on your judgment based on the color you are after. Allow the stain to dry for one hour in between each coat and for 24 hours following the final coat.

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The process for the painted nutcracker is much the same as the stained one, yet the finished product is entirely different. The key here is to choose the correct type of paint. Again, you’ll want to go with a mid-range paint, at minimum, in terms of budget. Low-priced paints tend to be extra runny and don’t provide an even color.

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Tip: Avoid tempera paints, as these won’t give the best finish — they tend to be matte and lackluster and are best left to kids’ crafts.

For your pristine holiday nutcrackers, choose a quality tube or bottle of acrylic paint. I decided to go with a paint that has a slight metallic finish to it in honor of the festive season.

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Like with the stained nutcracker, add thin and even layers of paint using a clean and dry foam brush. After you’ve coated the entire surface, allow it to dry for about 20 minutes. Then add a second and third coat if necessary. Allow to dry overnight after you’ve finished with your last coat of paint.

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Acrylic paints dry much faster and are much easier on the nose in comparison to stain, so if you’re in a pinch, this could be the way to go to achieve a contemporary look when time is of the essence.

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After your nutcrackers have had a chance to fully cure, set them out for your family and friends to enjoy all holiday season long!

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Intrigued with what’s behind the nutcrackers? For the tutorial on repurposing a garden trellis into an advent calendar, click here.

Carrie Waller is the writer, designer and stylist behind the blog Dream Green DIY. Photos courtesy of Carrie Waller.

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