The Simplistic Beauty of a Stained Wood Finish - South Lake Tahoe finish studio Skip to main content

Simplicity is the secret ingredient to a truly beautiful design. To create an amazing piece, it doesn’t mean you must have 15 layers, an intricate color palette, accents all over and a month timeline to finish it. I’m serious! The most simple of designs and colors can give you an exquisite finish that will last the ‘what’s hot this season’ yo-yo we see over and over again. We’re kicking the year off by focusing on the simplistic beauty of a stained wood finish!

The Simplistic Beauty of a Stained Wood Finish

Mother Nature inspires many of our designs at nluv Finish and Design Studio so we listen carefully when she gives us inspiration & color advice. Natural wood is one of the most beautiful gifts nature provides. Not all wood is created equal so some pieces are best finished with paint while others are destined to shine through with only a simple stain.

A stained wood finish is truly timeless. There are few if any interior designs that aren’t accentuated by a natural wood finish. A piece here and there can warm up a room or add a pop of color for interest. We are definitely nluv with a simple, rich stained wood finish… but it isn’t just smearing on stain and walking away. Follow these simple steps for a flawless stained wood finish to enjoy for years to come.


stained wood finish Faux Effects staining products

Staining products all mixed and ready to go!

  • Wood piece
  • Sandpaper
  • Clean cloths
  • Stain – Stain & Seal™
  • Any additives to thin/extend stain (as needed for climate) – FX Thinner™ and SoSlow™
  • Water
  • Sponge or chip brush (for stain)
  • Paint brush (for clear coat)
  • Clear coat – Varnish Plus™ Satin
  • Mixing containers with lids
  • Stir sticks

6 Steps for the Ultimate (Simple) Staining Technique

Step 1: Choose a natural wood piece. (We aren’t tackling stripping old paint or varnish in this article).

stained wood finish raw wooden boxes

Re-sawn western pine boxes ready to be stained.

The grain is important for this project as the stain will allow it to show through – that’s the whole point! For us, we are using solid wooden boxes made from re-sawn western pine for a rustic feel. Perfect! If you’re good at woodworking, make the boxes yourself. But if your not, don’t worry. Find a local woodworker or US manufacturer to supply your needs. Made in the USA all the way!

Step 2: Sand and wipe with a damp, clean cloth.

We aren’t fans of perfect edges and like to rough things up a little, especially with a natural stain finish. Make sure there are no rough spots and if you like, sand the edges and corners to make the feel a little more ‘worn-in’. Nature doesn’t make perfect edges and neither does real life. To get off all the sanding dust and help ‘open’ the grain to accept more stain, I like to gently wipe the wood with a damp cloth to finish prepping the surface.

Step 3: Mix up the stain with any additives for your climate.

stained wood finish

Time to apply the 1st coat!

Here at nluv Studio’s mountain location, humidity is quite scarce so dry times are a concern for us. Of all the staining we’ve done, the Faux Effects® line of products is by far our favorite. Their water-based stains are so versatile, easy to use and forgiving in application that you just can’t go wrong! Our special formula for the Lake Tahoe climate is 60% Stain & Seal™, 20% FX Thinner™, 10% SoSlow™ and 10% water. This concoction gives us the perfect balance of color, durability, thickness and extended dry time for a perfect finish every time!

Step 4: 1st coat of stain.

Sometimes I like a foam brush and other times I grab a chip brush. Choose whatever you personally like best. If your wood surface has a rougher texture, I recommend the chip brush as the foam can tear and drag on rough cut wood. Because we mixed in the thinning agents and extenders, it is relaxing to do the actual staining part. Apply the stain in sections across your piece, depending on how large it is. You can see if the stain is still wet or looks like it is starting to dry. Wipe off and smooth the color with a clean rag (before it dries) until you are happy with the result.

If any part seems streaky, reapply the stain and rub it in until the color is even. Faux Effects® really gives you a lot of flexibility in being water-based and not ‘picky’ in how you apply. You don’t need to be a perfect staining professional with this product in order to get an amazing result. Let fully dry.

Step 5: 2nd coat of stain.

stained wood finish wooden box

Two coats of stain & varnish transform the wood.

We’re going back in for another round! The color really develops after the 2nd coat so don’t skip this step thinking it looks good enough. You really do want this second coat. Same application as in Step 4. After this coat dries, now you will see the full glory of the color on your project. Let fully dry.

Step 6: Protect it! Add a clear coat layer.

I always advocate multiple thin layers rather than one thick goopy layer on any product I am using. The final clear coat is no different. Varnish Plus™ mixed at a 60/40 split with water is my recipe. Two coats is best but if you plan on adding any other layers of design such as graphics, just do one coat of clear coat now, then further embellish and finish off with a final layer of clear coat. You should have two coats no matter what, it just depends on if any other details sneak in between the layers. Let dry overnight and then you are ready to enjoy your finished natural beauty!

Voilà: A Beautiful Simple Finish

stained wood finish wooden box

American Walnut makes an impact on this wooden box!

How stunningly simple and beautiful all at the same time! With so many stain ‘colors’ today, you have more freedom than ever when staining. A stained wood finish is just pure and simple. It’s our way to thank Mother Nature for everything she shares with us, both in materials like wood and inspiration for designs. Bring a little piece of the outdoors in with a natural stained wood finish. Happy staining!

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