diy wednesdays: nesting doll salt shakers

seven days in, and so far 2009 appears to be the year of de-cluttering and cooking (for us anyway). this project is a direct result of those current obsessions. it’s also a good example of the criteria we use when coming up with project ideas, that is, we hope whatever we make will be useful as well as pretty. well, in our most recent purge we came across these delightful blank nesting dolls. we’ve had them forever, but hadn’t figured out a treatment for them that wasn’t merely decorative, and thus “cluttery”. inspired by the fun shapes and colors of eva zeisel’s ceramic salt and pepper shakers, we fashioned a handy set of our own. click here for the full project, or just click “read more” below.

happy new year!
derek & lauren

[image above: eva zeisel’s ceramic salt and pepper shakers]

here’s what you’ll need:
-blank wooden nesting dolls (we used these)
-acrylic paint
-paint brushes
-power drill with a tiny bit (we used a 5/64)

1. paint the wooden dolls in a fun color palette.
2. after they’ve dried, mark where you want your holes with a pencil.
3. carefully drill the holes.
4. fill the bottom half of each doll with your favorite spices—salt, pepper, cinnamon sugar, parmesan cheese, etc.


These are super cute! Just a question though, when you turn them upside down to shake the salt out, wouldn’t the wooden dolls come apart and spill all the salt? I think it might be better if you glued them shut and cut a large hole from the bottom that you then place a rubber stopper on. Either that, or find some way to screw the dolls on so that they don’t come loose.


How do you make sure the tops are secure so they don’t come off in your soup? :) Is there a gluing or a fastening step I’ve missed?


What a great idea! My sister gave me the “Babuska” Salt & Pepper shakers from Anthropologie (a similar style, but ceramic), but this looks like a fun (and not terribly difficult) way to have the whole set!


This is SUCH a fabulous idea, I love it! I have shakers for so many different garnishes and this way I could unify them all while making custom holes that allow for different materials. I love this! I’ll be linking in the Daily DIY.


Nice post. I accidently tossed one of our salt shakers last week and these caught my eye.
Your blog is definitely worthy.


I’ve had the same set of naked diy nesting dolls forever myself! In response to a lot of concerns about the tops staying on when you use your new shakers, they’re actually very snug fits. It’s not terribly easy to get them apart sometimes even, so to me this project looks successful all around!

great idea!


I LOVE this! AND…you can put more than just salt and pepper on the table since there are more than two – wonderful!

Paige Russell

Elfya – I love that you know about Barbapapas!!! Not enough folks do…
Lauren & Derek, high five for yet another fantastic project!


agh so lovely! I will definitely do this.
And dont worry, in my experience (err…I have about 40 nesting doll sets) they’re a pretty firm fit ;)
Perhaps you could find a little catch that would screw in if you get a loose one?


To everyone wondering about the come-apart-ability of these…nesting dolls usually tend to be pretty snug. Normal use should be fine with them. If you have kids that like to throw things, however…


Oh, so adorable! You could do this with decorated matryoshka dolls too, a set of little Russian ladies in the table would be sweet :) I am so going to try this!


I just purchased Russian nesting doll salt & pepper shakers at a resale store “Neat Stuff” here in Davenport, Iowa. The pepper is male and blue, the salt is female and red. The e-mail sticker on the bottom is but when I tried to send an e-mail to learn more about these salt and pepper shakers, it came back. Does anyone know about these? They are beautiful and I have nesting dolls, but have never seen salt and pepper shakers before. Thank you Bobbi