Friday, April 6, 2012

My love–hate relationship with cuckoo clocks

I guess to most non-Germans cuckoo clocks represent an example of what should be in a typical German home along with carved wood furniture and beer mugs.

As a German citizen and growing up in Germany I hated cuckoo clocks. They reminded me of old people in smelly, dusty homes or (yes) American tourists.

So a couple of years ago, my parents thought it would be very funny to send me a cuckoo clock to the US and guilt me into hanging it up. I was less than thrilled to display my brown carved clock in the living room. Especially since I hate being guilted and forced into any design decisions. But since I really miss my family and I have to admit that it reminds me of Germany, I hung it up. My kids loved it and so did my cats. One day I returned home to find the clock lying on the floor. One of my cats had jumped at it at the 2 o'clock chirp (I know that because it was stopped at 2). I figured it was broken...but haha no such luck.

Then I started researching cuckoo clocks and some more contemporary design options.
Here are some that I came across:
The German artist Stefan Strumbel and his colorful, graffiti influenced cuckoo clocks. I think they are very cool but too expensive and most are a little too crazy for my house.

white and gold modern Stefan Strumbel cuckoo clock

pink, orange, blue modern Stefan Strumbel cuckoo clock

pink and purple modern Stefan Strumbel cuckoo clock

Or the vinyl cuckoo clock art you can find all over the internet now.
And my hubby bought me this little sterling silver cuckoo clock necklace from Overstock. I wear it all the time.

silver cuckoo clock necklace

And certainly Pascal Tarabay's white cuckoo clock:

So I told my father that I was itching to spray paint the clock white. He lost it. He told me that I had no clue how expensive that clock was and that he would be really mad at me if I would ruin it with paint.
But the seed was planted in my design brain and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I all of a sudden was obsessed with finding a cheap cuckoo clock that I could paint. I finally found one small old mechanical clock ($40) made in Germany and one very large electrical clock ($25) on craigslist. The electrical one had a light sensor on it and, get this, was made in Korea.

I took them apart into small pieces, cleaned them very good with TSP cleaner. Then I taped/covered all the areas that I didn't want to paint.

small clock before:
large clock before: 
large brown cuckoo clock before painting it

After they dried I was ready for primer. The old clock had a strange yellow glue on it that kept showing under the water based primer, so I ended up using oil-based primer which I applied with a brush. The brush worked very well to get into the carvings.

small clock with primer:
small primed cuckoo clock

The large electrical clock had some plastic parts to it which I spray painted with plastic spray paint.
After that I spray painted the other clock parts with white semi-gloss spray paint.
When the parts were dry, I put them all back together and made sure that the clocks still worked.

cuckoo 4 design's small white cuckoo clock

Now I was IN LOVE. Yes, sorry dad but I retired your brown cuckoo clock to your grandson's room and it really looks cute there.

brown cuckoo clock with light sensor
cuckoo clock in my son's room

The gigantic white cuckooing and dancing clock is now hanging in my living room instead. Yes, it has little angels dancing in a circle. Strange? I know but I don't care. It makes me smile every time I look at it.

funky white cuckoo clock in living room

large modern white cuckoo clock with dancing angels

large modern white cuckoo clock

My mom loved them so much that she wanted one too. Last year, the small clock went on a trip back to Germany, the place it was made in. That makes me smile too. My father and brother still think it's stupid! And I totally know that this isn't everybody's cup of tea, but it certainly has become mine. And it goes with my large white cardboard safari deer head.

large white deer head

I like having some silly things around the house that make people ask "Why on earth would you hang this up?" I don't take it that serious.
After all I have been called the crazy German and not in a good way. But you know what? I take it as a compliment even if it wasn't meant that way. It is what it is, that's exactly what I am.

{UPDATE: click HERE and HERE to see more painted cuckoo clocks}

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  1. What a great idea to paint them white, they look so much lighter and fresher now and lost the granny feel to them. Feel the same way about those clocks as you do and thought your solution was really clever. Greetings from Germany. :)

    1. Thank you oder sollte ich lieber vielen Dank sagen?

  2. My parents brought me back a cuckoo clock from our family reunion in Germany (I've never been, but apparently some "close" relatives of mine own the Dautermann winery??). Anyway, I hung it in our last home, but it just really doesn't work for our new one.
    But now, oh the possibilities you've given me!! Are there any special tips or tricks you can give me so I don't ruin it completely? It's almost identical to the little one you painted.

    Pinning this!! Thanks so much for the post! I see a painted cuckoo in my future... if, like you, my Dad won't kill me for it!!

    1. Hi and thanks, one tip I can give you is that you should make sure the paint doesn't clog the hinges one the doors. Sometimes mine got stuck and I had to sand them a little and they worked better. Another thing is to make sure you tape off the clock parts (mechanics). It would ruin the clock for sure if you'd get paint on it. Otherwise just paint away. It's so much fun.
      I just started another one but this time the primer cracked and I have to start over again :(

  3. I think the white looks phenomenal. I found your blog when searching "painted german cuckoo clock" on google. I have a very similar german cuckoo clock that I had growing up as a child. It's been in a ziploc bag in storage for years and I would really love to paint it white also, but am terrified my mom will never forgive! I may have to do it anyway....
    Glad I found your blog... you have a lovely home. :)
    Following now on Facebook.

  4. Love the big white cuckoo with dancing angels! I've searched high and low and can't find it even not in white - do you know it's maker? Vielen Dank!
    Cynthia Lamb

    1. Hi Cynthia and thanks! Unfortunately I don't know who made the cuckoo clock. It only says "made in Korea" (out of all places) on the back.

  5. I am in love with this clock! I had a white decal of a coo coo clock in my last home and now I want the real deal in white. Kudos to you!

  6. I am working backwards - I already have a white cuckoo clock given to us as a house warming gift many years ago. I was ready to hang it up in my kitchen, after resting in storage, but unfortunately it doesn't work. It probably has a cheap movement and I wasn't sure it was worth fixing, but now I am thinking I may change the movement. How difficult is it to install? (I am pretty handy!) I like what you did with yours.

    1. Thanks! And it's not difficult, just give it a try. You weren't using it before, so if it doesn't work out...It won't be a big loss. But you can have it fixed by a professional as well.

  7. These are excellent Julia. The designs are very good. The designer has transformed their looks into more pleasant ones. The white cuckoo clock looks great in the house too. How much does it cost?

    1. I don't know what the Stefan Strumbel clocks cost. I was wondering myself.

  8. These are great! How did you paint the numbers and the circular disk?

    1. Thanks! I didn't paint the numbers and dial.
      The above link is another clock where I painted the dial and used number stickers to replace the original numbers.

  9. You have just insprired me to pull out that paint can again!! Growing up next to a family of German decent, I was always in awe of their cockoo clock. As an adult, I express this fascination to my dad, the ultimate antiquer/packrack. Over then next few years he had given me 2 cockoo clocks! I really think he forgot he gave me the first one! They have remained in a box for years and I don't know why I don't have them hanging! I think I am going to pull them out and come up with a color to paint one of them for my home!! Great idea to paint the clock and give it a modern twist instead of an old people look!!

    ~ Darlene

    1. Thanks Darlene, I didn't feel bad painting them either because they aren't antiques. They are my favorite pieces in the house.

  10. Hi Julia,

    I stumbled across your site today. Thought you may like to check out the cuckoo clock that features in one of my posts.
    Lovely work by the way!

  11. LOVE this! My mom bought a cuckoo clock on our first Germany trip and then I almost bought one last year and am kicking myself for not buying one now. I just thought a lot of them looked a bit "stuff" but seeing it painted makes me rethink. Now I need to fly to Germany and get one.

  12. Been looking everywhere for a white cuckoo clock with traditional styles. All the ones I found were super cheap looking in real life. Finding this post has inspired me- gonna take the plunge and paint one instead. Thanks!

  13. Love your blog! I love antique clocks and cuckoo clocks and those designs are amazing!

  14. I absolutely adore these cuckoo clocks! The designs for the more colorful ones are exceptional and I wish I could have one in my home! I'm very big in the unusual, colorful and unique and these match my style perfectly! Is there any way to get any custom made ones, preferably with dripping tentacles, neon colored dear heads with multiple eyes and wings?

    1. Hi Rosalia, those clocks are from a German artist named Stefan Strumbel.

  15. Love your cuckoo clock redesign! My parents had a cuckoo clock when I was a kid, and I loved it! Always kind of wanted one for my kids! Visiting from Haven Mavens 14 -- looking forward to meeting you at Haven! :)

  16. love it! think I need to do this! It will be a great keepsake when I return to the states.

  17. I love this. You make these? I would never get tired of this. Unless they went off all the time.


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