Your source for custom-made, handcrafted Christmas village houses and churches
Written by Howard Lamey (with a little help from Paul Race)
for Big Indoor Trains™ and
Click to see Christmas Collectibles with railroad themes.

Building a Vintage-Style Cardboard Stone Cottage

This stone cottage project is designed to look right with "Christmas Villages," both the new ceramic and resin kind, and the original cardboard and celophane kind that was especially popular between World Wars. That said, if you want it to look more like a model with O scale trains, you might want to blow the plans up by about 2x and substitute another finish (such as the Rough Cedar Shakes pattern) for the roof. However most of the construction is very similar to building a glitterhouse, so we will refer to articles on glitterhouses in general from time to time.

What You Will Need

If you are going to build cardboard houses, stop throwing away used, clean cardboard yesterday. Save cereal boxes, the backs of writing tablets, anything flat, firm and clean, that you can save. In addition, for this project you'll need:

  • A sharp mat knife or Xacto knife
  • Elmer's white Glue-All. A glue stick would also come in handy.
  • About a cup of sawdust
  • Clear glitter (optional)
  • About a square foot of burlap, which simulates a thatched roof appearance. Alternatively, you could print out the Rough Cedar Shake pattern for the roof (see below)
  • Several sheets of acid-free white bond paper
  • Green acrylic paint
  • A flat white paint that can be used to prime the base. Flat latex interior wall paint is good. So is flat acrylic.
  • Some means of spraying two different colors of green paint. This could be paint cans, or a spray bottle you can use with acrylic paints.
  • Other paint as desired
  • A small amount of foam core board for the fence
  • Some scraps of corrugated cardboard for the base
  • Access to the Internet and a color printer.
  • Vellum, celophane, or similar translucent medium, for the windows and door
For a more comprehensive list of tools and supplies that come in handy on any cardboard house project, please refer to our article What You Need to Build Glitterhouses.

Print The Patterns

This project has a structure pattern that you print out and transfer to cardboard, as well as a texture sheet that you print out and use to finish your cottage's appearance.

You may print the structure pattern on any sort of paper, since you're simply using this to transfer the plan to your cardboard medium.

Double-click on this image to see a higher resolution pattern.Double-click on this image to see a higher resolution pattern.

Printing the Plans - We've provided two versions to help you print the plans at the size you need.

  • If you have Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer:
    • Click here to open the pdf version of the first sheet. Select the print option, tell it to "auto rotate and center" or whatever else you need to make it go to Landscape mode. Don't select the "scale to page" or "shrink to fit" option. Print.
    • Click here to open the pdf version of the second sheet. Print as you did the first sheet.

  • If you don't have Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer or for some reason that doesn't work, click on the pattern illustrations above to open a big .jpg version of each pattern. Choose the "file, page setup" from your browser. When the page setup menu comes up, select "landscape mode." You should also disable the "print to fit" option if you have one.

If neither of those work, contact Paul and ask him for help - that's his department. :-)

Printing the Patterned Paper - The stone pattern used in this project is from the Big Indoor Trains™Building Texture pages. If you would like to try a different pattern, please check them out. In the meantime, the following patterns will give you the same graphics used in this project. Print each on acid-free bond paper at the highest quality setting your printer allows.

Note: If you are interested in building for larger scales, you will find larger versions of the same patterns at the Family Garden Trains™Building Textures page.

Building the Base

The base is a rectangular "box" that is decorated before the building and fence are installed. It should be about 4" x 5" x 1/2".

  1. Make the base from four layers of corrugated cardboard glued together in a sandwich.

  2. Wrap and glue a strip of cereal-box cardboard all around it to camouflage the rough edges of the corrugated cardboard.

  3. Click for bigger photo. When the base is built, you then cover it with white bond paper just like you would wrap a gift, except that all surfaces of the paper cover must be glued down to the box. A glue stick works great for this.

    Note: For more information about building bases for vintage-style cardboard houses, please see our Glitterhouse Bases article.

  4. When the glue has dried, apply a coat of white primer and let it dry.

  5. Apply a coat of green acrylic paint and let it dry.

  6. Coat the top and sides of the base with white glue, then sprinkle on sawdust. Press the sawdust into the glue a little and make sure there aren't any major "holes" in coverage. Let it dry.

  7. The finishing touch on the base is multiple coats of 2 different colors of green spray paint applied in a random fashion.

Building the Building

Click for bigger picture.For sanity's sake, make certain that all of your measurements are good before you glue the patterned paper on.

  1. Transfer the patterns to cardboard for the building.

  2. Score the fold lines of the walls and sub-roof, then cut out that piece and fold on the score lines.

  3. Paint the exposed edges of cardboard that will not be covered when the printed siding and roof are applied.

  4. Apply the printed stone graphics. Only do a section at a time. Measure carefully, make crisp folds, apply glue and press in place.

  5. Trim the edges and cut the openings for the windows and door.

  6. Trim the edges of the graphic paper, if ncessary.

  7. You will see white edges of the paper that the graphics are printed on when you cut pieces to fit various surfaces. With a felt-tip pen, marker, or acrylic paint and a very tiny brush, carefully coat just the edge of paper if needed.)

  8. Glue the building together, using paperclips or clothespins to keep it in place until the glue is completely dry.

Click for bigger photo.Make the Door and Window Frames

Cut these from thin cardboard or cardstock.

Measure carefully and cut out with an edge guide and a sharp blade. A small pair of cuticle scissors may be helpful.

You may have to cut out several of each to get the best fit for your door and window openings.

When you are satisfied, paint the frames your desired color and set them aside.

Building the Roof

  1. Transfer the roof pattern to the cardboard, but cut it out oversized, a half inch all around.

  2. Glue the oversize cardboard roof to a piece of ordinary natural color burlap fabric. This burlap will simulate a “thatched-type” straw roof. (Note: the burlap should be glued to the cardboard on the “bias,” with the threads at a 45-degree angle to edge of cardboard.) Alternatively, you could use the Rough Cedar Shake pattern for the roof.

  3. When the glue is completely dry, score the roof peak fold line on the underside of the cardboard, and trim the roof to the correct dimensions.

  4. Paint the underside of the roof's overhang and edges.

  5. Cut out the porch roof and finish it as you did the roof piece.

Building the Chimney and Cap

  1. Transfer the pattern for the chimney and cap to cardboard

  2. Score fold lines, cut out the pieces and fold on the score lines

  3. Apply the printed stone graphics. Only do a section at a time. Measure carefully, make crisp folds, apply a thin layer of glue, and press in place.

  4. Glue the chimney together. When all of the glue is dry, glue the cap onto the chimney.

  5. The white edges of the paper may show. With an appropriate color felt-tip pen, marker or These pieces are set in place only to check for fit. Nothing will be glued to the base until everything is finished. Click for bigger photo.acrylic paint and a very tiny brush, carefully coat just the edge of paper and touch up as needed.

Assembling the House

  1. Glue the roof to the house body. In the photo to the right, the pieces are set in place to check the overall fit, but nothing is glued to the base until everything else is done.

  2. This is an example of how you paint the mullions in before you put on the frames. Sorry, we don't have a blow-upUsing the same color you painted the frames, carefully paint around the edges of the door and window openings. Paint the window “mullions” (cross bars in windows) the same color also.

  3. Glue on the door and window frames.

  4. Glue your window material inside of house.

  5. Glue on the chimney and the porch roof.

Building the Fence and Step

The fence and step are made from 1/4-inch thick foam core material. The fence measures 5/8-inch high. The step is 1/4-inch x 3/8-inch x 7/8-inch.

Tranfer the patterns to the foam board for the fence.

Each fence side can be made in 3 pieces, “wrapped” with graphics and then glued together OR 3 pieces glued together first and then “wrapped” with graphics.

Carefully “wrap” these pieces with stone graphics just as you did with house. Just think of this as “wrapping” several very small gifts boxes.

Note: Wrapping the fence and step can be a tedious process. I suggest you do a section at a time and let the glue dry between steps. Careful measuring, cutting and crisp folds are the keys

Finishing Details

Glue the house, front step, and fence to the base.

Optional “Hint of Frost/Light Snow“ Details - If you wish to give this building a little more "seasonal" flavor, you may add a “hint of frost/light snow” to the roof, fence, and base since a heavy coat of glitter and snow would cover details of printed stone graphics and burlap.

To protect the graphic pattern, roof, and base from dust and UV damage, I applied several light coats of clear satin spray on the entire project to protect. When I was done, I wasn't sure I liked the look as much as the one I didn't spray. The one with the protective spray should hold up better in the long run, though. I've provided photos of both so you can decide for yourself.

This building was sprayed with several coats of clear satin spray to protect and seal everything. Click for bigger photo. This building did not receive the protective coating. I think I like it better. What do you think?   Click for bigger photo.
With protective coating
Without protective coating


I can use this building in my “Pine Mountain Valley” Christmas display village and railroad just by adding a handful of artificial snow to the roof and base. Or I can use it year-round in other displays.

The Big Indoor Trains™ Resource pages include several other downloadable, cleaned-up building texture pages in several size ranges for you to use for similar projects:

Commercial "Plug"

A Note from the Designer: Now that I'm in "retirement," this hobby has become a sort of avocation for me. Several folks have commissioned me to build specific houses for them. So if you'd like me to "bid" on a cardboard house for you, or if you have any questions at all, please visit our Orders page. - Howard

Also, if you have a similar project you'd like to share with your fellow readers and hobbyists, we'd love to add it to our site, and we'll be sure to give you full credit for your contribution.

Other Resources for Putz Houses and Related Information

  • Other Putz House Articles:

  • Other Putz House Resources:
    • "Papa Ted's Place" Ted Althof's extensive resource about vintage pasteboard houses. Includes some history, many photos from other people's collections, and resources to help you build your own. The links below will take you right to the approprate page on "Papa" Ted's site. You'll find lots of other pages to look at while you're there, though.
      • Building from Scratch - "Papa" Ted Althof has collected tips and photos from other glitterhouse builders including Tom Hull and Ted Howard.
      • Repair and Restoration - "Papa" Ted Althof publishes Tom Hull's tips for restoring damaged antique glitterhouses.
      • Reproduction Parts - Ted offers authentic reproductions of just about every door and window that were used in glitterhouses over a 35-year period. These include celophane and paper "see-through" windows, as well as "stick-on" windows. If you don't know what sizes you need, you can order a template or sample pack. The page includes several photos showing how the replacement parts bring otherwise solid vintage glitterhouses "back to life."
      • Making "Flocked" Windows - Tom Hull's method for making "fuzzy" windowframes on celophane, with additional tips by author and glitterhouse collector Antoinette Stockenberg.
      • Repairing or Replacing Trees Tom's article about the "lufa" trees that were common on pre-war glitterhouses, and can be repaired or else replaced by new lufa carefully cut, soaked with dark green acrylic paint, and allowed to dry before gluing and applying white paint for "snow."
    • - Putz house builder Howard Lamey now has his own site, begun in December, 2007. You can commission your own custom-built glitterhouse, or buy a precut kit and finish it yourself.
    • Aimee Gomberg's original putz houses - unique collections for sale.

  • Other Articles that Discuss Putzes and Christmas Villages of the mid-20th Century:
    • About Nativities - Describes how German-American Nativity displays (the original "putzes") grew into communities and landscapes that included pastboard, glittered houses and even electric trains.
    • What Do Trains Have to Do With Christmas - Describes how electric trains contributed to the communities many families set up at Christmas, with some details about the elaborate "Christmas Gardens" of the Baltimore/DC area.
    • Author Antoinette Stockenberg's home page - includes photographs and comments on putz houses and life in general.

    To return to the "Howard's How-To" page, click here.

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Note: Big Indoor Trains(tm), Big Train Store(tm), Family Garden Trains(tm), Big Christmas Trains(tm), Garden Train Store(tm), and Trains and Towns(tm) are trademarks of Breakthrough Communications ( All information, data, text, and illustrations on this web site are Copyright (c) by Paul D. Race. Reuse or republication without prior written permission is specifically forbidden.

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