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Printed photographs of real stone siding add realistic charm to this cottage project.  Click for bigger photo.Return to Big Indoor Trains<sup><small>TM</small></sup> primer pageOn30 Display Trains
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Written by Howard Lamey (with a
little help from Paul Race) for Big Indoor TrainsTM

Note from Editor: Project designer Howard Lamey has made whole villages of vintage-style cardboard structures. The stone cottage project is one result of me sending him a "care package" with many printed sheets from the Resources page. Howard saw a structure something like this when he was watching a Click for bigger photo.Thomas the Tank video with a grandchild, so he figured he'd build one for his own village.

Update, August, 2008: Later, Howard and I were talking about "printies," cardboard buildings that were available around Christmas but had patterned finishes, usually brick. Howard decided to try to build a house with my downloadable brick pattern to see how he liked the look. Then he sent me the photos, so I've added a brick version as an option on this page.

Building a Vintage-Style Cardboard Stone (or Brick) 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 (if you want a "lawn" look for the base, as shown in the stone cottage photos)
  • Clear glitter (if you want snow or frost, especially for the base as shown in the brick cottage photos)
  • 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 different colors of green or pale blue 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 and brick patterns used in this project are from the Big Indoor TrainsTMBuilding 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 TrainsTMBuilding 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. How you finish the base depends on which look you are going for:
    • If you want the "lawn" look, as shown in the stone cottage photos, use the following instructions:
      • Apply a coat of green acrylic paint and let it dry.
      • 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.
      • The finishing touch on the base is multiple coats of 2 different colors of green spray paint applied in a random fashion.
    • If you want the "snowy" look, as shown in the brick cottage photos, leave the base coated with white primer, but swirl on pale blue "highlights." Later you can spread "white glue" and clear glitter after the building and hedges are glued down.

Building the Building

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. The pattern as supplied above puts the front door on the left side. If you want to put it on the right side, as it is in the cutouts for the brick version shown to the right, simply flip the pattern over before you The pieces as they would be cut out for the red brick version shown. Click for bigger photo.transfer it to the building material.

  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 or brick graphics. Only do a section at a time. Measure carefully, make crisp folds, apply glue and press in place. The stone cottage with the graphic paper applied.  Click for bigger picture.

  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. For the brick cottage, I used a piece of very thick, soft cardboard that I indented in a "shingle pattern" by using a straight edge and a dull point (a knitting needle would do the job).

  2. For the stone cottage, 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. For the brick cottage, I simply primed and painted the cardboard roof, since I was going to top it off with "snow" anyway.

  3. When the glue (if any) is completely dry and you are satisfied with the look of the roof, score the roof peak fold line on the underside of the cardboard, and trim the roof piece to the final dimensions you want.

  4. Paint the underside of the roof's overhang and edges. If you are planning to paint the top of the roof, paint it now.

  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. [Note: It looks to me like Howard may have made the chimney for the brick house slightly smaller than the chimney for the stone house. Since a perfect fit isn't necessary, feel free to experiment, as long as the angle where the chimney meets the roof stays the same - ed.]

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

  3. The brick version of the chimney after it is glued together. A very fine dark red marker might help with any white areas that the creases reveal. Click for bigger photo.Apply the printed stone (or brick) 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. Using 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.This is an example of how you paint the mullions in before you put on the frames. Sorry, we don't have a blow-up

  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 Step and Fence (or Hedge)

The stone cottage with the graphic paper applied.  Click for bigger picture.

The step is made from 1/4-inch thick foam core material. It measures 1/4-inch x 3/8-inch x 7/8-inch.

The fence for the stone cottage is also made from 1/4-inch thick foam core material. It measures 5/8-inch high. The hedge for the brick cottage as shown is made from a scratch pad that you would ordinarily buy to wash dishes. You could also build a brick fence the same way the stone fence is built for the stone cottage.

If you are making a stone (or brick) fence, transfer 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. You can add a little or a lot of snow and frost as you desire:

  • Optional ?Hint of Frost/Light Snow? Details - If you wish to give the stone cottage 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. I chose to give the brick cottage "solid" patches of snow by dabbing on white paint, then when that had dried, spreading Elmer's or similar glue, and dosing with clear glitter.

    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. 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

  • Click for bigger photo.Optional "Heavy Snow Details - If you wish to give your cottage a mid-winter appearance, you can dab white paint on parts of the roof and hedges. When that has dried, spread a thin layer of "white glue" (like Elmer's) over the white paint, then apply clear glitter. When the glue has dried, hold the building upside down and tap it to dislodge excess glitter. Now, apply glue and glitter to the base.

Finish with the figures or add-in trees of your choice.


I can use the stone cottage without snow 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. It looks pretty good with our "Spook Hill" Halloween community, for example.

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

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 use this link, and Paul will forward your information to me.

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 Articles about cardboard houses include:

To Return to the BIG Indoor TrainsTM Primer Page, click here.Return to Big Indoor Trains<sup><small>TM</small></sup> primer page

Click to sign up for the 'Trains-N-Towns<sup><small>TM</small></sup>' newsletter, with articles about display villages, indoor railroading, and much more

Click to see unique Disney Halloween village collectibles and more

Click to see the Internet's largest buyers' guide of trains that are just the right size for indoor displays.

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