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Written by Howard Lamey (with a
little help from Paul Race) for Big Indoor Trains™

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 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. 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 t