I have always loved the beautiful vintage cardboard houses in Christmas villages. Unfortunately, in The Tiny Apartment, there is no mantle piece, no empty bookshelf or spare side table on which to set up a village for the Christmas season. But this year, I have come up with a great solution so that even tiny apartments like mine can have a little snowy village complete with lights and mini trees. It takes up just 9 inches square of wall space, and who can't spare that?
I made my village over 2 evenings, with a little time spent hunting down the supplies first. If you want to make your own village there are some special supplies you will need: a 9" square, deep shadow box frame, plaster of paris, small square dowels, mini trees, small sheet yellow vellum, glitter card stock, white fiberfill or other fake "snow", small rectangle of thin white acrylic batting and a short string of battery powered miniature LED's (much smaller than regular tree mini lights). You might be able to find the lights where Christmas village sets are sold. I found mine for 5$ at Michaels. Basic craft supplies you probably already have include some old cereal boxes, assorted glitters, hot glue gun, white glue, old paint brushes, craft knife and scissors, heavy background paper, craft wire and wire cutters and any other decorations you want.
First make your little houses. If you are lucky enough to own some real vintage houses, you can skip ahead and use this project as a great way to display them! I cut my houses out of thin cardboard from cereal boxes. I also made a fence to go in front of the houses out of a double layer of cardboard, cut to fit the interior width of my frame. Remember to glue vellum down inside windows and door opening before gluing houses together with glue gun. Cut a hole in the back of each house just big enough to accommodate a single light. If you need help designing your houses, Twelve22 has a great free printable house pattern here to get you started. Remember that everything gets coated in glitter and plaster so if you make any mistakes they will not be visible later.
Coat sides of houses with white glue and then glitter. Mix up plaster of paris according to directions on box, it should be smooth and about as runny as pancake batter. Use an old paint brush to apply to roof, window and door frames, the top of the chimney and the fence. I added another layer of plaster to the houses once they started to set. Sprinkle a little extra silver glitter on the roof after plastering. I also dipped some really cheap green fake trees in the plaster, and then dusted with white glitter to make snowy trees, which turned out great! I found them in a dollar bin at a model railway store, much cheaper than the trees sold with other Christmas decorations. Set everything aside to dry overnight.
Measure and mark a line 3/8" inside the back edge on all sides and glue doweling behind this line with hot glue (cut to fit about 3/4 of the length of each side). Use short sections of dowel to secure battery box (glue dowels down around box, don't glue box down) against the back dowel with "on-off" switch towards the front. Cut vignette out of glitter cardstock to fit inside the frame; make a notch for the battery box and another small notch on the opposite side for the light cord. Make little wire "hooks" and glue to back of doweling to secure lights around frame. Leave an LED for each house and then pull string to back of scene and attach by bending hooks around wire (see process shots). Glue glitter cardstock to dowels. Make a snowy ground with white batting. Position houses and poke remaining lights into each. Glue down front fence. Insert trees and then fill in any gaps with a little fiberfill; use fiberfill to cover on-off switch on battery box too. Cut background paper to fit and glue to back of frame. Hang and enjoy! Whew!
OK, so this project has a lot of steps, but it isn't very difficult and with a little patience the beautiful results make it worthwhile. If anyone tries this out please let me know, I would love to see your photos! To see more photos of this project you can check out my Flickr.