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Howard Lamey recommends this simple cabin a a good beginning 'putz house' project. Click for bigger photo.Return to Big Indoor Trains(tm) primer pageOn30 Display Trains
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Written by Howard Lamey (with a little help from Paul Race)
for Big Indoor TrainsTM
Click to see Christmas Collectibles with railroad themes.

Note from Editor: Howard Lamey, in Jacksonville, Florida, has retired from a full-time job in advertising that included designing window displays for a major retailer. Now he has turned those artistic talents to designing and building vintage-style cardboard buildings for his family and friends. Howard now has his own site,, but he continues to graciously share his craft knowledge with our readers.

Building the Twin Peaks Beach House

This project is a followup to our Sandy ShoresTM Lighthouse project that was published in January, 2009. We have finished this house in "seaside" colors that are typical of seaside houses in many parts of the United States. If you like the shape, of course, you are certainly welcome to use other colors and refinish it for a Halloween or Christmas village. If you do make one, please send us photos, that's our best reward for providing these projects.

What You Will Need

First of all, you need cardboard, such as that from cereal boxes, the backs of writing tablets, anything flat, firm and clean, that you can save. Please keep some corrogated cardboard on hand, too - it makes the best bases.

In addition, for this project you'll need:

  • A sharp mat knife or Xacto knife (or both)
  • A stiff metal ruler
  • Elmer's white Glue-All. A glue stick would also come in handy.
  • Several sheets of acid-free white bond paper
  • Colored paper for the windows. You can make your own color up to print and print it onto paper or vellum if you wish.
  • Colored card stock for the windowframes (or you could use cereal-box cardboard, but you'd have to paint it).
  • Sand for gluing to the base. I used aquarium sand; you can use "play" sand, swimming pool filter sand, whatever looks right with the rest of your setting.
  • Flat white paint (flat latex interior wall paint is good) to prime the building (and give it the chalky feel of the original)
  • Acrylic paint in the colors you plan to use for the house. Include a neutral sand or beige color for painting the base.
  • Other accessories, such as palm trees or sea grass, that you plan to use to finish the house.

Note:: Our article on What You Need to Build Glitterhouses lists many other materials and tools that will help you work more quickly and effectively.

Printing the Plans

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

Double-click on the plans above to see the large versions. You should be able to print the big version at the size you need either of the following ways.

  • If you have Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer, click the following links to see the PDF versions:

    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.

  • If you don't have Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer, or for some reason that doesn't work, open the big JPG versions by clicking on the reduced plans above. Choose the "file, page setup" from your browser. When the page setup menu comes up, select "landscape mode." If you CAN choose to NOT scale the picture, do so. This may mean that part of the page gets clipped on your printer, but the plan should sprint to the right size. If they don't you should be able to tweak the size either in the print program or in any graphic program you have on your printer.

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

Building the Base

The base is a rectangular "box" that is decorated before the house and doghouse are installed. For this project, it should be about 6" long, 3 3/4" wide, and about 1/2" high.

Note: For this project, I cut the base and fence pieces out at the same time. The fence pieces are made from thick card stock such as the back of a writing tablet. If you wish, you may use different materials for the fence, including miniature wooden picket or snow fence from the craft store or a rustic rail fence you make from twigs.

Cut And Glue The Base - Usually the best method is to make a base from layers of corrugated cardboard glued together in a sandwich. You then wrap and glue a strip of thin poster-board or cereal-box cardboard all around it to camouflage the rough edges of the corrugated cardboard.

Click for bigger photo. Click for bigger photo.

Wrap the Base - 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.

The finish coat of paper is glued down everywhere so it becomes a part of the surface and recreates the pasteboard finish of the original glitterhouses. Click for bigger photo. Click for bigger photo

Note: For this project I also added a sub-base for the house and doghouse. These are rectangles of thick corrugated cardboard that fit just inside the bottom edge of those structures (you'll need to trim them to fit). They give the structures more strength, and they provide more area to hold glue when you are gluing the structures to the base. In the photo below, you can see that I glued the house's sub-base to the base before I painted the base. Later, I glued the house down around it.

Note: More details about building bases are provided in our article: Building Glitterhouse Bases

Click for bigger photo. Attach the Fence - When the glue on the base has dried, glue the fence pieces to the base.

Prepping the Structure Pieces

The house, roof, chimney, and chimney cap need to be cut from thick cardboard, such as the cardboard from the back of a writing tablet. The roofs could be made of picture frame matte board

Click for bigger photo

  1. Carefully transfer patterns of all pieces to the cardboard building stock. A .05 mm lead mechanical pencil and a “C-Through” brand ruler make this accurate and easy.

  2. Put new blades in the mat knife or X-acto knife (or both) that you will be using.

  3. Score the fold lines before you begin cutting out the parts (although you may do the roof parts later, if you wish, after you've checked the fit and the overhang). Use the metal ruler or other steel edge as a guide.

  4. Still using a steel-edged ruler as a guide, cut out the shapes. Watch your fingers.

  5. Double-check the roof size. The most important thing is that the two pieces meet nicely in the middle. The roof should also have a fairly even overhang on all sides. After you determine where the peak of the roof should be, score the crease.

  6. Cut the door and window frames from thinner stock, such as posterboard, cereal box cardboard, or colored card stock.

Assembling and Painting the House

  1. Click for bigger photo.Using Elmer's white Glue-All or a similar product, assemble the house, glue on the roof and chimneys. I would do this in steps, clamp the pieces, and let them dry so that you are not trying to hold, tape, or clamp a lot of small pieces at one time.

    White glue works best if you apply a thin coat to each mating surface and wait a few moments for the glue to become tacky. Do not glue the house to the base until you have applied the sand (below).

    I did not apply the little "awning" roof pieces or windowframes until I had painted the structures and doublechecked the fit, so they're not shown in all photos.

    Click for bigger photos.The photo to the right shows the house and doghouse set in place to make certain that they fit where they're supposed to before we paint everything and glue it together.

  2. If you have cut the door and windowframes from cardboard stock, glue them on now, then glue on the awnings. I left those details until later, since I used colored card stock for the door and window fraimes.

  3. Click for bigger photo.Prime the house, doghouse, base, and fence with flat white wall paint. Don’t skip this step; it gives you a uniform surface for painting the final coat. The photo to the right shows how I set the pieces on improvised stands so they could dry all the way around at the same time.

  4. Paint the house in your choice of colors. I use acrylics from the Wal-Mart craft department.

  5. Finish and glue on any remaining trim details, including door and window frames and awnings.

  6. Paint the base and fence. The base should be beige or sand color, something that will blend with the sand once you glue it on.

  7. Finished house ready for accessories.Glue sand on the base. Brush a film of white glue on an area, then tamp down the sand into it. The glue dries clear, so don't judge the final effect until it's dry. You should probably count on doing this in at least 3 stages - if you try to do it all at once, you'll probably just make a mess you have to redo again anyway.

  8. Glue the window "glazing" material you have chosen on the inside of the house.

  9. Glue the finished house and doghouse to the finished base. Fill in any gaps between the house and the base with white glue and sprinkle on more sand.

  10. Add accessories that suggest a beachfront property.


You can see that, when you get to the gluing, painting, and sanding stages, there's a lot of "hurry up and wait." That's one reason many people who build modern putz house recreations work on two or three houses at the same time - you can work on the second house while the glue is setting on the first one, and so on.

Return to the Sandy Shores page for more links to seaside projects.

Return to the What is a Glitterhouse page for links to more putz (vintage cardboard house) projects.

Return to the Big Indoor Trains Primer page for links to many more how-to and informative articles.

Return to the Big Indoor Trains Home page.

Many more links are shown below.

Commercial "Plug"

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 help you design and build a special vintage pasteboard house for you, or if you have any questions at all, please see my site, for more information.

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 sites, and we'll be sure to give you full credit for your contribution.

Other Glitterhouse and Related Projects

  • What is a Glitterhouse? - Our introduction to the hobbies of collecting and building glitterhouses.
  • Building Glitterhouse Bases
  • Click to see our beginning glitterhouse construction article.What You Need to Build Glitterhouses
  • Building a Glitterhouse - A detailed primer on starting your own glitterhouse hobby, including free downloadable plans and detailed instructions for making simple houses and churches.

  • Click to see detailed directions for building this vintage-style pasteboard house.Click to see detailed directions for building this vintage-style pasteboard house.Building the Little Charmer - A new glitterhouse project that is a step up from our beginning glitterhouse. Includes free downloadable plans.

  • Building a Picture Window House - Another new glitterhouse project. This one includes unique features such as a sand finish and picture window that reveals a "Christmas scene" Includes free downloadable plans and directions.

  • Building the Union Station - This original project by designer Howard Click to see free downloadable plans,  directions, and graphics for this vintage-style Christmas house.Lamey is inspired by two traditions - the cardboard Christmas houses that were popular in US homes between 1928 and 1965 and the Lionel station that was popular for most of the 20th century.

  • Click to see free downloadable plans,  directions, and graphics for this vintage-style Christmas house.Building a Bay Window House - Bay windows were popular in Europe for centuries; they were also popular in the mid-20th century in North America. This project will add a nice variety to your Christmas village.

  • Click for bigger photoWelcome to Spook HillTM - Howard has designed a whole, family-friendly, Halloween community built in the vintage "putz-house" style. Includes many free downloadable plans, photos, and detailed instructions.

Other Putz House Resources:

    Click to see Howard's site.

  • - Putz house builder Howard Lamey now has his own site, begun in December, 2007. You can get ideas for your own project, commission your own custom-built glitterhouse, or buy a precut kit and finish it yourself.

  • "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."

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.

    Click to be charmed by Antoinette Stockenberg's wonderful Christmas displays.
  • Author Antoinette Stockenberg's home page - includes photographs and comments on putz houses and life in general.

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