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

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. (We have a brief introduction to glitterhouses and "putzes" in the article "What is a Glitterhouse?") Howard has started his own site, but he has graciously agreed to share his craft knowledge with our readers.

Spook Hill™ #1 - Stately Pane Manor

Though I've been making little vintage-style cardboard houses and castles for Christmas for some time, I tried something new last fall. I designed a Halloween house for my grown children's families' halloween decorations. It was such a hit that this year we plan to offer a whole community of Halloween building projects. The house shown in the photo is the first one we designed specifically for this community, now designated "Spook Hill™." (The ™ is there to keep ten other people from doing the same thing under the same name - if you have similar projects, let us know, and we may be able to share links or something - just don't call it "Spook Hill™," or I'll send my town's denizens after you.)

This structure is based on forms typically used in some of the more elaborate cardboard Christmas houses that were made in Japan between 1920 and 1930. It's the first one I've ever seen with a Halloween theme, though.

What You Will Need

Clean cardboard of every thickness. 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.

The 3-window section, back section and clock tower are cardboard cut-outs with cardboard “parapet” trim around the top edge.

The round tower is cardboard tube from a roll of gift wrap. Add a spire cut from 3 cone shaped paper water cups which have been glued together, one inside the other for strength. 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.
  • Clear glitter. I use the “Sulyn” brand.
  • Several sheets of acid-free white bond paper
  • Flat white paint (flat latex interior wall paint is good) to prime the building (and give it the chalky feel of the original)
  • Acrylic or textured paint in the colors you plan to use for the house.
  • Fine sand for mixing with paint, unless you buy textured paint.
  • Other accessories, such as a silk flower stem or two that you can use to make "dead trees." (In fact we have a whole article on this subject.)
  • Sawdust to give the "grass area" texture

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 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.

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 print the right direction on the page. Don't select the "scale to page" or "shrink to fit" option. If these pages don't print the right size, the pieces you cut from them won't work together. 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, print" from your browser. If you CAN choose to NOT scale the picture, do so (you may need to select "landscape" for some of the files). 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 trees are installed. For this project, it should be about 7" wide and 5" deep, built up from four layers of corrugated cardboard, wrapped with acid-free bond paper. (See our article on Building Glitterhouse Bases for more information.)

Note: For this project, Howard cut the base and fence pieces out at the same time. (See Sheet #4 above). The fence pieces are made from the thin kind of corrugated cardboard that they use for Express Mail boxes, although thick cardboard from the back of a legal pad would do as well. If you wish, you may use different materials for the fence, including miniature wooden 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.