Upcycled Cardboard Village DIY

cardboard village DIY

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t really decorate for holidays…except Christmas. I have a limited amount of of storage space and energy, so I prefer to invest it all in Christmas. This year, since I have a lot of time to a). make decorations and b). chill at home enjoying said decorations, I dreamed up this cardboard village DIY and have been taking my time bringing it to life. It’s a nice relaxing weekend activity.

The inspiration for this village is kind of a combination of three things. First is a Christmas village my mom has had for as long as I can remember. I’ve always wanted my own Christmas village collection. I’ve started building my own collection of the Concordville zinc houses from Terrain, but I don’t want to limit myself to one village. Second, I’ve been wanting to make some kind of DIY advent calendar for a while. When I was a kid I made Christmas countdown charts every year with all the days in December numbered, and I would X them out with a magic marker at the end of each day. Finally, I saw a Christmas tree on Pinterest last year that was a pink tree with birdhouses and bottlebrush trees in shades of blue on it, and I thought it was adorable.

I figured I could combine these three ideas into one amazing advent village DIY situation. The Pinterest tree used wooden birdhouses, but I wanted to try to make the houses myself. I figured birdhouses would get pricey really quickly, and we use real Christmas trees so birdhouses would be too heavy for the branches. I also love the idea of homemade Christmas decorations. I think they’re so charming and meaningful. All this led to making my own houses out of recycled milk cartons and cardboard I saved from the box my air purifier came in. I’ll share the finished tree in December once we put all our Christmas decorations up. Today, I’m sharing how I made the houses so you have time to make some of your own before Christmas. You don’t have to do the whole tree; I think these would be really cute as a standalone village as well.

Eventually the end goal is to turn this into an advent calendar, so all my houses have an opening at the back. This year I’m focusing on making the houses, and then next year or the year after I’m going to to make some kind of ornament situation. The idea is the ornaments will sit in the houses at the beginning, and then each day we’ll pull one ornament out and put it on the tree. That felt like a lot to try to accomplish in one year, though, so for now I’m focusing on the the houses. My Christmas color scheme is shades of blues, silver, gold, and pops of red, so the houses I’ve made so far have been in shades of blue, gray, and silver. I’m not sure yet how I feel about the seafoam green in the mix, so I may end up nixing that and replacing it with a brick red. TBD!

Here’s the method:

Christmas Village DIY Materials:

  • Empty milk cartons (clean them out first!)
  • Scrap cardboard
  • Graphing paper
  • Ruler
  • Pen
  • Scissors
  • X-Acto knife
  • Hot glue gun
  • Acrylic craft paint and paintbrushes

If you’re going the advent calendar route, start by cutting out one of the sides of your milk cartons. This will give you an opening to store any advent figures down the line. If you’re just making a village, you can skip this step.

Cut one side off your milk carton

Next measure the dimensions of the bottom of the carton and the two sides. Trace rectangles the same dimensions on paper (graph paper helps a lot here to get your lines straight), then cut out your shape to make a template. Then trace your template onto a piece of cardboard.

Trace the shape of the sides of your house on cardboard.

Cut out the sides with an X-acto knife, then glue them onto the sides of your milk carton. I used hot glue because it set quickly enough that I could hold everything in place until the glue was solid to keep the cardboard from slipping on the waxed surface of the milk carton. Repeat this process so both sides and the bottom are attached.

Measure the dimensions of the front of your house. It’s easier to do this after you’ve glued on the sides so you can account for the width the cardboard on the sides adds. Trace a rectangle on graph paper like you did before, but this time you’re going to add the roofline of the house. Decide how steep you want the point of your roof to be. Then mark where the middle of the width of the house is and connect the top middle point of the roofline to each of the sides. Here’s a picture for reference:

Create a template for the front of the house

Trace this onto cardboard like you did with the sides, then attach the front of your house. Paint your house now if your roof and your main house are different colors. It will be really difficult to stay in the lines once the roof is on. I needed two coats of craft paint to get even coverage.

Upcycled house with sides attached

Make the roof by measuring rectangles the height of the angled part of your roofline and the with of the sides of the house. Trace the shapes on the graph paper, then the cardboard, then cut them out. Paint them before you attach them. Then glue them onto the top of the house.

At this point add any detail you want, like windows, a door, etc. I’ve added windows to mine so far. I didn’t leave myself room for a door on most of them…oops. I might add some kind of flower box under the windows to give them a little more dimension. It depends on how much time I have.

cardboard village DIY house

And voila! The first house of your cardboard village DIY is complete. The nice thing is since this is using upcycled materials, you can add to it year after year without worrying about the materials being discontinued.

I tried to “caulk” the seams of my houses where two pieces of cardboard came together with hot glue. It didn’t come out as well as I’d hoped, so I’m not recommending you do that and I will skip that step with the rest of the houses I’m making this year. If you see some lumpy edges in the pictures, that’s why that happened.

If you make this upcycled cardboard village DIY, please share it with us! We’d love to hear from you, either on social media or in the comments below. You can also sign up for our email newsletter to get updates about new content as it is released. Plus, check out our other DIYs here.

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