Thursday, November 25, 2010

Christmas Village Display How-To

Thought I'd show how I set up the foundation for the Christmas village display.  This is something I learned from Martha Stewart about 10-15 years ago when she still had her TV show.

The houses are raised up on styrofoam sheets that have been hot-glued together to the height I wanted, then carved with a bread knife to create gradual hills.  For some of the hills, I traced the foundation of the building onto the styrofoam and then carved it out, to make an indentation.  This keeps it steady, and helps me remember which building goes where, since they're all different.  I don't have this done for all the hills, though, because I used to put this display in a different bookshelf, and so my styrofoam had to be re-done.  I got lazier the second time around!

At the time, I thought the little carved staircase would be a good idea, but it turns out that it doesn't show up under the plastic snow flakes that are added later.

I used white cardstock to create a base for brick roads.  These roads come in plastic rolls and seem to be readily available from craft stores or stores that sell collectible village pieces.  I decided on the layout I wanted for the village pieces, then I cut out brick road pieces in winding road type of style, with some entering from the back of the shelf and some leaving the front of the shelf.

I used some simple aluminum foil to simulate a crude icy stream, and I purchased a small mirror to use to simulate a small pond.  It's not quite a believable set up, but have you seen the paint job I did on the villagers faces?  I don't think we need to worry about believability.  ;-)

Once I got all the roads and hills placed, I filled in with plain white printer paper to hide the rest of the wooden shelf top.  I left the front edges of the bookshelf as they are, since there's no hiding the fact that this is in a bookshelf.

I decided to just use white paper to form a base for the downtown area, because it's so crowded and I didn't know a good way to lay out the street.  I put snow all over the ground anyway, so it's not so important.

At this point, I put in all the buildings and houses, and then placed the trees and other small pieces, and finally the people.  Then I sprinkled plastic faux snow flakes. They're big and chunky in scale compared to the village, but any smaller it would be very difficult to keep clean.  I'm considering going all out and creating a full-width styrofoam layout, and then permanently attaching little snow crystals to the whole thing, but that's a project for another day.

Oh! one thing new this year.  To prevent snow pieces from falling off onto the carpet, I first laid down a strip of double-stick tape on the very front of all three shelves at the very front edge of the white paper.  Then I pressed snow flakes down onto the tape, and filled in the snow behind it on the rest of the shelf.  Hopefully this little trick will keep those little buggers from falling off all season long every time the cat walks by!

I'm seeking ideas for how to light the village without visible cords and without drilling into the bookshelf.  Any thoughts?


  1. So glad to have found your blog and great ideas on the villiage display. I like the way you cut the foam and using the bookcase, I must clear out mine and do the same.
    I have a Christmas blog
    Would love to have you visit.

  2. You can light your village with those little plastic tea lights that are powered by tiny watch batteries. They are inexpensive, you can find them at dollar stores.

  3. At current I am faced with the same problem. I am thinking of covering the front of the shelves with garland or tree branches. Making it like a frame if you will.

  4. I love your display!! I'm going to try amd get an old, middle-sized bookcase that is no longer usable, and paint it. (Either white for the snow...or black to simulate a night sky.) Then, I can drill holes for the lights, and do any other permanent improvements I want without ruining a "real" bookcase. I would just keep the bookcase in the garage during the year ;) Thanks for posting this!