Rose Village Landscaping Instructions
One: Constructing a miniature landscape
Start with a plan. Decide if your village will be seen
from one side or all sides. Will it be in a dollhouse
or a cabinet, or under glass in a covered display case?
Set out all the houses you plan to put in your village
and arrange them in a pleasing manner. Decide where
the hills and valleys will be. Make a rough sketch of
this plan for future reference. The plan will probably
change a little as you work.
To create a hilly landscape, I recommend you start with
a large 2-inch-thick sheet of Styrofoam. Transfer the
plan you have made to the Styrofoam and carve out the
valleys. The Styrofoam can be carved easily with a serrated
knife. If you need a higher hill, glue another thickness
of Styrofoam on top of the first piece. Use Tacky glue
and hold the piece in place with 2 or 3 toothpicks.
Place the toothpicks so that they will not obstruct
a light hole (see step 7) as they will be left in the
Styrofoam when the glue is dry. Allow any glued areas
to dry before continuing.
When you have roughed out your terrain, flatten the
areas where the houses will sit. Smooth out the surface
of the terrain by sanding the Styrofoam with another
piece of Styrofoam. This is extremely messy and unpleasant.
When you think you have the desired shape, set the houses
in position and make any needed adjustments to the terrain.
Once you have the desired shape, turn the Styrofoam
over and hollow out the underside a little to make room
for the light bulb wires. Be careful not to break through
the top of the landscape.
Now you are ready to put a coating over the Styrofoam.
It makes a difference what you use here. I recommend
Liquitex Acrylic Modeling Paste. An alternate coating
material is Elmer’s Redi-Spack Acrylic Latex Spackling.
The key word seems to be Acrylic. I have tried other
spackling compounds and found that they dry to a chalky,
brittle texture. The Modeling Paste is a craft store
item and the Redi-Spack is available in hardware stores.
Both dry to a hard smooth surface. Follow the instructions
on the container and cover the landscape. Two or three
thin coats are better than one thick coat. The key here
is time and patience. If neither of these products is
available, check your local craft store for another
alternate sculpting medium.
When the coating is completely dry, you should make
the holes for the light bulbs. The easiest way to do
this is with a drill. Select a drill bit that is the
correct size for the lights you plan to use. If you
are using 12-volt lights, a small hole just large enough
to pass the bulb through is sufficient. If you are using
a string of Christmas tree lights, select a drill bit
that matches the base of the light bulb. By making the
hole a tight fit you can push the bulb in place and
the edge of the hole will hold it.
Place each house in position and draw around the base
with a pencil. Remove the house, mark the center for
the hole. Drill the light hole from the top down using
the slow speed on your electric drill, or a hand powered
8. Once the light holes are drilled, paint the landscape
with a coat of Gesso. Liquitex Acrylic Gesso is my favorite.
Paint the first coat of gesso on the form with a brush,
making certain to work the gesso into all of the pits
and gaps. Paint on the second coat of gesso with a sponge,
dabbing to leave a fine texture all over the landscape.
When the gesso is dry, paint the landscape with acrylic
paints. I suggest you use the sponge to paint the landscape
white. Painting with a brush leaves brushstrokes. I
recommend you add other colors such as pale blues or
yellows in dabs over the snow surface to give a more
natural shaded appearance. Paint in roads, footpaths,
rocks and any other features that might enhance the
appearance of the landscape.
Let the paint dry and then spray the landscape with
a non-yellowing matte or satin acrylic sealer.
It is now time to finish your scene. Push the lights
through the holes. Glue the houses in place over them
with Tacky glue. Turn on the lights and check to see
if light shows at the bases of the houses. If this occurs,
use some of the caulking material you originally used
to coat the landscape to fill in around the base. Remove
any excess with a damp Q-tip. Once the houses are in
place add trees. Bits of dried weeds can be used for
Sylvia Pulver Mobley 2003
Two: Lighting a miniature village
1. The simplest method is to light the houses
from underneath with a single light bulb. This method
can be used on small or large villages depending on how
many lights you use, but does not work well for a hilly
a. The base should be thin, no more than 1/2 inch thick,
and will probably have to be flat or only slightly hilly.
Plywood or foam core will work.
b. Cut a hole in the base under each house almost as large
as the open center of the house.
c. Attach the houses to the base.
d. Place a small light bulb under the landscape. 2 or
3 lights may be used if the scene is large.
e. Be certain to provide adequate air circulation and
use a light bulb that does not get too hot.
f. When turned on, the light will shine up into the houses
and show through the windows.
Method 2. Another simple method is to
use a short string of Christmas tree lights. This is my
personal favorite for large Styrofoam landscapes. I have
seen these lights in strings of 10 with a battery hook
up and in strings of 20 that plug into a regular electric
socket or extension cord.
After you build your landscape, drill holes for these
lights in the landscape using a drill bit that matches
the size of the light base. Be gentle. Remember you are
only drilling through Styrofoam. (see Part 1, step 7)
Push each light far enough up into the hole so that the
tip of the light will not touch the top of the house.
On some of the smaller houses the light will only be half
way out of the hole.
If the hole is the correct size the light should stay
in position. If it slips out of the hole, cut off a U
shaped portion of a paper clip and insert it into the
Styrofoam over the wire to hold the light in position.
Do not glue the lights into the holes.
Fold the wires up into the space you have made under the
landscape and place the scene on a wooden base.
Extra lights can be hidden under the base as long as there
is some air circulation to dissipate the heat of the bulbs.
In a cabinet or shadow box, the extra lights can be used
to light the front of the village.
You may be able to find smaller lights in a string of
8 or 10 in a florists shop or bridal boutique. These lights
use a battery pack. They work very well but do not last
long. Install these lights using Method 2, only making
the holes smaller.
3. The third method is very complicated and requires
a good understanding of 12-volt electrical systems, transformers,
and dollhouse lighting techniques. If you have access
to the proper equipment and supplies and can find a good
dollhouse lighting handbook, I recommend this method as
the best and most versatile.
You will need grain-of-wheat bulbs, wire, and a 12-volt
transformer rated for the number of bulbs you plan to
The method of installation is the same as in Method 2,
using a smaller drill to make the holes.
These supplies are available from many dollhouse building
suppliers. I recommend you follow the instructions available
from the dealer as the systems vary.
for 12-volt lighting:
Hobby Builders Supply
P.O. Box 620876
Doraville, GA 30362-2876
Web site: www.miniatures.com
( I found the following book listed on their web site,
Dollhouse Lighting Electrification In Miniature.
The description sounds good but I have not personally
used this book.)
32 Woodlake Drive SE
Rochester, MN 55904
check miniature shops, shows, and publications. ©
Sylvia Pulver Mobley 2003