Pine Rose Village Landscaping Instructions

Part One: Constructing a miniature landscape

1. 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?

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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 drill.

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.

9. 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.

10. Let the paint dry and then spray the landscape with a non-yellowing matte or satin acrylic sealer.

11. 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 bare trees.

© Sylvia Pulver Mobley 2003

Part Two: Lighting a miniature village

Method 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 terrain.

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.

a. 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)

b. 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.

c. 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.

d. Fold the wires up into the space you have made under the landscape and place the scene on a wooden base.

e. 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.

Note: 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.

Method 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 use.

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.

Suppliers for 12-volt lighting:

Hobby Builders Supply
P.O. Box 620876
Doraville, GA 30362-2876
(800) 926-6464
Web site:
( 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.)

Cir-Kit Concepts Inc.
32 Woodlake Drive SE
Rochester, MN 55904
(800) 676-4252

Or check miniature shops, shows, and publications. © Sylvia Pulver Mobley 2003

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