Do you collect Christmas village houses? Whether you have Dickens from Macy’s, or Lemax from Michael’s, or St. Nicholas Square from Kohl’s, you can make your village display look realistic and inviting.
We started collecting St. Nicholas Square village houses from Kohl’s when we first got married and my in-laws have given us quite a few over the years. There are a few more houses I’d like to add a few more houses to our village, like a winery, a coffee shop, and a theater, but for now our display is quite full.
Our village display has evolved over the years based on the space we have. We’ve put our village on a mantle, on bookshelves, and tables. As our collection has grown so has our way of displaying. Now that we’re into our new home we built a custom display that we set up just for our Christmas village that allows us to arrange the houses in a realistic town-like setting.
Here are some tips to make your Christmas Village display look realistic.
Step 1 – Build the Foundation of your Christmas Village Display
Like building a house, a realistic Christmas village display all starts with a good foundation.
Build & Install Table
We made tables made from old office desk tops we had recycled and attached wood dowels for legs. If you don’t have anything like that to use just use plywood. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy because this will all get covered up. We built our table to go in front of our entertainment center.
- wood dowels for legs
- hangar bolts
- Dual Top Plate Hardware
Make a skirt
We made a simple skirt to cover up all the ugly. We made ours from a white ruffled curtain we found at Walmart. This table and skirt set up is great for storage and for hiding all the cords.
Add a scenic background to your village display
Adding a winter scenic background will help make your Christmas village more realistic. Search on Amazon or Shutterfly.com for a ‘winter scenic backdrop’ and you’ll find a variety to choose from. Just find one that is to scale for your village.
Install your background before you start laying down your foam or anything else. It will make it easier having the backdrop in place first.
Step 2 – Build the terrain
Get some sheets of 1″ white foam to use as your first layer. You can get big sheets of foam at the big hardware stores. This is really the key to making your Christmas village look realistic. Having a white foam foundation layer makes it so much easier to give dimension and the realistic effect of snow.
Arrange your village houses
Get all of your houses out so you can see what spaces you need to create. Think about how an actual town is set up and place your village houses in an arrangement that makes sense and is visually appealing.
Once you get your houses where you want them, draw an outline around each house on the foam layer and write the name of the house. This will make it so much easier for next year’s set up.
Make a circle on the foam to mark where the light hole is on the bottom of each house. Take all of the houses off for this next step.
Building your village terrain
- Large pieces of 1″ white foam board
- Hot knife
Layer pieces of white foam to create your hills and snowy mountains. There are some houses you’ll want to put higher than others to give a more dimensional effect. We created a mountain in the corner for sledding. We also made an area for ice fishing and ice skating so we needed to build up foam to the street level with some more height in the back for dimension.
This all depends on the type of houses you have. You can always add to this through the years as your collection grows.
Once you have your foam hills in place, glue them together or you can just connect with straight pins. Then take your hot knife and carve the hillsides. As you cut, the foam will meld together seamless.
Step 3 – Lighting
Since you know where the light hole is for each house from the previous step, you can now make the holes in your foam and table. Or if you missed that step just bring back all your village houses and place them where you marked.
To make the light hole you’ll need:
- Sharpie pen or highlighter
- A 2″ round pattern
- Hot knife
Mark where the light hole is on your foam with a sharpie pen or highlighter. Draw the circle for the light hole with your 2″ round pattern. And cut the round shape with the hot knife.
Do this for each house that needs lights, which is probably all or most of the village houses.
Now you have a hole in your foam revealing the table underneath. The next step is drilling a hole in the village table for each light cord.
- 1″ – 2″ hole saw
Drill a hole in the middle of your foam hole into the wood table. Then bring the light cord up from the bottom of the table. The cords will all be hidden underneath. Yay!
Your display probably looks something like this:
Place all of the houses where they belong. The hard part is over! You now have your village set up, levels of snow terrain, and lights in place.
Step 4 – Landscaping
Snow and roads
- Brick or cobblestone road pieces
- Blanket snow
- Light poles
The next step of layering is making your village roads and adding in the blanket snow.
We created a village square in the center where we placed our fountain and light poles. A sheet of brick was cut for this area and then we laid out brick pieces for our streets.
Place blanket snow over mountains and along streets to make it more realistic. How much blanket snow to use is really up to you. Some people like to use a complete layer of it under all of their houses.
- Village trees in various sizes
- Artificial wintery tree branches & picks
- Bag of Snow Flurries
Place in all of your trees throughout your village display. Having different sizes of trees will help make it more realistic. Vary the height of trees as well as the type of tree.
Use different types of trees give variety just as it would be in a real town — fir trees, trees without leaves (because it’s winter). We bought some village trees from Michaels but we also bought branches and picks and made our own trees. This really made our village.
Tip: Get branches and picks from your craft store. You can get a lot of village trees from each branch.
Michael’s has a great floral department where we found different types of wintery branches. We found evergreen branches, white, sparkly branches, and gold branches to use in our village. You can also go to the Christmas decor aisle for picks to use as trees and shrubbery.
Take your wintery branches and cut pieces off to use as individual trees. Start with one type of tree branch, and cut and place in the foam around your village. Put some trees behind the houses and some along the streets. Repeat with each type of branch until you’ve achieved the look you want. This is the fun part! Your village will come to life.
After all of your trees are in, it’s time to add the dirt. Take some dirt from your yard or get a small bag of dirt and sprinkle it around the base of your trees. Wherever it makes sense. We have a barn so we added some dirt to make a little field area.
The next step of landscaping your village is more snow. We like to sprinkle snow flurries all over, making sure to sprinkle over the brick roads and dirt.
Tip: Put wax paper over a jar and poke holes in it for a quick sprinkle jar.
Step 5 – Accessorize your village
The final step in making your Christmas village display look realistic, is adding in the people and animals. Carolers, people walking, horse-drawn carriages, snowball fights, ice skaters, dogs, horses. Adding in people and animals makes your village complete.
Now you can sit back and enjoy your work. I hope you have fun making your Christmas village display look realistic and make it something you and your family can enjoy all season long and for years to come.