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I adored making little playhouses and miniatures when I was a kid. When my sister and I were young, an extremely creative babysitter introduced us to the idea of creating multi-story houses from shoeboxes and we were both TOTALLY hooked.
Frankly, the 80’s-fashionable Barbie Dreamhouse of my childhood didn’t hold a candle to our stylish stack of shoeboxes – wallpapered with origami paper, decorated with furniture finds cut out from the Sears catalog, and decked out with add-ons like a rooftop swimming pool, tiny ice cream stand, and bike elevator.
Like our cardboard city landscape book project, this Mid-Century Modern style shoebox house DIY is definitely a result of my adult design love converging with my memories of kid favorites.
I have gone absolutely crazy using scraps destined for the recycling bin to make mini playhouses lately! If you haven’t already seen our cardboard box city neighborhood, cardboard ice shanties, or DIY scrap wood beach dollhouse you MUST take the official tour of tiny homes!
To make your own mcm-inspired diy shoebox house you’ll need:
- A Shoebox (or similarly-sized cardboard box)
- An X-Acto knife or unitliy knife
- A glue stick or craft glue
- Colored/textured cardstock or construction paper
- Markers, crayons or other supplies for decorating or pattern-making
- Our Printable Mid-Century Modern Cardboard House Kit
- Full Page Sticker Sheets
Our Printable Mid-Century Model Shoebox Kit is a set of custom-designed textures you can print and use to make an amazingly wide variety of lovely houses. Along with architectural textures in full-color and black & white, there are Mid-Century Modern inspired house templates, as well as garden/landscaping elements. You can print them on paper or sticker sheets, cut them into simple shapes, and design your own houses using the templates for inspiration or just play around and make up your own!
If you’d prefer not to use our printable, you can definitely still DIY this! It is just as fun (and a wonderful art experience) to create your own sheets of simple architectural patterns with markers & a ruler, stamps, or watercolors. You can use our patterns for inspiration, or use magazines like this adorable shoebox house from My Poppet Makes cleverly incorporated!
MCM-Inspired DIY Shoebox House Instructions:
- Draw simple MCM-inspired textures on cardstock or print our template pages
Print the desired pattern pages on heavy cardstock (make sure to choose the borderless printing option). For anyone using our printable, you can choose to print full-color pattern versions, or black and white versions you can color any way you want (or print onto a fun colored cardstock).
If you’ve opted to create your own patterns, you can recreate our wood-siding texture by using a marker and ruler to make horizontal or vertical lines on a sheet of paper. A sponge cut up into small organic shapes can be used as a stamp to make a stone wall or brick pattern (great for garden walls or a chimney too). Blue watercolor swashes across a piece of paper to create the perfect glass texture.
- Glue your favorite textures to the side of a shoebox
Choose the textures you want to use for the walls of your house. We decided we wanted to have a side that looked painted, and a side that looked like wood, creating a nice combination of color and pattern. Use a glue stick or craft glue to glue the paper onto your shoebox, then cut off any excess around the edges.
- Add windows and chimneys
Once your basic exterior is down, you can start adding other features to your house by cutting some basic shapes out. We wanted to add a stone chimney and a cool wall of windows.
- Add a door!
Don’t forget to add a door! We decided to cut our door out of some brightly colored construction paper.
- Add the smaller details, like window frames, etc. with a permanent marker
Once you have all of your basic house elements added, you can start working on the details! We found that lining the windows with a silver permanent marker made them look just like window frames! This is the perfect time to add lights, door handles, and other small decorative details to your house.
- Add landscaping
Time to landscape! We have included a page of garden elements in our printable, but you can make your own just by cutting out simple shapes! Most of our trees and shrubs are simple circles and ovals in different shades of green. We thought it would be fun to add some white brick planters to our house.
- Use an X-Acto knife to cut around your door
What would a shoebox house be without a working door?? You can make your house extra interactive by using an X-Acto or utility knife to cut out around the door, windows, or anything else you’d like to be a moving part (remember not to cut ALL the way around – you still want it to be attached)!
Woohoo! Give yourself a pat on the back, because if you’re still following along, you’ve completed a fantastic shoebox house! Once you’ve finished, you may decide you want to add even MORE elements around your house.
You can use the top of your shoebox to cut out a fence and make a garden as we did. Or combine some of your textures to build yourself a dream pool (yeah, that’s me floating around in there – just livin’ the dream).
This is such a fun exercise in STEAM-powered creativity, and it doesn’t have to stop at one shoebox house! You can design and stack up a set of boxes to make a whole modular min-century dreamhouse! Add a community garden! Make a neighborhood!
Instead of building a 3-D shoebox house, you can use your pages/stickers to make a 2-D paper house to hang on the wall or use as a greeting card. Or why even stick to houses? You can play around with the patterns you’ve printed to create some fun paper sculptures or to make easy modern collages.