A DASH of Décor: DIY Modern Putz Houses for Christmas Decorating

To Try to Make a Putz House Yourself

Modern Putz house sketches
My putz house sketches.

The tradition of putz houses originally started in Germany and was a popular Christmas decorating item through the 1960s.  These houses can be lavishly decorated and brightly colored, but simpler versions were made for the mainstream marketplace. The original houses that I purchased that got me going on the concept were part of a kit that I purchased from the Holiday Spirits Handmade Holiday Décor shop on Etsy. When my husband and I made these houses, we both really enjoyed the holiday craft project and appreciated the level of detail put into the houses and church.

So this year we decided to make the houses ourselves. Though we appreciate the designs the shop and others on Etsy have, we missed the order-by deadline for shipping and as architects felt the houses were something we could make ourselves.  Why also not try to make putz houses in modern architectural styles and working some model building skills that had not been used in a long time.

Expanding our Christmas Village

We decided we would each build two houses to double the size of our Christmas village.  We also wanted to recreate some quintessential forms in suburban residential architecture that resulted from the influence of the international and midcentury modern architectural movements.

Drafting putz house designs
Here’s me, yes with wine, hand drafting my houses out.

Aside from these general design desires, for this exercise, there were a few other specific parameters that we set for the new designs:

  • Need to be in scale with the other houses that we already have
  • Aesthetically consistent with the other houses (white, glitter roofs only, vellum for glazing)
  • Similar materials to what the original houses were made from

Two Architects Designing Putz Houses

Sketch of house and cutout
How the house sketch translated to the cutout pieces. Do you see any resemblance?

It took a couple tries design wise for us to arrive at something that we could build as putz houses, but we eventually massaged our ideas into something that worked. We realized that we had forgotten about some of the limitations with a folded paper and vellum construction method that make certain classic modern design elements impossible or at least extremely difficult.

The whole project took several evenings between all the activities including:

  • Design time
  • Transferring the design to construction paper
  • Cutting everything out
  • Gesso application and dry time
  • House assembly and dry time
  • Final glitter application
putz house pieces cut out
These two weird shaped pieces of paper will become the international style house.

We are much better with glitter application this time around than we were the first time.  The first time we tried to contain the glitter in a box vs just on newspaper and it was much messier to recollect.

Tips for Holiday Crafting Success

A few words of wisdom to help you make this extra merry and bright:

putz house pieces ready for assembly
Get ready for a short construction schedule! These houses will be ready by Christmas!

Have space in your schedule and your home to complete this activity

This is easiest if you have an area you can leave this out to work on over a couple days.  It would be possible to do this in a single day, as like a family craft day activity or something (stashing that idea away for the future!!!) but for Aaryn and I, everything else going on we worked on this each evening for a little bit as like a wind down/relaxing craft.

Think about how your house needs to fold together

Remember when you are laying out your house to cut, that you need to be able to fold it up to create the final form.  Do not forget to add/account for tabs on the edges of certain pieces so you can glue the forms into three dimensional shapes.

modern putz house closeup
The first part of my international style house completed.

Get the right materials

Especially when it comes to glue. Just get the glitter glue.  The first time we tried this we just tried mix up some other glues that we had around the house, dilute them with water, or other fixatives, with poor results. Finally, I got glitter glue and the adhesion of glitter was so much better.  Plus, it comes in the handy application bottle with a brush built in.

gluing the putz house together
Make sure you don’t forget to add tabs to the house so that you can glue the house together.

Once you gesso, make sure you let the pieces dry all the way before you start gluing.  The whole thing will become a soggy mess and will not dry in a nice sharp shape if you rush through and do not let things dry completely between each step.

DIY Putz House Instructions

Want to make your own putz house?  Here is the list of materials and process my husband and I followed.

Preparing the putz houses for glitter application
All the putz houses are now ready for their glitter application!

Materials:

  • Grid paper
  • Watercolor Paper
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Gesso
  • White paint
  • White/Pearl Iridescent paint (if you want a slight sheen)
  • Quick Dry Tacky Glue
  • Toothpicks (CRITICAL!)
  • Scissors
  • Xacto blade or small box cutter
  • Small Paint Brush
  • Glitter Glue
  • Glitter
  • Vellum
  • Cardboard or white coaster
  • Eraser

Instructions:

  1. On your grid paper draw your design for your putz house.  I recommend designing it to be about 3” X 2” x 2” tall.
  2. Next transfer your design onto the watercolor paper with pencil, using a light touch so that you do not imprint too much pencil lead in the paper (like I did. Eek!).  Make sure you are thinking about how you will fold up the different sides of the house to create the final form, don’t forget the tabs you might need to glue it together.
  3. Cut out your pieces!
  4. Gesso each side of each piece, letting the first side dry completely before gessoing the second.
  5. Cut vellum sheets to size to cover the openings in your Putz houses where windows and doors would be.  Glue these into place and let dry completely.  Use the toothpicks to help spread small amounts of glue around windows as needed.
  6. Gently fold your pieces where required and glue your pieces together.
  7. If you want to paint your house because it is either A) a little messy and want to cover that up or B) you want to make it have an iridescent shimmer (or both), do this now.  If you were super tidy and do not feel your house needs a little cleanup, skip this step.
  8. Once assembled and dry, affix house to its base and let dry.
  9. Now it’s time to glitter.  Lay out plenty of newspaper or craft paper to capture extra glitter as it falls.  With your glitter at ready, generously cover the roof of your house with glitter glue making sure to wipe off any excess that gets on any other surface of your house except the roof.  Immediately begin dusting the roof with glitter to get the best adhesion and coverage with glitter.  Once the roof of the house is completely covered in glitter, let sit for a for a few seconds to allow the glitter to set into the glue before dumping off the excess onto the newsprint.  Set the house aside to dry.
  10. Clean up by carefully folding the newspaper or craft paper up to funnel the glitter to one side or another of the sheet to re-capture for future use. If you are not saving this glitter, just carefully ball up the paper so that the glitter does not get dumped and throw it away!
Christmas village with glitter putz houses
My newly expanded Christmas village!
Christmas village with putz houses
Someone finally bought the lot on the end and put up an international style house!
modern design putz houses
The new modern cul-de-sac in the Christmas Village.
modern putz houses for Christmas
My husband’s early modernist inspired pavilion house, and my A-frame house design.

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