Over the holidays I was inspired to do some crafting, so I made some holiday elf houses from old plastic bottles. Here’s a closer look at the project.
How to Make DIY Holiday Elf House Decor
As you can see, I have only finished one of these – I want the second one to have more of a classic “gingerbread house” finish, and am waiting on some needed art supplies that have been hard to get during lockdown.
To make the elf house, I followed these steps:
- Cut the bottom off of an empty plastic bottle
- Use a scrubbing sponge or fine sand paper to lightly distress the entire surface of the bottle. This diffuses the light, making the windows glow softly. I also cut an oval plastic shape out of the top curve of the bottle where the gap would be hidden under the roof, in order to make the “eyebrow” window.
- Make a base out of cardboard. I cut a few rounds of cardboard slightly smaller than the interior diameter of the bottle, and then glued them to some pieces of cardboard larger than the interior diameter, so it sits securely in place when its on the base.
To finish the base, I used air dry clay to cover the “steps” and make the small “brick” wall. As you can see, I was deliberately making a “rustic” look, so I was happy to have gaps and irregularities.
4. Wrap the bottle in strips of cardboard to mimic siding. I drew the window and door placement on the bottle and left gaps around them in the cardboard. I suppose it would be just as easy to wrap the cardboard and then cut out the window and door shapes, provided you could do it gently enough to cut through the cardboard layer without cutting the plastic. I used wood glue to attach cardboard to the plastic, which isn’t the -most- secure bond, but it holds well enough for my purposes.
5. Finish the “siding” with small pieces of brown craft paper decoupaged over everything to conceal the corrugated edge of the cardboard. I then “weathered” the siding by mixing up some dark brown acrylic paint and then watering it down. I used a cloth to wipe the watered-down paint onto the siding, and then wiping it off again. This creates more depth and irregularity in the finish.
I mixed air-dry clay with black paint, and rolled thin little strips of it to surround the windows and door frame. I then used a different mix of black air-dry clay with water, and used a plastic bag with the corner snipped off to “pipe” black leading lines onto the windows. As you can see, my mix was too loose, and the lines spread more than I wanted, so they are messier than intended.
6. I made the roof with cardboard triangles with red paper glued to them. It may be hard to see, but I weathered the red of the roof and door with the same watered-down brown paint technique, so they wouldn’t look so vibrant and new.
7. Add details. I made a small mailbox out of paper and glue, a little tree, a little wreath for the door (I don’t love how that came out), and the crooked little chimney pipe.
8. Add “snow”. My snow is basically white paint with cornstarch. Once again, I “piped” it into place by putting it in a plastic bag and snipping off the corner. As you can see, my snow cracked as it dried; you can make DIY decor snow out of things like epsom salts, but it doesn’t last. I’ll need to find a better, lasting solution for fake snow.
You can see in this image how an electric tealight makes a mellow little glow from inside the windows. Obviously the effect is more dramatic at night.
In the daytime, I can see all the little flaws in this project and things I need to do better next time. But at night, it looks SUPER CUTE and cheerful. All in all, it probably took about 20 hours to complete, but it cost practically nothing – it’s just an old bottle and scraps of paper and cardboard. I had the beads and the gold metallic thread from some other previous projects.
I really like this project, and have high hopes for the unfinished “gingerbread” elf house. I also like the idea of building a little holiday elf/fairy house; it brings a little element of childhood magic into my Christmas decor. This also seems like it would be a good project to do with kids, since it’s easy enough to re-imagine a plastic bottle as a little fairy home by covering it in paper or cardboard. Making it into a luminary is the final touch.
I hope everyone had a happy, healthy, relaxing holiday season, and I look forward to all the fun things we can make together in 2021!