How to Build a House Using a Shoebox

    by Marjorie Gilbert

    About the Author

    Marjorie Gilbert is a freelance writer and published author. An avid researcher, Gilbert has created an Empire gown (circa 1795 to 1805) from scratch, including drafting the gown's patterns by hand.


    In this age of immediate consumption, it seems like far too much is purchased only to be thrown away. Why not turn trash into a treasure? Build a house using a shoebox and create a thing of beauty. As the immortal Keats once wrote, "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever."

    Things You'll Need

    • Shoebox with lid
    • Pencil
    • Ruler
    • Markers or paint
    • Scissors
    • Glue
    • Smaller box with lid

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    Remove the lid from the shoebox. Lay the shoebox on the table so that the opening is down and one of the short ends is facing you. The short end closest to you is going to be the bottom of your shoebox house. These instructions are for creating a three-story house.

    Standing the box on end, measure down 5 inches from the top of the box and draw a line across the box at this point all around the box. Use a pencil and press lightly so you can erase it easily.

    Plot the placement of the three windows on the upper story of your shoebox house. Each window should be 2 inches high and 1 inch wide. The top of each of the windows will be the line you drew in Step 2.

    Measure down 2 inches from the bottom of the windows and draw three more windows that are 2 inches tall and 1 inch wide.

    Mark the position of the entry door and first floor window. The placement of these is up to you. You can have the door offset to one side with one window beside it, a door in the middle with two windows flanking it, or any placement you choose. Consider whether you wish to place the door a short distance higher than the bottom of the box so you can create a stoop for your shoebox house. Whatever you decide, make sure you draw the door so that it's just a little taller than the height of the first floor window or windows.

    Add details using markers or paint. Since the house you are building is like the row houses of London, Boston and other cities, you can draw bricks on the front of your shoebox house, add trim and mullions to the windows, decorative wrought iron or whatever other details you choose.

    Measure the depth of the shoebox and cut the lid with scissors so that the lip of the lid fits over the end of the shoebox. It will resemble the characteristic flat roof of row houses. Paint the roof as desired.

    Turn the shoebox over so that the opening is facing up. Cut the remnants of the box lid into floor tiles and glue them in place inside the shoebox house. Decorate your house.

    Create a stoop and a small roof for the front of the shoebox house from the small box. Remove the lid of the small box and cut an inch-long section from it, just as you cut the lid of the big box to create the roof. (See Step 7.) This small section will be a small roof set over the shoebox house's front door. Color it as desired and glue it over the front door.

    The remainder of the small box lid will be the front stoop. Paint or color the stoop to resemble concrete, stone or wood. Place it, opening side down, in front of the door and glue in place.

    • If making this project with a child, provide adult supervision when using scissors.
    • Cover your work surface with newspaper to prevent damage from spills when you are painting your house.