How to: make a character house

Published 19 May 2022

Instead of throwing cereal containers and milk cartons away, use them to make a miniature house with character.

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    Happy houses

    Follow these simple instructions and have a go at designing your own character house!

    We’ve taken inspiration from our John Hejduk exhibition London Masque.

    Hejduk was an architect and he designed spaces for different characters. From gardeners to plumbers, park attendants to poets, dancers to butterfly collectors, Hejduk had a space in mind for everyone.

    He also imagined spaces for different activities, like thinking. The space in London Masque is designed for wailing. Who do you want to use your building? What do you think they will do inside your building?

    • What you need

      • Card (you can use a cereal packet or juice carton)

      • Tape

      • Scissors

      • Pencil

      • Craft knife

      • Paper clips

      If you like, you can use felt tip pens or crayons to decorate. You can also use straws, lollypop sticks, or disposable cutlery to give your house stilts.

  • Step by step

    • 2022JH_how-to-1.1

      1. Choose and fold your card

      Choose your card. We’re using green A4 card, but you could use a cereal packet, the back of a pizza box or a juice carton.

      Fold your card in half lengthways and, using the fold line as a guide, cut it in half to create two long panels.

    • 2022JH_how-to-1.2

      2. Fold again

      Take one of your long panels and, using the short edge, make a small flap.

      Then fold the whole panel in half and in half again, using your thumbnail to make a crease.

    • 2022JH_how-to-1.3

      3. Make a box

      Make this panel into a box so that each of the folds becomes one the four corners of your box.

      Hold it in place with a paperclip.

    • 2022JH_how-to-2.1

      4. Make your mark

      To make the top of your box, take your box and place it at the end of your second panel of card.

      Mark where the corners meet the card with a pencil dot.

      Make sure they’re big enough to see!

    • 2022JH_how-to-2.2

      5. Cut corners

      Cut a square of card, slightly larger than the dots you’ve made.

      Then make a cut from each corner towards each dot.

    • 2022JH_how-to-2.3

      6. More folding!

      Fold down the flaps you’ve created.

      If you like, you can tape the corners down.

    • 2022JH_how-to-3.1

      7. Eyes and a mouth

      Take the body of your house and draw two lines for eyes and a T shape for the mouth.

    • 2022JH_how-to-3.2

      8. Cut

      Remove the paperclip that’s holding the box shape together and, using your chopping board or cutting mat, cut out the eyes and mouth. (You can do this step with scissors, but it’s a little easier to use a craft knife. Be sure to ask for help from a grown-up!)

      Reassemble when you’re finished!

    • 2022JH_how-to-3.3

      9. Yet more folding...

      Take your remaining sheet and fold it in half and cut down the fold.

    • 2022JH_how-to-3.4

      10. Add your ears

      Take one of these squares of card and cut out two long triangles for ears and a few small shapes too.

      To give your house ears, stick the two long triangles onto your house using tape.

    •  2022JH_how-to-3.5

      11. Ready the roof

      Cut some slits in your roof.

    • 2022JH_how-to-3.6

      12. Add your hair

      Push the small shapes through the topside of your roof to give your house hair.

    • Admire your work!

      And there you have it! A house with real character.

      Show us your character houses! Share a photo or video of your finished work with @royalacademy on Twitter or @royalacademyarts on Instagram.

      Want to make more? Below there are a few suggestions to make your building really stand out.

      Admire your work
  • Hair and stairs

    Hair and stairs

    Try curling thin strips of card with scissors for curly hair or folding thin strips of card over and over again to make frizzy hair.

    You can add stairs, too! Make a concertina with some card that’s the same width as your building’s mouth.

    Then elevate your building using knives and forks, paper straws, chopsticks, or lollipop sticks.

  • Experiment with different designs

    Experiment with different designs

    Try using a milk or juice carton, pizza box, or cereal container.

    You can also decorate your building with crayons or felt tip pens.

    • Families at the RA

      From artist-led workshops to family labels, and at-home art activities, we have a lot on offer for families – and kids under 16 go free to all RA exhibitions.

      Families working together at a family studio