I've been lusting after this Pottery Barn terrarium for awhile now. I love the idea of enclosing potted herbs, cacti or pine cones in a small display on an unexpected space like a corner table or dining hutch. The price, however, I'm not loving. $129 for the small one, $249 for the large…yikes.

DIY terrarium

After the success of my Wizard of Oz House Costume, I wanted to try my hand at making other things out of Elmer's foam boards. I decided that I could easily DIY a terrarium, and Elmer's kindly sent me some boards and a bunch of their coolest products (like Painter's Markers…paint in a pen!) to give it a shot. I left my terrarium open because the glass seems entirely unnecessary to me. Nate, of course, had to point out that it's not technically a terrarium without glass because “-arium” implies an enclosed space, as in “aquarium” or “solarium.” Whatever, smartypants.

foam board terrarium

DIY Terrarium
2 White 20×30 Foam Boards ($2.70 each)
Elmer's Brown Painter's Marker ($4)
CraftBond Repositionable Glue Stick ($3.15)
CraftBond Extra-Strength Glue Stick ($3.15)
X-ACTO Designer Series Gripster Knife ($7.30)
Off-white acrylic paint ($0.50)
Clear acrylic varnish ($1)
Approximate total price: less than $25

cutting foam

For the house, I cut two side pieces 14″ long x 10″ high, two sides pieces 10.75″ long x 10″ high, two roof pieces 14″ long x 10″ wide, and a base 11.5″ wide x 14.75″ long.

miniature house foam

I cut the two attic pieces by laying the front house pieces over the edge of the posterboard corner and eyeing approximately how high I wanted it. I made mine a little bit too tall at 4″. I cut a small overhang (about an inch long) so I'd have space to glue the attic portion to the back of the house piece.

foam terrarium construction

I cut two stand pieces 1.5″ tall x 10.75″ long, and two stand pieces 1.5″ tall x 14″ long. This is for the “legs” that the house sits on in the final photo.

terrarium craft

x-acto foam curve

Cutting the curve of the stand pieces was the trickiest part, but it helped to view it mathematically: the arch on either side begins about one inch in, with the peaks being approximately a half inch up at 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 the length of the piece. The same idea of the curve applies to both the short and the long stand pieces. On the longer piece, the peaks are at roughly 4″, 7″ and 10″.

house terrarium

I traced the bottom of a shot glass for a lookout window in the attic pieces, and carefully cut out the holes with the X-ACTO knife.

painting foam board

Paint all the pieces with a thin coat of off-white paint (why yes, that is my weekly grocery store ad. One of these days, I'll invest in a drop cloth).

terrarium house craft diy

After everything's painted, I cut three windows out of each of the sides and roof pieces. I left 1.5″ at the top and bottom of each piece, and approximately .75″ between each window. I'm not too particular about using exact measurements here, because I think it's okay if it looks a little imperfect. That just adds some charm.

foam house

Glue the attic pieces to the front and back pieces of the house with the extra-strength glue stick.

house base craft

The stand pieces go onto the base with the extra-strength glue stick.

diy terrarium house

I like to lay out exactly where each piece is going, then tentatively glue it together with the repositionable glue stick to make sure everything fits together properly and I didn't make any measuring mistakes along the way. Once it all starts to come together, I glue everything down with the CraftBond extra-strength glue stick.

terrarium craft diy

Finally, I add a worn look by delicately brushing a brown Painter's Marker over the edges of the windows and seams where each pieces comes together. To add a little texture at the corners, I dab a brush with the Painter's Marker and quickly swipe it over the terrarium edges.

diy terrarium craft