Hypertufa Fairy Cottages

A post from Bridget. My friend Christy and I recently attended a class at our favorite local nursery, Red Cedar Country Gardens in Stilwell, Kansas. They offer a number of wonderful classes, including one we recently attended on building hypertufa fairy houses and cottages.

If you aren’t familiar with hypertufa (pronounced hyper-toofa), it’s faux garden stone made up of a mixture of various ingredients such as portland cement, vermiculite, peat moss, water, plastic mesh and sometimes sand (the recipes vary). Hypertufa is strong and yet relatively light making it perfect for garden statuary, flower pots and urns.

Jim at Red Cedar is a fabulous instructor who has masterminded their stone cottages. He not only created all the wooden forms but perfected the hypertufa mixture that’s ideal for the cottage’s pointy roofs and chimneys. These quaint little houses are perfect additions to porches and gardens, whether or not you delve into full on “fairy garden” mode. I like to think that it would take a fairly crusty heart to resist the charms of the fairy displays at Red Cedar.

Hypertufa Fairy Cottage

Hypertufa houses may be left in their natural state or painted.

The process consists of mixing the hypertoofa material, and keeping it damp enough with water as you press it into the wooden forms. As Jim stated, it’s just like building a gingerbread house (except that a team of experts already made the dough and are standing by every step of the way so you don’t screw up). Corners and doors and windows and roof peaks require extra TLC to make sure the mix fills in all the cracks and ensures a strong final product. Larger walls are reinforced with small pieces of rebar, and roofs and peaks with stretches of wire mesh.

Wooden forms are used as molds for the sides and rooftops. Wire mesh creates windows and  works as a reinforcing agent. Hypertufa mixture is prepared in small batches to prevent overdrying as the molds are filled.

Red Cedar finishes the cottages, which involves allowing them to cure for several days, and scruffing up the outsides with a wire brush to give them a more textural appearance. Jim’s mixture uses plastic mesh (shredded strips of plastic) so he “burns” the outside of the cottage which not only sounds amazingly fun (FIRE!) but smooths any plastic sticking out of the mix. Finally he drills holes in the pieces and secures them with masonry nails and Liquid Nails adhesive.

Creation of the houses requires a lot of steps! Aerosol cooking spray keeps the hypertufa from sticking to wood when dry and leftover cans create perfect “cookie cutters” for cutting circles to create scallops.

Mushing all the mixture into the forms and mesh is hard work – who needs therapy folks? Take out your aggressions on a fairy house roof. It’s a highly underrated treatment plan. And at the end you’ve created something – and feel – just wonderful.

Wire brushing creates the gridlike texture evident in this mushroom and roofless Scottish Cottage. 

My little house is still drying under Jim’s watchful eye, and I can’t wait to post my final product next weekend!

Red Cedar offers a variety of house and cottage styles, all equally delightful and sturdy enough to last for years.

30 Comments

  1. Tammy Snipes says:

    I found your website from Pinterest, it has definitely been the most informative article on fairy houses I have found yet. The wonderful pics are what really help. I am going to attempt a house in the spring. My question is do you share your recipe for the hypertufa? I have found many online, but really would like to use yours. ALSO the curved chimney pieces for your roof’s, are those made ahead of time and added in? Wasn’t sure if the concrete would adhere to other concrete. Thanks so much in advance! Wish I lived closer so I could visit your shop.

    • Anonymous says:

      Can you recommend a source for instructions for the fairy houses for those of us who are to far away to take those wonderful classes, including the recipe…don,t know what you mean by plastic strips…do you buy or make. Thanks for the wonderful blog ….love it!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I agree….. this is the most informative site i have come across, in weeks of researching hypertufa projects. I’d love to see a video “how to” on making the fairy houses..That would be AMAZING!!

      • Anonymous says:

        oh my goodness! I live in Texas now, but use to live in Lenexa about 5 yrs ago. Red Cedar was one of my very most favorite places to go, and I always looked forward to springtime and my visits there. I would certainly love to visit now, haven’t seen the fairy houses. Thanks so much for sharing!

      • Anonymous says:

        You think they would consider selling forms for you to make the fairy house.. I live in ok and would love to make some for my garden I bought one years ago in Tulsa but have not seen any of the cottages since.
        Marcella

  3. Anonymous says:

    I contacted Red Cedar Country Gardens and inquired about buying the instructions or a video. The reply I got back was…we dont sell the instructions.

  4. Kathy says:

    This is wonderful, a friend bought one last year for way over $100..yes, thanks to you I think I will make my own. Thanks for sharing. Kathy

  5. Anonymous says:

    …more fairy houses in the works at Red Cedar Gardens…new castle turret (for those fairy princesses) and miniature treehouse…come check them out.

  6. Denise Frantz says:

    How AWESOME!!! I have been teaching Hypertufa for about 4 years now and LOVE your informative website! I have always wanted to make a fairy house and now will do it soon thanks to you!

    I am even more addicted! :0)

    • Unfortunately the frames aren’t for sale. I took the class at Red Cedar and shot photos of their frames. They are wonderfully made and I would highly recommend their classes to anyone in the Kansas City area.

  7. Nina Parker says:

    Is there a place where you can purchase your own forms for these houses or do you just make your own? I really want to make some of these for my rock/fairy garden. Sounds like a great garden club project and I am a garden club president needing ideas. Nina in Kenucky

    • Hello Nina! To my knowledge there are no forms available. The ones I photographed are the property of Red Cedar and were created by Jim who is an architect by training. They’re quite impressive! If I find any additional resources I will note them here!

      -Bridget

      • Hi Bridget!
        My sister and I were making Hypertufa toad houses this past fall for her daughters girls scout troops, so fun! I live in Leawood and take my daughters to Red Ceder all the time!! Is that place not do die for!! It is like an Enchanted forest!! We love spending hours there wandering around the plants and fairies!! I have a question, did you pop the house out of the frames or do the frames stay in forever? When we did ours we sprayed this silicone on bowls so the popped out, I did not know if you did the same. Also, How did you get the chimney was it part of the frame?! This was a fantastic post, the best I have seen on fairy houses!! Thank you!!
        Annie

  8. kathie blain says:

    Hi Alice & Bridget I have just been looking at your fairy houses and they are so
    wonderful would love to try to make one for my granddaughter, do you have a
    video people can buy or a booklet. I live in Tasmania and can not find anything
    like your houses and the hypertufa stuff here.
    Kathie

    • Hello Kathie! What a lovely idea! I’m sure your granddaughter would love it. Unfortunately I don’t have a book as I attended a class myself. I know there are some simple tutorials online; sometime I hope to get something more to post as it’s a popular request!

      How’s the weather now in Tasmania? The head of my children’s school hails from there!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hypertufa fairy houses, what a wonderful idea, plan on making frames and doing my own on a small scale so i can add them to hypertufa pots or bowls, making fairy pots for me and my family also friends A Great Big THANK YOU and Red Ceader

  10. gloria says:

    Wow! what a wonderful idea, I am going to work on making them, frames and all. I have some tole painting books with bird housed in them to use for patterns. I just get all happy inside looking at them thank you to you and red ceader. Glory

  11. diyhypertufa says:

    As a ‘tufa enthusiast, I keep searching for various DIY articles/tutorials from time to time.

    While I’ve found many explaining how to make pots, planters, troughs etc., this is the first one I’ve come across dealing with fairy houses/cottages.

    Many thanks for sharing. :)

  12. Pingback: 20 Hypertufa Garden Projects | Guru Koala

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