DIY Vintage Christmas TV / 7th House on the Left

Warning: We’re pretty sure this is the longest post to date, so bear with us. Alright, so the cat is out of the bag and we can finally share our Home Depot Holiday Style Challenge project (more on the challenge here, here and here. Before we reveal the project, here’s what was in our mystery box…

And this is what we came up with…

Yep, there is a huge, 7′ x 8′ vintage TV in our front yard. Before we get to all of the details, let’s start with the beginning… We really had no clue what to do with that Home Depot sent our way, so we had to think way outside the box. Our entire project was inspired by the Martha Stewart ornaments that were included in the mystery box. The colors immediately reminded me of the classic 1964 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Once I mentioned the resemblance to Greg, even though there were some reservations as to how, he was completely on board with the idea of trying to capture the movie in a fun, vintage way. We also thought it would be fun for whatever we did to tie in with the vintage-inspiried “junk tree” we’re planning on putting together in the foyer. We’ll be sure to talk more about that when we get around to working on it next week. After a few days of chatting and planning, our outdoor Christmas TV project was born.

Before we set out to build a home for the Rudolph scene, we needed the characters. Luckily, Home Depot carries both Bumble and Rudolph outdoor Christmas decorations. We placed the order and anxiously waited for the stars of the show to arrive. In the meantime, we decided to do some more detailed planning. Bumble is roughly 62″ tall, so this is where it got tricky. In order to keep the whole thing in proportion, the overall size of the TV would have to be roughly 7.5′ wide by 6′ tall. That’s huge! We really wanted to bring home the vintage look and feel, so the proportion and attention to the small details would be vital to pulling this off. Otherwise, it would just look like a big box with some yard ornaments in it.

Because of the sheer size of the “yard sculpture”, this project wasn’t all sunshine and roses. When we started out, Greg was skeptical as to how we’d build a TV soooo large and not have it cave in on itself. On the other hand, I was totally, “We can so do this! It will be fun! Let’s get started!” So, we tackled it as we would any project: one step at a time. The first step was the frame. Our original plan was to build a frame using a bunch of 2x4s, then use plywood for the “walls”. We’re pretty sure that plan would have turned out just fine, but my dad happened to have some metal shelving he was getting rid of (which what you see in the above Instagram “hint” that I posted a while back). Being the semi-DIYers that we are, we jumped at the chance to repurpose the materials to make the structure of our giant TV. Well, Greg and my dad jumped at the chance. I was a little hesitant, but in the spirit of the Home Depot Style Challenge, I threw caution to the wind. Why not throw in another challenge, right? So we took the shelving and reconfigured it to the size and shape of the TV. It ended up coming out to about 6 inches shorter than our original drawing – which quite honestly bugged bugs me to no end – but I rolled with the punches.

Once the frame was put together, Greg attached a few 2x4s to the metal frame using some 3-inch self-drilling screws to add stability and support for the walls.

For the walls, we used hardboard rather than plywood. Ideally, we would have liked to use plywood, but hard board is a lot thinner and lighter than plywood, which made it comparatively easy to work with. We made sure to put the “shiny side” towards the outside to give the walls a fighting chance against rain and snow. For the “floor” of the TV, we used a 4×8 sheet of plywood. Since the TV is more than 4 feet deep, we cut it in half and left a gap in the middle to run the wires through. The gap would be covered later by “snow”, so it didn’t affect the look of the TV at all. Once we attached all of the walls and structure, we added a piece of pegboard for the “speaker grill” and several pieces of 1×4 trim to give the front a finished look.

You might notice that Greg has two drills in the photo above, haha. We were doing to much pilot-drilling that we borrowed my Dad’s drill and used one for pilot holes and one for fastening in screws to cut down time. Remember, time crunch!

At this point in the process, we’d been working on the giant TV with it laying on its back. As we were getting closer and closer to the painting process, we started wondering how in the world we were going to set it right-side-up and be able to move it once it was finished. This is when I got smart – and I haven’t let anyone forget it since, haha. Casters! We had about eight casters in our “future project stash” in the shed, so we attached them to the bottom. Then, with my dad’s help, we set it right side up. With the casters on, we were able to roll it around the carport as we worked on it. It also made moving it to the front yard a tad easier – but we’ll get to that in a minute. Now for painting…

This was our favorite step in the whole process because after this, everything felt like it was falling into place. We painted the outside of the TV Behr’s Bison Brown, followed by Martha Stewart’s Cloudless Day for the inside. The bezel and speaker grill were painted Martha Stewart’s Carton Interior and we used Martha Stewart’s Vintage Gold Metallic paint for the “cloth” texture behind the “knobs”. Finally, we painted the “snow” on the background using matte white spray paint.

Here’s a quick iPhone photo of what the TV was looking like during day two mid-way through painting…

Here’s how the TV looked late at night on day two…

To get the “TV glow” on the inside of the “screen”, we put a few short screws around the inside of the “screen” and wrapped the four sets of mini white lights that were included in the mystery box.They gave off the perfect amount of “glow” to make the TV look more realistic. We also opted not to plug in Bumbles and Rudolph. They looked much more realistic without spots of bright light throughout their bodies.

While Greg finished up the painting, I worked on making the “knobs”. To make these, we bought two buckets in the painting section and cut about two inches off the top of each bucket using my dad’s grinder. Then, I spray-painted them using RustOleum’s textured metallic black spray paint. Once the paint was dry, I used a metallic silver Sharpie marker to make the “grooves” around the knob and the details on the front. We attached them to the TV using six-inch bolts.

As for the other details…

1 // What’s a vintage TV without an old-fashioned bunny ear antenna? We needed it to be heavy enough not to move around or get knocked over in the wind, so we used an old light fixture and two pieces of electrical conduit. My dad, being the ever-vigilant problem-solver, came up with this idea and already had the parts on hand (yay for dads!). To add a bit of large-scale Christmas decor, we added the wreath that came in the mystery box from Home Depot around the antenna. (It was way too large for our front door.)

2 // These snowflakes were included in the large box of Martha Stewart ornaments. I painted them using Martha Stewart’s metallic silver paint and hung them from the “sky” using some fishing line. We love how the light makes snowflake-shaped shadows on the walls of the TV!

3 // Bumbles needed something to put his star on, so we made a Christmas tree out of a wire tomato cage, the multicolored-lit garland in the mystery box and a few wire ties to hold it all in place. It was super easy, and we were able to make it the exact height we needed for bumbles by putting it on a box which was covered by “snow”.

4 // Speaking of “snow”, we simply used a white drop cloth from the painting section. We used this rather than batting (which looks more like actual snow) because if leaves or other “yard debris” make their way inside the TV, all we have to do is move our characters and the tree, take out the drop cloth, shake it out and put it back.

5 // Like I mentioned earlier, the knobs were made using plastic buckets, spray paint and a metallic Sharpie. We didn’t plan it, but you can totally turn the knobs just like a real TV, haha!

6 // The final finishing touch, the legs. I wanted them to be a slightly different shade than the rest of the TV, so we left them the natural color of the hardboard. To give them a classic “retro” look, I painted the bottom of the legs with the same metallic gold paint we used for the speaker. We attached them using some scrap lumber and a couple of screws. We actually waited to cut them out until we got the TV in place because we weren’t sure exactly how long they needed to be because of the grass. The right leg is actually a bit longer than the left. Needless to say if we’d used real legs like this, they wouldn’t have held up the gigantic TV, so we sat the TV on some cinder blocks that we painted with some matte black spray paint. They blend into the shadows at night, so you can barely see them.

Truth be told, there are some things that I would do differently, like paint a more detailed backdrop on the interior walls, add a little fake logo under the knobs and add some wrapped presents around the tree to add a bit of color. Knowing me, I’ll probably get around to making those additions over the weeks to come. If I do, I’ll be sure to post updated photos!

Getting the TV from the carport to the front yard was tough. Like, OMG-we-might-have-to-park-it-right-here-in-the-driveway kind of tough. With the help of my dad and one of the kids from down the street, we were able to get it from the carport to the front yard, down the walkway and on top of the cinder blocks. Getting it down the driveway was the easiest part because of the casters. (Yes, I’m still patting myself on the back for that one!) After that, we used some leftover vinyl siding my dad had to slide it into position. Once it was out in the yard, we put a flood light in front of it to light everything up – as well as two other flood lights on the house.

Here’s what the TV (and the house) looks like from the road all lit up…

I’m not very good when it comes to taking night photos of Christmas lights, so bear with me! We finished off the house with eight boxes of icicle lights, candles in the windows, wreathes on the windows, pre-lit garland around the lamp post (We snuck in the LED ribbon that came in the mystery box over on the lamp post – making it the last item included in the mystery box. Yes, we used all of the items! Mission accomplished!) and a wreath on the front door. You can’t really see it in this photo, but the topiaries that we bought a while back (more about them in this post) came pre-lit with little white lights.

The wreath on the front door is from the same Martha Stewart line the inspiration ornaments are from. I like how it brings the look together and ties in the original inspiration.

There are so many details that went into this project, so we’re sure we’re forgetting a thing or two. Plus, this post is already over 2,000 words – which I think makes it the longest post to date! So, if you have a question or wanted to know about something we didn’t cover, just let us know in the comments.

Overall, the project took us about a week or so of brainstorming and three solid days of blood, sweat and tears. Yes, there were tears at one point. At 2:30 am in 32 degree weather, an exhausted girl can get a tad emotional! Now that it’s all said and done, we’re glad it’s over and we pushed through to the end. Our house as been decked out for about three weeks now (yes, we’re those crazy people in Hanover who were all decked out for Christmas the day after Halloween), and so far we’ve seen about twenty or so people stop their car on the side of the street to check it out (or laugh at us, one of the two!), five people get out of their cars to take a photo, four comments from the UPS and FedEx guys and a nice note in our mailbox from someone who passed by. Oh, and one neighborhood kid ask if he could get inside.

One night a UPS guy who was dropping off a package said, “I like your Christmas TV”. Greg said, “Thanks!” and signed for the package. Then the UPS guy said, “It really brings back a lot of good memories.” When I heard him say that, I thought, “That’s it!” Even though we like classic movies and vintage-inspired things, I think deep down the reason we liked the idea of this project so much was because it represents a simpler time when we were kids (even though we’re cassette tape kids rather than records or 8-Tracks) and things weren’t as “complicated” and Christmas didn’t come with the hectic hustle and bustle it sometimes brings along with it. Every time we drive home and see the gigantic TV sitting in the yard, it gives us the Christmas warm and fuzzies.

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  • Reply
    October 30, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    I love it!!! (came over from your link in your post today). I really wish you would put it up this year! everything is done! Just need to put it in place! :o)

    • Reply
      October 30, 2013 at 2:26 pm

      Haha! Thank you : ) We actually ended up “retiring” it after Christmas last year. It held up well, but the size and weight of it was much more cumbersome to store than we thought. It was fun while it lasted though!

  • Reply
    November 2, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    Hi! I came across this AWESOME work from the Home Depot Website.

    My husband and I are going to copycat this!… if you don’t mind?! I’ll give you guys credit! πŸ™‚

    Could you advise how tall the rudolph was? I found “Bumble” but, I’m not sure about Rudolph.

    • Reply
      November 3, 2013 at 9:08 am

      Absolutely! I think he was about 28″ish tall. Have fun! : )

  • Reply
    December 14, 2013 at 9:41 am

    I must have this . I will build it this weekend . But I will be products from Lowe’s. I love it!!

  • Reply
    September 9, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    Amazing….love, love, love this display! Great idea/project!

  • Reply
    Michigan Mom
    October 21, 2015 at 1:36 am

    You are a creative genius!!! Seriously….that truly was the best idea ever.
    I fell in love with your “TV” two years ago and always hoped to recreate. This is the year I’ve decided to tackle it.
    Plan 1….We’ve got the frame built. (Oh my…. it is big. Plan 2… a storage shed.)

    In your honor… I plan on adding presents, a logo and a more detailed back drop.
    Sincerely….thanks for the idea and great instructions.

    • Reply
      October 28, 2015 at 9:58 am

      Oh, PLEASE send us photos when you finish it! We’d love to see it!

  • Reply
    Michigan Mom
    November 1, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    TV β€œrecreation” update. Yes, really building it.
    The TV will be displayed at my son’s Christmas tree lot and needs to be set up by Nov.17. It’s being built in our garage and reassembled on his site.

    The frame was built using 2×3’s and covered with hardboard. We used ΒΌ in plywood on the bottom for strength. Each side, the front, the back, the top and bottom are built independent of each other for storage and transport.

    To keep weight from being an issue… the inside of the β€œscreen box” is lined with cardboard panels glued to the frame.
    I’m hand painting β€œBumble” (love my overhead projector) and the mountain range scene copied from a page in the β€œIsland of Misfit Toys” coloring book…. after which I’ll seal the daylights out of my β€œartwork”.

    I couldn’t figure out what kind of light fixture you meant….then it came to me ….it was a double spotlight… right?
    The rest of the details are the frosting and I can’t wait to get started.

    My husband said I needed to put a “Philco” tv logo by the knobs. Still pondering that…

    I’ll send pictures for sure…

    • Reply
      January 4, 2016 at 9:47 am

      That is awesome! We’d LOVE to see pictures!!

    • Reply
      michigan mom
      March 22, 2016 at 11:02 pm

      Hello from Michigan….

      TV turned out beyond awesome.

      I found an 8′ vinyl window shades which I cut to size and stapled to frame instead of original plan of cardboard for inside backdrop. Because the window shade was already white…(using a Island of Misfit Toys coloring book pattern) I only had to paint blue sky after which the “ice mountains” were outlined with black marker. Glamour dust sprinkled over the entire backdrop was a great touch. White vinyl table paper stuffed inside the base of the tv worked great as snow and stayed dry.

      Having sons in the boat salvage business provided me with two straight pieces of boat bow railing and a perfectly angled bracket for my rabbit ears. I added a foam ball sprayed silver on each end.
      Searching thrift stores as soon as they started putting out their Christmas stuff, I snagged a Rudolf, lighted Christmas packages, hanging snowflakes and a vintage plastic lighted “Welcome to the North Pole” sign.
      I found black nursery flower pots for the knobs.
      I already had a perfect sized Austrian pine tree to which I attached plastic ornaments.
      I painted a Philco and a Zenith sign. Philco won.

      Because I had been really lucky with thrift store finds and frugal with building materials….(salvage materials from Habitat for Humanity Restore) I justified purchasing a 60″ Bumble from Home Depot.

      Bright white led mini lights around screen really did add a tv effect. Next year I’m going to try adding a strand of twinkle lights to possibly make for an even more realistic effect.

      The sides, bottom and top were attached with L brackets so it could be dismantled for transport and storage. Great tip to put wheels on the bottom as we could push it around in our garage during construction.

      It was reassembled at my son and daughter in law’s house as the Christmas tree lot was in their yard. He said lots of people stopped, most took pictures and we sold every tree.

      Thanks again for a spectacular idea and great instructions. It was worth all the work. Although I had to dig out my Rudolf VHS tape…my grand children loved it..

      I will send pictures soon.

      • Reply
        July 1, 2016 at 1:24 am

        Thank you so much for this update! That’s awesome!!

  • Reply
    Michigan Mom
    August 30, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    Hi Ashley,
    Hello from Michigan,
    End of summer and time to start thinking about getting the “big tv” out of storage. I haven’t forgotten about sending you some pictures. They are on my daughters’ phone (ugh)… and me being a tech illiterate (ugh)… I need to have her send them. Any special place I need to send them to?
    I’ll also have her send a picture of our July 4th pontoon boat parade float… a paddle wheel complete with working smoke stacks….
    I’m guessing you would appreciate stuff like that…

    • Reply
      September 2, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      Awesome, thank you! Feel free to send them to thebrowns(at) Looking forward to seeing them!

  • Reply
    December 4, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    I stumbled across your blog post in October and begged my husband to reproduce. We just got it into the yard tonight and I’m so thrilled with how it came out. I’m posting a link to a global Facebook post so that hopefully you can see. Thank you so much for the amazing idea and detailed instructions…they really helped us out!

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