My daughter was part of the assembly line too, although she was too cool to wear her Santa hat this year!
I keep each of the pieces in their original boxes for a few reasons. One- It will be handy if we ever move again, Two- it keeps the buildings and the foam packing relatively clean and lastly, if I ever have to sell any pieces, I will have the original boxes.
The next step is separating out the different buildings - this comes from my architectural background or my masters degree in urban planning. We try to have residential neighborhoods, a downtown area and a historic district because this particular brand of village pieces ( Mervyn's Village Square) has some older buildings from the "Dickens" era, as well as Victorian and even a few modern buildings.
Our next step is to build a sturdy base. I have a few sheets of plywood that have been cut in half. I keep these in the garage and drag them out for the village. We set them on some sturdy boxes that I also keep in the attic. I like being able to look down on the village. It is also a good height for little kids to be able to observe. It also gives it a more professional look than just setting it on the floor. I think placing each building at different heights and creating hills and vistas makes the village really come to life.
This year we decided to do one giant sloping hill. We build up the area with the foam packing from the boxes. It doesn't have to be pretty because it will all get covered with fabric and "snow" In previous years we have put a hill in the middle. One of the fun things about the village is that it is different every time we put it up!
We move the buildings around and position them and try to get them at a height that is just right. We also try to position the buildings in some sort of logical order. This is mostly my idea, but the kids play along !
The next task, once all of the building are placed, is placing the white fabric under the buildings. We use the light-weight batting that is sold in hobby stores. After it is fairly even, we poke holes in the fabric for the lights. This takes some work moving the building off and on but it is the best way that I have found to hide all of the extension cords under the fabric.
We have some street lights that we use with our village. These use small Christmas lights. After having a hard time trying to get them to stand up straight the first year, We painted wooden craft sticks white and hot glued them to the base of each light pole. The craft stick and the cord are also concealed under the fabric. The stick can also be placed under the edge of a building or piece of foam to keep the light in place.
That was a far as we got today. We will work on placing the people, trees, fences, benches and giving the town a good snow storm tomorrow!
Part II can be found here:
There are some pictures of last years village at:
Here is how we did it at our new house: