I didn't have anything specific in mind to print, but I did want to keep the model fairly simple. So I opened SketchUp and came up with a small house inspired by these SketchUp Icons and the houses used in the game Monopoly:
SketchUp Icon and Monopoly Inspired House (with Lego shown for Scale)
One of the first considerations to make is which material to use. Shapeways offers a number of materials each with different cost and physical properties.
Initially, I designed the Icon House as a single solid (although hollowed-out on the bottom) to be printed using the full-color sandstone material. Not only is the material continuous full-color but it is also the least expensive at $0.99/cu. cm.
In order to use the full-color material, the model needs to be uploaded in VRML2 (.wrl) format. Although SketchUp Pro can export to VRML, I was not able to produce an acceptable model directly from SketchUp. I am still not sure where the problem was - whether it is in the export or my model, but I was never able to produce a model that was accepted by Shapeways.
Shapeways also accepts COLLADA files for upload, and since I wasn't having any luck with the VRML, that seemed like a reasonable next choice.
Using COLLADA, you can use any of the other materials, so I decided to use the next least expensive material called White, Strong & Flexible (WSF). WSF seemed like a good choice at $1.50/cu. cm.
I still wanted a multi-color model, but since the WSF material is solid color, that would mean splitting the model into parts - one for each color. (I am assuming I can glue the parts together once they arrive.)
WSF also happens to be available in colors that closely match the colors in the model; namely White, Black, and Terracotta.
With each part separated, I exported each one as a COLLADA file (.dae), and uploaded them to Shapeways. Models need to be at least the minimum size and also be manifold to be accepted. After some minor cleanup, my models were accepted.
Once uploaded, I could then order each part in any of the available materials and colors. There is a $4 per part charge plus an extra sales tax per cubic cm for dyed materials.
Even with the extra charges and tax, the total cost was still not outrageous. Here are the parts and prices after uploading:
Link to parts on Shapeways
The cost for ordering the 4 parts in the desired colors came to $17, but since there is a $25 minimum, I ended up buying 2 of each for a grand total of $34.00 (including tax and shipping.)
The parts should be here in about 10 days, at which time I'll follow-up with some pictures. If the quality is reasonable, I'll also make the parts available publicly on Shapeways if anyone wants to order a "kit" for yourself.