Making A Brick Fireplace For An American Girl Christmas

Our weather is growing cooler by the day, and I know autumn will succumb to winter before we know it. While the seasons are mild here, my daughter loves to pretend her dolls experience a much more intense winter! Therefore, at my daughter’s request, I spent the last few days (on and off) constructing a cozy, rustic fireplace for her dolls to enjoy.

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I had a few goals in mind while brainstorming this project. I knew the fireplace must

  1. Feature a brick façade,
  2. Have a mantel,
  3. Have a working, flickering fire,
  4. Be sized properly for the dolls,
  5. Be cheaply constructed, and
  6. Be durable.

I had several cardboard diaper boxes in the garage, ready to be recycled, and I thought they would make a solid base for this project.

I also settled on an easy paper mache  technique because I knew the end results would be durable and lightweight, and I wouldn’t need any special supplies or tools.

The supplies I used for the main fireplace are:

  • Card board boxes (I used two (2) diaper boxes)
  • Scissors
  • X- Acto knife
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hot glue sticks
  • Marker/ Pencil/ Pen
  • Scrap paper/ Newspaper
  • Water
  • Flour
  • Liquid Glue
  • Mold- inhibiting essential oil (orange, lemon, etc.) (Optional)
  • Paintbrush
  • Plastic trash bag
  • Craft paint

To make the flickering fire I used:

  • Flicker Tea light LED candles
  • Clear/ Frosted Shrinky Dink plastic sheets
  • Scrap cardboard
  • Wooden spools
  • Wooden craft sticks
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Hot Glue Sticks
  • Paintbrush
  • Craft Paint
  • Scissors
  • X- Acto knife
  • Marker/ Pen/ Pencil
  • Sticks that resemble doll sized logs (We collected sticks from the park and cut them to size.)

I know the supplies list looks long, but most of the items are crafting staples, and the rest could be substituted depending on the look you are trying to achieve!

I will walk you through the process I used to make the fireplace.

 

1.)  First, I found a few boxes.

I ended up using the medium box as the main section, and parts of the large box for the base of the fireplace.

You can see above the size of the boxes compared to a doll.

 

 

2.)  I then drew onto the box the basic design of the fireplace.

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3.)  I used the X- Acto knife to cut away the opening I wanted for the front of the fireplace.

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4.)  I built the base from the end of the larger diaper box, and reinforced it by hot gluing a second layer of cardboard on the top.

 

5.)  I used hot glue to attach the two pieces together. Julia was so excited to finally be helping!

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6.)  Next, I cut the mantle shape I wanted from the large diaper box and attached it to the fireplace with hot glue.

 

7.)  At this point, I was ready to add my first layer of paper mache!  I used cut strips of old printer paper and notebook paper plastered together with a mixture of water, flour, and glue. I added a few drops of lemon essential oils to prevent mold because we live by the ocean.  I covered the outside of the structure completely, making sure to keep the paper smooth.

Every layer of paper mache must be left to dry completely before adding the next layer.

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8.)  I then added another layer of paper mache and let it dry overnight.

9.)  The next day, I cut cardboard into strips the size I wanted for my bricks, (about 3/4 inch by 1 and 1/2 inch.) 

I cut some strips a little longer to fold over the corners as corner bricks.

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10.)  I glued the cardboard strips on the fireplace in a brick patterns, making sure to leave ample space between each row and column. (This will be very helpful during the next layers of paper mache!)

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11.)  I then cut some half bricks for the inside of the fireplace, and glued them to the back and side surfaces of the cavity.

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12.)  After the entire surface was covered by bricks, I applied another layer of paper mache, this time using newsprint adds torn into 2 inch pieces. this paper is thinner than printer paper, and the weight and smaller pieces allow for easier manipulation, in my opinion.

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You have to gently press the paper into the spaces between the bricks to achieve a 3-D brick façade.

Also, try to keep the creases smooth. Some rips and gaps are fine, as they add to the distressed look of the brick, but too much would be distracting.

Allow to dry completely.

 

13.)  I applied a final layer of paper mache to the fireplace, repeating the procedure from step 12.  Allow to dry completely.

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14.)  I then applied a base coat of craft paint, covering the entire fireplace.  I used a light creamy beige, because I knew that was the color I wanted the grout between the brick to be.

Allow to dry completely.

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15.)  I then mixed the paint colors for the bricks.  I used a dark, almost brick red, white, black, burnt sienna, raw umber, and yellow acrylic craft paint for my fireplace.

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16.)  I painted the bricks, making sure to add a lot of color variation.

I used a stiff- bristled flat brush to create a stippled effect.

Allow to dry completely.

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17.)  Using a smaller stiff- bristle brush, I went back over the grout with my creamy- beige color, adding a distressed look to the fireplace.

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18.)  I used craft wood to cover the mantle.  I secured the wood to the fireplace using hot glue and Elmer’s All Purpose glue.

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19.)  I painted the mantle a raw umber color and sealed the entire fireplace with a matte hard Modge Podge.

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For the fireplace insert, I used three (3) flickering tea lights candles, cardboard, craft sticks, and Shrinky Dink plastic sheets.

1.)  I cut the cardboard the size I wanted for my grate.

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2.)  I traced the tea lights onto the cardboard.

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3.)  I cut out the traced circles, using my X- Acto knife.

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4.)  I inserted the candles into the cardboard base, securing with a bead of hot glue.

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5.)  I glued the wooden spools to the bottom of the cardboard base and glued the craft sticks around the edge at an angle, resembling a grate. The grate was then painted black using craft paint.

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6.) I drew fire shapes onto the Shrinky Dink plastic using an orange Sharpie permenant marker, cut them out and baked them according to the package instructions until they shrank and were flat.

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7.)  I hot glued the plastic fire shapes onto the bases of the candles and surrounded them with sticks my daughter and I collected at the park.

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FINISHED!!!

My kids love this fireplace, and so do the dolls!

We are expecting a cozy winter, now!

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8 thoughts on “Making A Brick Fireplace For An American Girl Christmas

  1. This looks really cute! I don’t have any boxes at the moment, so I am using scrap cardboard and hot gluing it together. I just discovered your website today. It looks great!

    1. Yes, I absolutely love how the fireplace turned out! My daughter uses it daily with her dolls. She loves to decorate the mantle for Christmas and let her dolls warm up by the fire. I hope you love your results! If you would like to share pictures of your fireplace, I would love to see it!

  2. This is so realistic! Do you think the paper mache would work on a wooden base? I have lots of scrap wood laying around that I’d like to use.

        1. I used the large diaper boxes from Target. I am sure you can adapt what you have laying around. Just make sure it is sized for your dolls! Have fun!

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