It’s meant to be bad luck to begin decorating your Christmas tree before December, but with my kids now reaching the age where they understand Christmas, it’s hard not to get excited early. It’s also harder to try and stick to the December 1 rule. So instead of risking the bad luck that comes with erecting a tree before December 1, I started on making some decorations in preparation for the date. My first activity is a Christmas Fireplace.
Our home is under 20 years of age, so a brick fire place and chimney isn’t part of the home. But in the spirit of Christmas, and to give my kids something to get excited about, we (I) made a fireplace for Santa. My other justification was it would give me somewhere high to sit some of our Christmas items, somewhere the kids couldn’t reach.
Fireplace Shape and Size
The size and shape of the fireplace is pretty much up to its builder. The more common type of fireplace online uses empty nappy boxes, these were taped into the shape of the fireplace. I used what I had available to me at the time at the hardware store, this was the discarded whipper snipper boxes.
When it comes to the brickwork, there are a lot of options; painting the bricks one by one, or spray painting seemed too laborious, and my toddlers wouldn’t be able to stop the temptation of touching it whilst it dried. My home printer is mono, so printing a coloured array of bricks, then taping on wasn’t an option. So contact adhesive vinyl (contact) seemed to be my best option.
Bunnings has a couple of different types of brickwork contact for $4.99 per roll, The brickwork contact can also be purchased from ebay and other shops, but as Bunnings also had an abundance of free cardboard boxes, it was my first stop.
Taping the boxes together was pretty much child play, I would however recommend using a strong type of tape such as duct tape, as normal household sticky tape isn’t strong enough to hold things in place when you start moving the fireplace around to position the brickwork. Once the shape is done, the fun part of applying the contact can be started.
Applying The Contact
It was putting the contact on where things started to unravel for me. Without thinking, I started from the bottom of the fireplace and began working my way up. I wasn’t concerned about small creases in the contact, as I knew this was something that would be recycled in the new year, so stressing over a few bubbles and creases wasn’t my concern. But because I started from the bottom and worked my way to the top, I quickly realised I had made a serious mistake.
If I had begun to lay the contact from the top down, the left and right pillars would have had a reference point to align to. But because I didn’t, I had to cut and stick down pieces to ensure it aligned with the top section. By starting from the bottom also meant that if one pillar was slightly different in size to the other pillar by even just a centimeter, when they reach the top, the brickwork isn’t aligned.
To ensure that the fireplace stays up once a few heavy items are placed on the mantle, I filled some clean empty milk bottles with water, and placed them inside the pillar legs, this gave some extra strength. The extra weight of the milk bottles also meant the entire fireplace could take a few hard knocks from my kids, who like to wrestle nearby.
Despite the alignment not being perfect, and in some places the contact is a little bumpy or not quite straight, to my kids it looks perfect. We’ve begun to decorate it with tinsel and our teacher gifts already.
My initial thought of it being a high place to keep some items out of reach from the kids however, has failed. I initially planned on storing the advent calendars on the mantel, this was to stop them from raiding the chocolates early. However within 5 minutes of putting it in place, my 2 year old had found his stool and was already pulling things down. So for Christmas 2017 I’m planning on doing an upside down fireplace to give Santa and the kids a challenge.