Exposed brick is a design detail many homeowners dream of. Whether it’s a wall in a New York City apartment or a 300-year-old farmhouse, a rustic, ruddy wall announces a home’s history unlike other architectural elements.
Of course there are those who see exposed brick walls as craggy eyesores. Even interior designers are divided, with some begging their clients to leave the wall bare and others ready to pick up a paintbrush.
What’s your home’s style?
“You might want to keep brick, however, if your house is historically significant or you’re trying to recreate a period look,” she adds.
What condition is the brick in?
Are the bricks in your home truly old—maybe even a bit decrepit?
Because brick is porous, it’s susceptible to shifts in temperature and levels of moisture, so it’ll eventually start to break down. If this is the case in your home, painting over the bricks can hide small flaws and give you a clean, fresh canvas on which to begin your own design story.
“If brick is cleaned properly, it should maintain its appearance for a substantial amount of time,” Bikoff says.
Are you willing to do the upkeep?
Do you have a soft spot for nostalgic decor?
“This look offers a warm, lived-in feel,” says Bikoff.
Do you want your walls to blend in or stand out?
An exposed brick wall draws people’s eyes when they walk into the room. If you’re cool with your wall being a focal point, keep the bricks bare. But if you want your wall to blend in, consider painting it.
Kling prefers a semigloss finish over a flat one, and urges her clients to stay within two color families for painted brick: white (think creme, bright white, or light gray tones) or black (charcoal, slate, or dark gray). And unless you’re going for a whimsical look (or you’re decorating a kid’s playroom), steer clear of bright paint colors on brick, she adds.
Can’t decide? Consider this alternative
Photo by Kevin Spearman Design Group, Inc.
Not sure if you want to totally cover up the bricks? Get the best of both worlds! You can soften a brick wall with a mortar wash, also called a German smear.
“In this process, you spread mortar on the surface of the bricks while allowing some bits of brick to show through,” Henry says.
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