construction · Design Consult · Home Decor · Home Tips · Home-Room Design · interior design · interiors · paint

Brick House: the great debate

A friend said to me, “Oh, I’m sorry! Yes, we are putting brick in our house. I know you don’t like brick, Melissa!” I exclaimed, “I love brick!” and we said our goodbyes.

As I was driving away, it kept eccoing in my head, “I don’t like brick? I wonder when I said that?” I was thrown OFF, big-time! But, truth be told, I am getting older and my memory is not as sharp as it use to be.

Since I started my interior business, I have gained a fair amount of clients from friends referring me but as well, a lot of my clients started as friends and have pulled me into their home projects for a consult or for a whole room design (like here). This friend with the brick comment did not hire me (which is not at all an issue! Lots of people do home projects without consulting a professional) but at some point in our past 10 years of knowing each other, I must have said something about brick. 🙂

Do I like brick?

Well, even though she didn’t ask for my opinion (LOL), I thought I would clear it up in my own head IF I like brick! And my gut answer is yes. I very much like brick! In fact, I have always wished my whole house was covered in brick. If it was, my vines could just keep growing and growing and come spring when the vines are in full bloom, I could say I am living in an “old house in Portland, all covered with vines”!

Can I paint brick?

My own house is not actually very old, in “old house” standards. It as built about 25 years ago in a development where there were a handful of builders that designed and built a cohesive neighborhood under the guidance of an HOA. I am now on the board and help to maintain the look and feel of the neighborhood, but I also know times change and we have to stay current and be progressive.

Before I was on the board, there was a house in our neighborhood that put in an application to paint their whole house white, including the brick. The person on the Architectural Review Committee at the time said yes to the proposal and then that said ARC lead moved out of the neighborhood. (“Things that make you go: hmmmm.”) LOL! Now, there is a whole committee (3 people) that have to approve every application, so it wasn’t just this individual that approved the “white house”. It was all done legally and fairly. 😉

I am a part of a neighborhood bunko, which started the year the neighborhood was established. About half of the Bunko gals are original owners that built their homes 25+ years ago, and the other half are “the youngin’s” that have moved into the neighborhood in the last 10 years or so years. This particular house and its white painted brick came up at our bunko gathering and there were definitely mixed opinions on the matter.

Personally, I LOVE IT! I love it for two reasons:

  1. I am a traditionalist. I look for pieces from historic architecture to guide my design decisions. There are lots and lots of historic brick homes that have painted their brick, especially in a classic color such as white.
  2. In the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s there were some “very creative” use of different color-lots of brick. Browns, yellows, purples and pinks. And when you get “creative” in these nearly-permanent design choices, it really dates the look of the home.

In Our Neighborhood

When our neighborhood was built, there look to be 3-4 different brick colors that were used for accents on the outside of our homes: red, aged red, a light taupy-pink, and a red-purple. With these colors taking up 1/4 to 1/2 of the accent of the facade of your home, it limits to paint colors that will coordinate with the rest of your house. I am not a hater. I try not to say hate, if ever. I say “that’s not my favorite” a LOT! 😉 However, I can say that I hate the light taupy-pink brick and the house I spoke of above had that taupy-pink brick. So heck yes! Paint that stuff! In addition to paint, the new homeowners changed out the exterior light fixtures to a more clean-lined modern shape and now the house is a very current, feels historic, and most importantly, it no longer feels dated!

What about brick on the INSIDE of a home?

I would also say I don’t mind brick on the inside of a home either. When done in a mindful way, brick can bring some age and practicality to a space. I love a brick floor laid in a herringbone pattern in a high traffic area, such as a mudroom or a laundry room (like we did here). I also think if you have a historic home with lots of eclectic furniture pieces, a brick oven or surround would be really fantastic. But it always depends on the space.

I remember we were shopping for a home and there was a colonial in an area called Forest Heights not too far from where we live now. I absolutely LOVED IT!!! The outside was brick with black shutters, and white siding. The inside had all the classic moldings and fireplaces. However, the family room fireplace had a raised hearth that went the full length of the room. The configuration was pretty limited for the square footage of the space. The adjoining kitchen was also long and narrow and didn’t feel open. For that space, I envisioned tearing that hearth out to get that extra square footage in the space. But oh my! That would have opened a whole other can of worms: a raised fireplace, drywall work, etc. We were already looking at the top of our price range and unless we could live with it as is for now, the Forest Heights colonial house just wasn’t going to work for us.

Tricks for working with what you’ve got

In the case of the hearth in the Forest Heights colonial, the size was what bothered me. But, if it was on the smaller size, it could have worked, maybe. I also didn’t feel the red of the brick went with the aesthetics of the room. In that case, it would make perfect sense to paint that brick. Yes, I said it again: paint that brick. DON’T BE AFRAID! If you don’t like the color it is now, there is a 90% chance that you are not going to like it in 5 to 10 years from now! Sometimes you just have to GO FOR IT with design decisions. Even if it doesn’t look exactly like what you would do if you tore the whole thing out and put it the surround of your dreams, at least it is a color that you like and that flows with the design of the rest of the room.

Working with what a client likes

Now, this friend isn’t a client, but if she was, I would would work with whatever she loves! If she said she loves brick, we would design the space with brick so that it made sense for the space. Sometimes you have specific design choices to work with to suit the client you are working with. I had a client recently that I styled her bookshelves in her office. She had so many patent plaques she could have lined one whole wall with them! But instead of using all these basic wood plaques, I stacked them facing out in the bookshelves so at least 6 of them were on display. She also had a race car helmet…but some how that didn’t make it back into the bookshelf. ;). Another example is a friend and client had some mixing bowls that her late sister had made in pottery class. We found a way to have them on display in her new kitchen so she could see them every day and know a piece of her sister was in the heart of her home.

Hiring a designer doesn’t mean you get all new stuff…well, at least not this designer. I want my client’s home to tell a story about the people that live there. Having someone into your home is like taking their hand and guiding them through the stories of your life. It’s like having a window to their soul. If your home doesn’t say something about the people that live there, then I haven’t done my job.

A Home Mission

Bottomline, make your home sing to YOU! Bring in elements that make you happy! If you don’t know how to do that, or you are a bit timid in making those more costly decisions, a consult with a designer like me, can help you think out the practical ways to make that happen.

And yes, I like brick. 😉

xoxo, Melis

For design help, I’m always here!

Have a great day!

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