Design Dilemma: Painting Exposed Brick
There are some people who believe exposed brick should never be painted. For one thing, if done incorrectly, paint on exposed brick may have a tendency to mold and flake. People on the other side of this hot-button issue feel that brick is heavy and dark. For this camp, the best path to happiness is a coat of white paint.
Admittedly, it’s a tough choice. After all, the patina that old brick takes on with age can be exceptionally beautiful. The rough and pitted texture can be beautiful. So can the warm yet industrial feel. On the other hand, we have been in apartments with lots of exposed natural brick and we’ve felt a certain sense of heaviness. This is often exacerbated by the fact that many people with exposed natural brick are loathe to hang artwork on their exposed brick walls.
Ask yourself these questions if you’re considering painting your exposed brick:
What kind of feel do you want your space to have?
If you’re going for a light and airy feel, exposed brick is not going to give it to you. Painted brick works best in spaces that are dark without many windows, or if there is a lot of exposed brick which can become overwhelming. Painted brick also works well if your design style is Scandinavian with lots of blond woods, or if you’re into minimalism. Unpainted exposed brick often looks better with more baroque surroundings. Over all, white painted brick generally feels more modern.
What is the condition of the brick itself?
What color is the natural brick? Is the wall exceptionally dusty or in bad shape? Is the wall exceptionally damp? If your brick has an unsatisfying color, or if the wall is dusty, you may be better off painting the brick. Be sure to use a sealer first to help trap dust. If you want to keep your brick its natural color but it’s still dusty, you can also find special sealants made especially to treat natural brick without changing the color.
Will you need to resale your space soon?
Because painted brick is such a polarizing issue, you may be better off leaving your brick unpainted if you will need to sell your home soon. Leaving the brick unpainted may turn off buyers who love painted brick, but they will know that they can always paint it. On the other hand, those who hate painted brick may feel that there’s not much they can do to change a painted brick wall.
What are the other walls in your space like?
If you have one wall of exposed brick, then you should paint the other walls a warm off-white color. The color should be warm because brick is warm. The color should be off-white to balance the dark brick. If an exposed brick wall is only one, it will not appear as dark and heavy as if all walls are exposed brick, which could be an argument against painting a single wall of exposed brick.
Are there other options for lightening your space?
If painting the brick seems like too big of a step, and yet you want to brighten up a dark room, try hanging mirrors and artwork on your brick wall instead. A painting in light tones and pale shades will contrast with the brick and help balance out the dark wall. We see too many homes where owners allow a huge expanse of exposed brick to stand naked, thus overwhelming a space.