Decorating Around Exposed Brick Walls

Decorating Around Exposed Brick Walls

Play bricks up or down depending on your decorating scheme

By Stevie Donald

Rendering of living room with brick wall
Photo by iStockphoto.comBookmark and Share

Exposed brick interior walls, often found in lofts and older houses, can create a decorating challenge because they are such a focal feature. Decide on the atmosphere you want to create by considering the style of your home and your personal taste. Brick walls can impart an urban, industrial feel to a space, or a homey farmhouse look, depending on what materials and decorating elements you use.

  • What You Need to Know
  • Plain white walls and neutral furnishings do little to enhance the character of brick. Use color and texture to highlight a brick wall.

Step 1:

Take the color of brick into consideration. Most brick is shades of warm red-browns, but some newer brick may be ochre or dark brown. Choose complementary colors like teal and blues for contrast. White-painted brick lends itself to a cottage look, with fresh simple colors and patterns.

Step 2:

Choose paint colors that complement the brick for adjacent walls. Gray or putty colors match the mortar and make the brick color stand out. Ultra-deep brown, red or even black walls make lighter-colored brick stand out, while colors in a similar shade will minimize its appearance.

Step 3:

Soften the urban industrial look of brick by using natural materials and fabrics. Soft, textured fabrics, like Berber carpet, wool rugs, raw cotton drapes and soft upholstery, will tone down the industrial appearance.

Step 4:

Emphasize the industrial look of a brick wall by using sleek, modern furnishings and fabrics. Leather, glass, chrome and cooler colors will give the space a minimalist, edgy quality.

Step 5:

Avoid cluttering a brick wall with too many prints or hangings, because they will further break up the textured surface, giving a "busy" look. Instead, use large wall hangings, wrought-iron sculptural artwork and large, simple prints.

Step 6:

Use lighting to make the brick glow. Incandescent bulbs may not be the most green choice, but the light they emit makes brick look warmer and softer. Fluorescent lighting gives a cool, diffused glow.

Step 7:

Use mirrors to break up the wall or create an interesting reflection on an opposite wall. Take into consideration what will be reflected in the mirror. A brightly colored wall opposite the brick will create a "window" of color on the brick wall. A large framed mirror opposite a brick wall becomes a piece of art when reflecting the brick.

Step 8:

Shop flea markets and garage sales for vintage or period furniture and decor if you're on a budget. Look for pieces of the same vintage to create a cohesive, retro feel for the room.

  • Tips & Warnings
  • If you really dislike the look of brick, consider whitewashing it before painting it. This allows the character to remain while lightening it up.
  • If the brick wall has any old paint on it, assume it may be lead paint and seal it with several coats of matte water-based sealer. This will also make it easier to dust.
  • Sandpaper is a great way to knock debris, dirt and old chips of paint off of exposed brick before you undertake any home improvement project.

About the Author

Stevie Donald is a regular contributor to DexKnows. She has been a painting contractor since 1979.

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