August 24, 2018 | Michael Hunter
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.
If you have an exposed brick wall in your home, you might be wondering if you should paint it or let it sit raw and untouched. The following questions will help make your decision a little easier.

What's your home's style?

Farmhouse (both modern and traditional), country cottage, and eclectic bungalow are a few of the styles that lend themselves to an accent wall of exposed brick.
For a midcentury modern home, painting the brick gives rooms a more seamless look.
You might want to keep brick, however, if your house is historically significant or you're trying to recreate a period look.

What condition is the brick in?

Are the bricks in your home truly old—maybe even a bit decrepit?
Exposed brick can lessen the aesthetic appeal of a space if it's not in good condition.
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.

Will the exposed brick cause a mess?

Worried that a brick wall will flake and cause a mess if you leave it bare? As long as the brick is in decent condition, your concerns are likely unfounded.
If brick is cleaned properly, it should maintain its appearance for a substantial amount of time.

Are you willing to do the upkeep?

Painting exposed brick is a pretty big project—and you'll have to repeat it over time. Why? Because paint on brick weathers and tends to show chips.
And if you've painted the brick on a fireplace, it'll collect soot and ash and be nearly impossible to clean.

Do you have a soft spot for nostalgic decor?

People love to touch brick in a home and wonder how old it is. If the thought of living with historic architecture gives you a fuzzy feeling inside, exposed brick is probably for you.
This look offers a warm, lived-in feel.
Covering up a brick wall means you'll lose some personality, history, and texture. When well-maintained, exposed brick is a desirable and unique characteristic of a home.

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.

Can't decide? Consider this alternative


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.
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