How to Make an Interior Brick Wall Work
n interior brick wall can be considered a timeless treasure, an eyesore, a quirky feature or many other things. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and bold brick certainly draws a lot of glances, imploring passersby to consider it, judge it and deem it either beautiful or too gritty.
But with the right design knowhow, brick can add a unique, perfectly imperfect touch to any room — it has an organic character not found in plain drywall and can suit modern, traditional, eclectic or contemporary spaces equally well. So before you write off brick, get to know some basics of preserving, finishing, styling and otherwise falling in love with brick.
If you’re lucky enough to have a home that includes a beautiful exposed brick wall, in many cases you won’t need to do anything more than show it off. However, to make sure your brick stays stunning, you’ll want to seal and protect the surface to reduce the risk of disintegration over time.
To keep a space feeling bright, a slight gloss finish can help your brick look lustrous, which is perfect for a slim entry or hallway space. Otherwise, a matte sealant won’t change the look of the brick but will help keep out mites and dust to help it stay beautiful longer.
If your wall needs a little cleaning before sealing, a mixture of vinegar and water will generally do the trick. Simply spray the solution lightly onto trouble spots and rub with a towel, scrubbing with a coarse bristle brush only where necessary to remove stubborn soil. In general, it’s best to start with a gentle approach in an inconspicuous area to make sure your brick won’t crumble, and use harsher cleansers only where absolutely necessary.
In moist areas like bathrooms, it’s especially important to make sure your brick is well sealed to avoid mold and other issues.
Where grout is worn away or in bad condition, it is possible to repoint (regrout) the brick to restore a more solid surface. This requires the existing grout to be carefully routed out to at least a ¾-inch depth before being refilled with new mortar, so it’s something you’ll want to do just once and then carefully seal and maintain it.
If you prefer to cover or soften your brick, there’s an option for everyone.
White. A few coats of white paint is a popular choice for those who want to preserve the texture of their brick wall but give it a cleaner, more modern look. One advantage of this look, besides its ability to brighten a space, is the way it can help a space feel less busy, blending different elements like bulkheads and window trim (and the ceiling) together for an overall larger and more streamlined effect.
If you’re careful with your handiwork (and use a small brush in key areas), you can leave the occasional brick uncoated to create a faux-vintage look, with the illusion of a few bricks’ having been replaced over time.
Keep in mind when painting brick that although it is possible to strip paint from brick later, the ability of brick to absorb paint into its porous core makes this a somewhat tricky task.
Masonry paint stripper gives off strong fumes and takes time and effort to be effective, so it’s best as a last resort. If you’re unsure whether you’ll still love painted or refinished brick down the road, skip any trendy color choices and work with what you have with some of the following styling tips.
In a room with a long, exposed wall, the amount of brick can be overwhelming. But rather than changing the original color, try breaking up the brick with art, furnishings or a mirror to give the eye a visual break while letting the texture peek through in smaller doses.
You’ll need to drill into the mortar (not the brick itself) to a depth of at least 1 inch with a specific masonry-use drill bit, and be sure to use masonry screw anchors to reinforce the connection. Once this is done, you’ll be able to hang art as usual and create your own hip gallery space.
Feeling a little brick envy now? An authentic brick effect can be created with half-brick dressing, which can be layered over an existing wall or fireplace column to give true depth and texture without dramatically shrinking the space or requiring a structural overhaul.