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December 29, 2010 2:12 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever painted interior brick? Should I?

The main living areas in our house share a huge, floor-to-ceiling brick wall. It's not terribly dated; it's red, smooth, and in excellent shape. We have been living with it for years because we are reluctant to try painting it. I've seen painted brick done badly, and there's no going back from that. But two problems nag me:

1. Our rooms are dark all the time. Very, very dark. The brick sucks all the light out of the room, no matter how many lamps are on, even during the daylight hours. It's depressing.

2. The brick gives the house a bit too much of a "country" look for our taste. I've tried to use the brick to create an urban/industrial decor scheme, but seriously, if you get so much as one old mason jar anywhere near it - bam! - farmhouse chic.

Have you ever painted interior brick? Did it look better, or did it just get more rustic-looking? How about using a paint scheme like Brick-Anew? If you were a potential house buyer, would you prefer the original brick?
posted by Knowyournuts to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
The only thing I know about painting interior brick is that it sucks up paint like nobody's business. And then it does it some more.

Do you have the space and/or budget to perhaps do some sort of drywall wrap around the brick?
posted by Madamina at 2:15 PM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


My only reservation would be that, once painted, it is painted forever, barring a very messy and expensive paint removal.

I have seen brick painted a satin off-white and it's not bad. I would use a masonry sealer first, then a good primer, then the finish color.
posted by Danf at 2:16 PM on December 29, 2010


I think I'd hang something big and bright rather than painting it -- maybe a rug or a tapestry or a funky bedsheet? That'd cover it and lighten the overall look of the room, without touching the brick itself.
posted by vorfeed at 2:23 PM on December 29, 2010


The brick sucks all the light out of the room, no matter how many lamps are on

What are the other colors in the rooms? Do you have white walls, white ceilings? Are your floors/carpets dark? Drapes/window coverings?

Check out these photos. You'll notice that the rooms with exposed brick walls are thrown into contrast by ceiling color, furniture, fabrics and highlights like crown moulding and accents.

I know this sounds like "don't raise the bridge, lower the river" advice, but don't paint the brick. Make everything else lighter.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:26 PM on December 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Don't paint it. It's pretty much painted forever and the next homeowner will haaaaaate you. If you're at all handy or can afford to pay someone, you can build a drywall surround and make it look as modern as you want.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:35 PM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hang a big piece of floor-to-ceiling fabric in a lighter color than the brick, then you can change it whenever you feel like it and won't have to deal with painting (and possibly later un-painting) the brick, which as others have mentioned will suck up an inordinate amount of paint, as well as time.
posted by motown missile at 2:42 PM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Our house has a huge brick fireplace, which has that same darkening effect, and also gives the house a country feel I don't like (we prefer mid century where possible). It had already been painted by previous owners. As far as we can tell someone painted the bricks white, then someone else wanted brick back again, so they painted a fake brick effect on the bricks (really!). Then we recently painted it a light grey. We love the change. Here's a before pic, and an after pic (taken on a dull day, room full of clutter sorry). You will notice we painted the walls white, and all the beams, but haven't got rid of the hideous bookcase (more faux paint effect, except I think that one makes it looks like flesh heh). I guess someone else did the initial hard work when the first paint was put on, because we didn't have any issues with it sucking up paint.
posted by Joh at 2:42 PM on December 29, 2010


I am with the "don't paint" it gang. Do something else. Painted brick looks tacky. And I am all for modern and sleek. You can make it work without painting it. But if you do paint it, get brick paint. Otherwise, it will not only look tacky, but bad.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 2:44 PM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I helped a friend paint interior brick once. Madamina is right--it really sucks up paint. But it's doable. The problem is that it ends up looking like, well, painted brick, which (I think) looks kind of cheap. I spent a year in a crappy apartment with floor-to-ceiling dark "wood" paneling in my bedroom, so I know how annoying it can be to live in a room that can be none more black. I got around it by hanging up some really bright batik fabric, a lot of posters, foregoing blinds for white curtains, and getting more lamps. (It actually ended up being the most cozy and cheerful room in the whole dump.)
posted by phunniemee at 2:44 PM on December 29, 2010


If you're going to hang something, maybe a large mirror-- something industrial-looking, metal frame-- to help with the lighting and the openness?
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:47 PM on December 29, 2010


I have seen lots of painted brick walls. I have *never* seen one that looks good and was done by DIY-ers.

I did see one that looked decent, but it was a professional job and was done in a basement with absolutely no natural light. So in my experience you can only get a decent looking wall, and that's if you pay a pro to do it for you.
posted by TooFewShoes at 2:59 PM on December 29, 2010


Is it real brick or is it that half inch deep brick facing? If it's the facing you'll feel ok about painting it since it's easily removed.
posted by andreap at 3:00 PM on December 29, 2010


Well I like painted brick. Especially white painted brick. So if I were you I'd paint that sucker.
posted by grapesaresour at 3:06 PM on December 29, 2010


I also love the look of painted brick. Love it. Maybe I'm scarred from a childhood growing up in a ugly mottled red, pink and white ranch-style house. But if you hate the brick, paint it. Just make sure you do it well.
posted by kimdog at 3:19 PM on December 29, 2010


ha! I just painted our ugly ass brick fireplace.

I had no problem painting the 80s barbie flesh colored bricks in our 1910s craftsman this Fall. The fireplace is from the 80s and the brick wasn't helping tie it in to all the craftsman features. It was pretty bad so it was an easy choice.

I am *very* happy that I painted it. I took lots of pictures before I painted it and will give the to the next owner to show that they aren't missing anything. I love brick but when it's ugly-it hurts. I found it doesn't 'soak up' paint as much as the whole surface is entirely made of nooks and crannies so no matter how meticulous you are you will do 6 coats only because you see a spot you missed no matter what. I used a benjamin moore enamel, and it went through almost a quart. It is slow because it's easy to get drips and you just have to take your time. I guess that is what people are saying when it looks DIY? I had never painted brick and my results are great. Everyone who has seen it since the paint job agrees it looks much better but like I said, the brick was Very Ugly.

That said, maybe a mirror would help too. I don't know, I just had to say we did it and love it. I think if you are the homeowner you can do what you want. It's a perk of being the owner and don't be afraid to make the space how you would like it.
posted by 58 at 3:29 PM on December 29, 2010


I quite like brick, and in a loft-type space, I would leave it intact. In a house, unless the brick has historical significance, I'd feel free to paint it. The only color that seems successful to me is white. Another option is to dilute white paint a lot, and whitewash the brick. I had an apartment with genuine (dirty, splintery) barnboard walls that we whitewashed to very goof effect.
posted by theora55 at 3:49 PM on December 29, 2010


Maybe cover it with cement? (I'm looking at this for countertops.)
posted by cyndigo at 3:50 PM on December 29, 2010


I think painted brick can end up looking great. The couple on the Young House Love blog painted the brick in their first house and have a short tutorial.
posted by avocado_of_merriment at 4:34 PM on December 29, 2010


Do you have the space and/or budget to perhaps do some sort of drywall wrap around the brick?

Our budget is too small to hire anyone, and we are not quite that handy, although that would indeed be the best solution.

I think I'd hang something big and bright rather than painting it[.]

Totally, but it takes up two entire walls. I've currently got art on it - lightweight canvases that are hung with those Command hooks. Still dark.

What are the other colors in the rooms? Do you have white walls, white ceilings? Are your floors/carpets dark? Drapes/window coverings?

Yes, everything else is white or off-white, because that was my first solution for brightening up the room.

If you're going to hang something, maybe a large mirror[.]

Yes, yes! I would love to hang mirrors all over it. How can we securely drill into it? Would we need to go out and buy masonry drill bits? Is there a best way to safely hang something that's glass? If it falls off the brick, it falls right onto another brick surface in one of the rooms. (Safety issue for toddlers?)

Is it real brick or is it that half inch deep brick facing?

Real brick. You're right, I'd feel less bad about painting facing.

Maybe cover it with cement?

I've seen the cement countertops - very cool. I am afraid of DIYing cement on a vertical surface, since we are (see above) not handy. But it would certainly prevent the "oops, I went country when I meant to go urban" problem.

Joh - thanks for the pictures. You did a great rescue job on that fireplace!

There are some very good answers here. Thanks especially to those who shared stories of painting brick and how you felt about the result. Thanks to the folks who said that they liked painted brick if done right. That gives me some confidence that I may not have to keep living with this awful decor. Thanks also to the ones who said they hate it - if we sell someday, there would surely be homebuyers who feel this way, too.
posted by Knowyournuts at 5:05 PM on December 29, 2010


I painted the brick fireplace in our house. Our living room is on the dark side, and I hated how the brick sucked up the light. Also, as in 58's situation, the brick itself wasn't pretty at all. The fireplace had been added sometime much more recent than 120 years ago, when the house was built, and it was pretty ugly.

I painted the it the same pale yellow we painted the rest of the room, and I love it. The fireplace now adds great texture to the room without dominating it. You can see a picture here if you like (photo quality is awful; the light was too low).

I also agree with 58 that it's not that difficult to paint brick and paint it well. It does just take some time.
posted by torticat at 5:14 PM on December 29, 2010


I love white-painted brick. One of my favourite home-design blogs, Young House Love, often showcases it (like here, here and here).
posted by OLechat at 5:16 PM on December 29, 2010


Definitely do it.
We had an ugly dark red brick fireplace wall that we delayed painting because we were afraid to do it.
Finally, not able to stand it anymore, we painted it cream and couldn't believe the difference it made in brightening up the rest of the room.
We used three coats because the brick did suck it in, another possibility is to do just one coat as a "whitewashed" look. I've since seen that in other places and it is brighter, but leaves a somewhat less perfect look.
posted by mmf at 5:56 PM on December 29, 2010


At one of grapesaresour's links, check out the recipe for troweling on a plaster compound, then painting. You avoid that paint soaking issue, and you get an interesting texture for the painted wall. I lived with an ugly unpainted floor to ceiling brick fireplace wall for 25 years, and after reading that, if I still owned that house I'd be mixing up that paste and slapping it on there, right now.
posted by beagle at 6:54 PM on December 29, 2010


If you're going to do it, you really want to use a Wagner Power Painter. And put on a layer of concrete sealer first.
posted by nicwolff at 8:08 PM on December 29, 2010


I almost didn't rent an apartment once because of the horribly painted over brick wall. It was that hideous. Mind you, I was poor and in no position to be choosy and I still didn't know if I could live with the thick, tacky white paint slathered over what would have been a lovely exposed brick wall. I wound up taking an adjacent place where the brick was left unpainted. Because that can be next to possible to undo, I'd say paint if you hate it and plan on being there a while. But, if you're asking about potential buyers because you see this as a short term stay, you might just want to decorate over it like crazy and leave out the permanent stuff.
posted by troublewithwolves at 10:24 PM on December 29, 2010


Yes, yes! I would love to hang mirrors all over it. How can we securely drill into it? Would we need to go out and buy masonry drill bits?

Brick hooks, or brick clips if they stick out enough. With the hooks you use a masonry bit.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:01 PM on December 29, 2010


If you hate it, paint it.

You've lived with it for years and tried to do what you can with it. It's your home, NOW, and for the foreseeable future. Plenty of other homes have somehow been sold, with painted brick in them, despite everyone saying how tacky it is. Paint it. It'll make you happier, you won't believe the change in yourself.

To me, exposed brick can look tacky. Yes, I could make it work but my decor style is more glamourous hollywood rather than warehouse/country. So shoot me. I can't make brick work with what I love. So, I am contemplating painting over our brick fireplace - our professional painter flat out refused to do it, because it was some special significant brickwork style from the 40's or something.

I still think it's ugly. I'm still going to paint over it, I can feel it in my bones, because every time I stare at that damn fireplace, I feel the ugly shadow of ugly cast over the rest of my pretty, glamourous room.

It's my home, so I'm painting it. A bit like it's my party and I'll cry if I want to. It may make me a heathen, but I'll be a HAPPY heathen, and so will you.

Paint it.
posted by shazzam! at 3:50 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


My fireplace brick was painted a cream color many years ago by a previous owner. It looks good and has no problems. Interior brick should be painted.
posted by JJ86 at 7:30 AM on December 30, 2010


Oh, yes, I love the Young House Love blog and their painted brick looks nice. I don't even mind it all being one color. I was thinking of doing some color variation, like you see in the Brick Anew ads.

Also, shazzam! says what I feel better than I did: Yes, I could make it work but my decor style is more glamourous hollywood rather than warehouse/country...because every time I stare at that damn fireplace, I feel the ugly shadow of ugly cast over the rest of my pretty, glamourous room. I.e., the darkness and datedness of it bothers me enough to risk doing something drastic to it even though we're always thinking of resale value. I guess I need to accept that this is our home, not a rental and not a place that we are holding for the next, "real" owners. My long-term mindset has been that of a renter who does indeed need to "make it work."

Thanks for all the tips on how to do it if we choose to do so. I really appreciate it - this is something I don't want to mess up!
posted by Knowyournuts at 4:01 PM on December 30, 2010


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