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When home decor ideas hit a brick wall
August 25, 2012 5:01 PM   Subscribe

Help me decorate to divert attention from a large expanse of exposed brick in a small bedroom.

I need some help with this room (photo from inspection day before we bought the house).

Extra info: The plasterboard wall (not shown in photo) opposite the window has been repainted in a pale neutral eggshell colour. The other wall not shown in the pic is a full length built-in wardrobe and is the same pale eggshell colour. The floor is carpet in a smokey grey/beige shade. We've put a queen sized bed where the single bed is in the photo and small desk between the bed and the window. I've also replaced the short curtains with full-length beige drapes in a shade similar to the carpet.

When we bought the house we fully intended to paint all the exposed brick but after some experimentation we discovered that painting wasn't really a good option as the bricks are unsealed and heavily textured clay.

My plan now is to hang an abstract print or painted canvas above the bed and a new quilt cover on the bed to try to detract from the brick wall. I think it needs at least a splash of colour to lift the room from its beigeness but do I stick with plain solid colours or go for a pattern? Large pattern or small pattern? Would stripes or geometrics be too much or should I go with more organic shapes? Help! I need guidance!

(Also, we may soon be selling the house so I want the room to present as nicely as possible for that purpose)
posted by harmless to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
 
That says 'plants' to me. Maybe a series of evenly spaced ivies hanging from the ceiling, that dangle in front of the bricks? I don't think you want to distract from it as much as incorporate it. Bricks are kind of great--strong construction materials. I like them. My goal for this would be 'warm lighting and dark green plants'. If plants aren't your thing, go pothos. They'll forgive anything.

I'd go long white gauzy curtains, floor-length and a white spread. Maybe someone will have some good advice for lighting. The whole thing could be pretty cool and dramatic.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:25 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you want to present the room as nicely as possible, I think you're going to have to go back to the idea of actually dealing with the overwhelming brick. I understand you feel you can't paint it because it is unsealed, but I am pretty sure you can whitewash it.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:28 PM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


The previous occupants' approach to the bricks was evidently the 'detract' strategyl: the pseudo-Victorian lamp, the busy quilt, etc. all look as if chosen by someone in complete ignorance, or complete denial, of the bricks' existence. It doesn't work.

Do not do this. A splash of color is a great idea, but pick a color that pairs well with beige, e.g. red rather than pink; I love the 'warm lighting and dark green plants' image. Organic forms could work for art or bedclothes if the forms are large and abstractly spacious. Stripes could even work if they meet these conditions, e.g. Marimekko Poukama Sandstone.
posted by feral_goldfish at 5:40 PM on August 25, 2012


Brick can be stained. I saw a house done by HGTV Sarah Richardson (Sarah's House Season 2 IIRC) where she stained the exterior bricks and morter grey that really looked good. Perhaps something you can try? Otherwise I can't see the bricks being "hidden".
posted by saradarlin at 5:47 PM on August 25, 2012


Thanks for all the thoughtful replies so far.

I love the whitewash/stain idea but I fear any kind of paint-on wall treatment may hit similar issues to painting. I think the bricks were designed to look a bit handmade and 'roughed up'. Here's a couple of closer pics of the bricks and this photo of the painted brick inside a cupboard shows how painting highlights all these 'feature' cracks and gaps. Also I think the amount of filler required to smooth out even just the worst cracks and gaps would ruin the effect of a stain or wash.

I've pretty much surrendered to the brick, which is why I thought I could try to visually break-up the large expanses and divert attention from it a little. This room suffers the most because it's a small room and it has the most amount of brick (all the other rooms have only a single windowed wall of brick).

The previous occupants' approach to the bricks was evidently the 'detract' strategy: the pseudo-Victorian lamp, the busy quilt, etc. all look as if chosen by someone in complete ignorance, or complete denial, of the bricks' existence. It doesn't work.

Can I tell you about the floral wallpaper and carpet and the deep ochre ceilings that they teamed with the brick throughout the house? Once we got rid of those, having to live with just the brick seemed quite tolerable.
posted by harmless at 8:38 PM on August 25, 2012


I also think you should revisit painting the bricks. Don't paint with brushes or rollers, use a sprayer.

But if that's really out of the running, my advice is similar to the Terrible Llama's: make it look like a sleeping porch. Long white gauzy curtains, a white coverlet, plants, etc. I made a headboard out of a length of lattice and an eight foot 4x4 cut in half with finials on the top. I painted the whole thing "Picket Fence White" (Calvin Klein paints) and it was great in my garden themed bedroom. I had a flowered quilt but you'll want to avoid that - it would be way too busy against the bricks.
posted by deborah at 8:39 PM on August 25, 2012


Depends on how thoroughly you want to fix this.

Covering a large part of the wall with flowing curtains or a large headboard or big art frames
is one option.
Wide panels of cloth that make an entire curtain wall is another, though the ripples of the cloth would mean you can't really hang any art/etc on that wall. With cloth hung flat against the brick, that would give you a result sort of halfway between curtains and wallpaper; your hanging-art options would be a bit limited for heavy stuff (you'd have to go though the cloth into the brick), but lightweight stuff would hang with velcro.
If you don't like the idea of that sort of loose look, you could cover panels with the fabric, then install the panels to fill the wall. Plywood is heavy; I'd maybe go with that pink insulation board stuff, though maybe that's a bit fragile.
If you wanted to go permanent, you could install drywall (or have it installed) on top. This site (that I'm not sure I'd trust) suggests gluing the drywall to the brick. There's also the option of plastering over the brick with some sort of smoother stucco that you can paint as you wish.
posted by aimedwander at 7:42 AM on August 26, 2012


Whitewash. The painted brick is a not a wise color choice. Do 1 wall; if it looks not so great, seal it, and paint it white, even if it takes 4 gallons. I would also consider putting a rail across the entire window wall, and curtaining the wall. Actually, you could whitewash that wall, then cover it if you hate the look. You could panel 1 wall with beadboard or a high quality paneling. Also, really large prints or tapestry. If you have a color or design theme you love, like country, work with it. A crazy quilt, on stretchers, would cover a lot of brick, and be lovely. Or, a lot of framed art, with strong colors & patterns, would draw attention.
posted by theora55 at 8:28 AM on August 26, 2012


I love the whitewash/stain idea but I fear any kind of paint-on wall treatment may hit similar issues to painting. I think the bricks were designed to look a bit handmade and 'roughed up'. Here's a couple of closer pics of the bricks and this photo of the painted brick inside a cupboard shows how painting highlights all these 'feature' cracks and gaps. Also I think the amount of filler required to smooth out even just the worst cracks and gaps would ruin the effect of a stain or wash.

Whitewashing should give you something much closer to this than painting. No filler; cracks and imperfections are part of the look.

Either that or get out a trowel and plaster over it. I know you're viewing this from the POV of "It's so much better than it was!" but we're coming in fresh and looking at it as it is now and what nobody is wanting to say out loud is OH THE HORROR KILL IT KILL IT NOW.

Sorry :( But if you're looking to flip this house, you may really need to know that.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:50 PM on August 26, 2012


I also this putting up drywall is the way to go. I'm sorry, but it's really ugly.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 1:22 PM on August 26, 2012


I'm looking at the painted-brick-inside-the-cupboard photo, and maybe there's something wrong with my aesthetic sensibilities, but the rough texture doesn't bother me.

The inspection-day photo, on the other hand, does indeed inspire the reaction DarlingBri describes. It's largely because of the jarring scale of the pattern formed as if by giant clumsy pixels. Paint or pseudo-whitewash or whatever quiets down the color contrast, which is key, and compared to which the texture is a minor issue.

Two cautionary notes:

(1) As a prospective house-buyer, if I saw a curtain over a wall, I would move that curtain aside to peek. Any horror revealed by peeking has much more impact than a horror out in plain sight.

(2) A comment on DarlingBri's link above suggests that using sealant paint on brick walls, if structural, may make the house less structurally sound in the long term. (If the walls are structural, then maybe they're designed to be covered in drywall or plaster? But I know nothing of house-construction.)
posted by feral_goldfish at 1:45 PM on August 26, 2012


I think you should try a glossier paint on some bricks in that cupboard. We painted our brick wall (basically the same bricks that you have, unsealed and rough, only ours stick out quite a bit from the mortar - you can see unpainted bricks at the bottom of the wall in my photo) with a glossy off-white and it looks fantastic. Yes, if you look closely you can see the roughnesss of the bricks, but they're bricks, after all. It also took several coats but really and truly, the wall looks so much better and with the darkness of the bricks gone, the room looks tons bigger.
posted by cooker girl at 4:13 PM on August 26, 2012


What about putting up something like a salvaged wood wall over the top? The look is a lot more contemporary than the brick, and I imagine you (or future owners) could remove it to get the brick back if that comes back into fashion.

I don't love the brick myself, but I think it could be mitigated if you could somehow cover one wall (panels? huge artwork?) and just have the single "feature wall" left brick. In my area these brick feature walls are really popular and real estate agents advertise them as a selling point of a house. Maybe your region is different.

Finally I don't think your painted picture looks that bad. It just needs another coat or two. Painted brick is not going to be smooth - that's part of the charm for a lot of people.
posted by lollusc at 7:53 PM on August 26, 2012


Thanks for all the ideas and suggestions. Looks like we're going back into experimentation mode with some inconspicuous sections brick wall in other areas of the house. If we're not happy with the results, Plan B is a large wall-mounted headboard and a big canvas artwork. In the meantime I'll be extending the curtain rail on the windowed wall to cover more (or all) of that wall.

I haven't marked best answer because all the suggests are being considered - thanks again for all the input!
posted by harmless at 12:44 AM on August 28, 2012


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