Have We Gone Too Far with Painting Our Brick Houses White?

A new homeowner laments her generation’s relentless need to paint old things white. 

What they Did Outside
Source GuideBrick paint:Fauna (456); . Trim paint: French White (2005); ICI Paints.Shutter and front door paint:. Photo: Photo by: Laurey W. Glenn

I recently moved into a 1950s brick ranch on a pine-shaded street in Birmingham. It's the kind of neighborhood where puppies and strollers outnumber cars and the houses are generally forty-some years older than the people who live in them. I appreciate so many elements of our house, but, as most first-time homeowners will tell you, there were also a few things that immediately inspired a makeover wish list. Giving our exterior a fresh coat of paint landed at the very top. Of course, thanks to our petite budget, many of those projects, including the coveted exterior paint job, will stay on the wish list for a while. At first I was struggling to be patient, but I'm glad now that we weren't immediately able to repaint our bricks. Here's why.

When we first toured our house, I took one look at the brown-coated bricks and conjured up mental images of what it'd look like washed in a creamy shade of white. Perfection! At the closing table, visions of Sherwin-Williams Dover danced in my head. But despite my love for a little white house, I've since reworked my dreams due to a recent observation: Many other young homeowners seem to have had the same idea.

Just this week, the two houses directly across from ours are transitioning from red brick to a shade of ivory. I don't fault them for making the switch. The red brick looked a little dated (these are 1950s ranches, not historic, Colonial-style homes), and white is a safe choice for a timeless overhaul. Even so, there's a drawback to this design decision. Within a few days, the duo will match many of the houses on our road, which have also traded their traditional red brick for a coat of white paint.

One of the things that drew me to our street, besides the fact that we already knew several of our would-be neighbors, was the personality of the place. While the homes are similar in scale, reflecting the humbler nature of the decades they were built, there's nothing cookie-cutter about the neighborhood. Individuality is on full display in the charming porch additions and lovingly maintained container gardens and flower beds. But as more and more young homeowners determine that the only fix for their ranch houses' tired brick facades is a fresh coat of white paint (PSA: there are plenty of other solutions!), our character-filled street is at risk of suffering the worst curb-appeal offense—sameness.

Admittedly, I'll never be a fan of our muddy-brown-painted bricks, but once we do have room in the budget for an exterior overhaul, I'll tuck away my white paint samples and explore the color wheel instead.

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