5 Ways to Update Your Brick Without Painting It White
Full disclosure: I have painted an old brick house white, Sherwin-Williams Alabaster (SW 7008) to be precise. The existing brick exterior was dated and without any real character, and the impact of a fresh coat of white paint was immediate and transformative. There is a reason so many of us subscribe to the practice, after all. "White is a classic and safe color," admits the Charleston-based designer Jill Howard. "It makes perfect sense that people would gravitate toward this idea. People have been painting outdated brick houses white for years." Recently, though, it seems the number of brick houses getting all-white paint jobs has reached dizzying new heights, and while it's an effective way to refresh tired brick, it's not the only means of updating a home that's showing its age. For five more ways you can brighten your brick without defaulting to white, read on.
Give it a good scrub.
Before you make any permanent changes, break out the pressure washer and give your brick a bath. Brick is porous, and with time and constant exposure to the elements, even beautiful brick can turn a dingy muted color that looks both dirty and drab. Pressure washing uses high pressure to remove dirt, grime, algae, mold, and more. Once it's thoroughly cleaned, you might decide you like the look of the original brick.
Be brave. Opt for color.
Color doesn't have to be intimidating. Just remember to consider your environment and look to your neighborhood and the surrounding landscape and regional architecture for context. "I live in Charleston, and we can get away with some pretty fun and bright colors," Howard says. "Those colors may not work so well in say D.C. With that said, I also love dark moody colors like Farrow & Ball's Hague Blue (No. 30) or Smoke Green (No. 47)." If you don't have the courage for dark colors or they just don't appeal, Howard recommends a soft sage green. "It's unexpected, but still classic," she says.
Remember sometimes less is more.
Painting your whole house can be a budget-busting project. Plus, the upkeep is often brutal. So if your brick is in decent shape, why not consider a smaller job, and give the exterior brick a boost by painting your shutters or trim or by adding a pop of color to your front door? "For the shutters or your door, I'd look for a complimentary color that will help freshen up the appearance of your home," Howard says. "That would mean something in the blue or even blue/green family." She suggests brightening up your trim and painting it a pure white as another low maintenance solution.
Try out a new technique.
On the right home, applying a German smear (a technique similar to whitewashing but using a mortar wash instead of diluted paint) to your current brick can add instant old world character and disguise all manner of imperfections. But be warned: Because you're using mortar, it can't be refinished as easily as paint. Howard, on the other, prefers a classic limewash, like Romabio. Limewash is made from limestone that's been crushed, burned, and mixed with water to make a lime putty. The technique penetrates brick, rather than sitting on top of the surface. "It's especially good for homes in the South because it's naturally mildew resistant," she says. "And it creates a finish with a beautiful, subtle variation in color compared to the flatter look of paint." Bonus points, the technique is also eco-friendly.
Put your green thumb to work.
Always keep in mind that there's nothing like a little fresh, well-planned landscaping to overhaul your home's whole vibe (brick or not)—a few hydrangeas, a bank of azaleas, a cheerful pink Dogwood, or a white crepe myrtle. It's curb appeal 101.