To paint, or not to paint? That is the question. Here’s what you need to know.

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Painted brick is having a major moment, and rightfully so: It can instantly refresh an exterior without having to undergo an extensive (and expensive) renovation. Magazine pages and Instagram feeds are dripping with jaw-dropping before and afters, from creamy white cottages with a new lease on life to handsome charcoal Craftsmans with "New number, who's this?" energy. But on the flip side, the vocal unpainted brick contingency clutches their pearls when beautiful brick homes, often historic, are permanently covered with an of-the-moment hue. Which leads us to this timely design dilemma: Should you paint brick?

Brimingham, AL Garden Curb Appeal
Credit: Robbie Caponetto

The short answer: It depends. Before committing to this long-term relationship, Senior Editor and in-house decorating expert Page Mullins weighs in on the pros and cons of adding a coat of paint to your brick wall.

When To Paint Brick

Paint is the magic eraser of the design world. It's a reno-free refresh with big wow-factor results that's relatively easy and affordable (no contractor needed!). So when do you know that paint is right for you? "When the home lacks architectural interest or was built with inexpensive and—to put it frankly—ugly bricks, go for it," shares Mullins.

Go-to Hue

"A creamy off-white, like Swiss Coffee by Benjamin Moore, is an instant face lift to any façade," says Mullins. "You can also lean in to a bolder hue, like Soot by Benjamin Moore, to revitalize a down-on-its-luck rancher or dated Craftsman." Design tip: Steer clear of saturated colors and always opt for more muted tones.

When Not To Paint Brick

If the brick is pretty, hit pause and ask yourself why you want to paint it. Just because it's trending doesn't mean it's right for your home. "If it's a beautiful Tudor or colonial-style home, consider leaving it," says Mullins. "It's best to think of paint as a remedy for an unattractive or outdated brick home." In other words: If it isn't broken, don't fix it.

Not all Bricks are Created Equally

While most bricks today are mass produced, there is a subset of reclaimed bricks salvaged from historic structures across the country.  For example, "Old Chicago" and "Old St. Louis" bricks are sourced from their namesakes and feature a gorgeous aged patina and one-of-a-kind quality that brings dreamy depth to any space. If the brick is beautiful but not your speed, consider other updates first, like painting shutters, refreshing the front door, or if it's in the interior, lightening up the adjacent walls. While there are expensive chemical treatments to remove the paint, it's not a flawless process and the bricks will never be the same, so it's best to consider it an irreversible design decision.

Final Answer

Still on the fence? If you like your brick facade but good-intentioned yet opinionated friends are nudging you to paint it white and bright, steady your course. If you've always daydreamed about a little white house, live your truth and paint that brick. The best rule of thumb is also the simplest one: Do what you love.

So what's your vote? Show us your painted (and unpainted!) brick homes on Instagram and tag @southernlivingmag.