Brie Williams; Styling: Kate Malpeli
Move over, shiplap. Nothing piles on old-house charm like exposed brick. Brick brings an earthy element of warmth, texture, and character to interiors. Whether your style leans traditional or sways modern, this material can be utilized to suit every personality. Leave historic brick walls natural, or try whitewashing a brick fireplace for a fresh new look.
With farmhouse style sweeping the design world, you might be tempted to tear out old brick and replace it with popular shiplap. Preserving existing brick can still deliver major country-cottage style while speaking to your home’s history.
For why homeowners shouldn’t get rid of historic brick, we talked to Greenville, South Carolina-based interior designer and historic preservationist Taylor Hill. “Historic brick in older homes typically serves a structural purpose—it’s often an old fireplace or an exterior wall. Sometimes there’s more expense and effort associated with removing existing brick rather than working with it!” she says. “If you can keep the overall aesthetic story of the building in mind, you can probably find an appropriate route to utilize the material in your design.”
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You’re set on incorporating existing brick into your interior design—now what? Identify the elements of the mortar to find the best way to care for it. “Older historic brick (pre-20th century) typically used a lime-based mortar, which allowed the handmade bricks to ‘breathe.’ Lime mortar expands and contracts with the humidity because of its ‘softer’ properties. Newer mortar products made of portland cement are much stronger, but leech moisture from older bricks and cause them to spall and fail,” Hill says. “When repairing old brick, be sure to verify the properties of the existing mortar. Additionally, if you’re choosing to paint your brick, check with your local paint store about paint products to ensure the longevity of painted finish.”
Treat historic brick how it best speaks to you. Allow kitchen walls to show off their natural patina, or repaint a fireplace in a shade that complements your living room. “It’s always fun to incorporate a building’s history into a design,” Hill says.