How to Choose a Color Scheme for Interior Brick

Follow these simple tips for including your interior brick in a beautiful color scheme.

Porch, four season porch

If you want low maintenance and fire resistance, brick is the material of choice for houses—but it's usually confined to exteriors, or, if it's in an interior, to fireplaces. In fact, because it withstands the heat of a fire, brick is the most common choice for lining fireboxes and facing fireplace surrounds.

Depending on the style of your home, the fireplace surround may range from a few discreet rows of bricks to a commanding structure. And beyond the fireplace, if you have a contemporary-style house or have added a room, tackled a loft conversion, or remodeled, you may have an expanse of interior brick to confront.

Whether the brick broods darkly over your room or adds comfortable rustic character depends largely on its color, and how well it integrates into your room's color scheme.

Kitchen with brick wall

The clay that goes into making the brick determines the color of the final product. Varying mineral compositions respond to firing differently, yielding hues ranging from buff and yellow to salmon pink to dark red-brown. If coatings, such as sand or limestone, are added during firing, they'll also affect the color and texture.

To integrate a brick feature into your decorating scheme, first decide whether you want to featureit or downplay its presence in the room. Then use its hue to guide your choice of wall colors.

If the brick is a color you simply can't live with, one option is to paint it.

Look for the Dominant Color

Brick headboard

Treat the cast of the brick the same way you would a fabric, paint, or carpet color, and use the color wheel to guide you toward a harmonious scheme.

Brick that's primarily pink, salmon, or light red works well with soft yellows, cool greens, and creamy antique whites.

Yellow or buff-color brick combines handsomely with neutrals, such as cool grays or warm browns. Look for subdued or grayed shades to blend with the earth tones in the brick.

Balancing Brick with Wall Color

The greater the contrast between the color of your brick and the color of the adjacent walls, the more attention you'll draw to the brick. Incorporate touches of the brick color elsewhere in the room, in fabrics or accessories, to knit it into your design scheme.

Instead of trying to counteract the dominating effect of dark brick by painting the adjoining walls a lighter color (which would only contrast with and emphasize the brick), choose a neutral that's in the same tonal range as the brick. This integrates the brick into the room, creating a more harmonious, unified whole.

If the walls are the darkest element in a room, the space can feel oppressive. To prevent this, include an even darker element on a smaller scale: Consider adding some dark pillows (again, darker than the walls) or a dark rug.

Painting Brick

Blue fireplace
Painting your brick is a great way to update the look.

If the natural color of the brick doesn't suit your decorating style, consider painting it.

To play up the architectural importance of a fireplace, paint it to match the trim in the room. If that draws too much attention to the element, paint the brick a shade or two darker or lighter than the walls, but paint the mantel to match the trim. Or you can match the brick to the room's woodwork, to emphasize its role as a natural focal point. Another option is to paint the brick to blend with the walls and match the mantel to the room's trim.

Painting Raw Brick

Get advice from a paint store for your particular application. Generally you'll want to start with a good-quality exterior latex primer, which adheres to brick better than interior primers do. Alternatively, you can use a stain-blocking primer and sealer.

On previously painted brick, use a stain-blocking primer and sealer formulated for glossy surfaces (a deglossing primer) so you won't have to sand first.

Brush on the primer, working it into all the crevices. Then apply two coats of your chosen shade of latex paint (oil-based or alkyd paints are not recommended for brick, since they trap moisture).

For these finish coats, a high-gloss or semigloss will show off the texture of the brick better than a flat finish and will be easier to clean.

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