10 Ways to Make the Most of a Brick Wall

Turn a brick wall into a style asset with these genius decor tricks from top designers

Joanna Linberg
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Paint It

If brick red doesn’t fit into your color scheme, cover it up with white or black paint. Designers Kim Betzina and Emily Mughannam chose white to quiet the busy lines on the wall in this entry, but black does the same thing. Both colors let you experiment with a wide variety of furnishings and accent hues. Before painting, clean the brick thoroughly with soapy water and let it dry for 24 hours. Prime the wall at least once, letting it dry thoroughly between each coat, then top it off with a coat of acrylic latex paint in your chosen hue.
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Hang Art (the Easy Way)

Putting a picture on a brick wall requires elbow grease and a full toolbox, but designer Ann Wilhelm proves it’s worth it. First, use a masonry bit to drill a hole in the mortar between the bricks. Place a wall anchor in the hole, then screw a picture hook into the anchor. Or, take a shortcut with brick clips (also called “brick clamps” or “brick hangers”). This nifty steel device latches on to the top and bottom of the brick and lets you hang up to 30 pounds from its hook. Renters, this is your solution.
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Count It as a Color

If you live with a brick wall, a large chunk of your color palette is already determined. San Francisco designer Jennifer Gustafson, head of Jennifer Gustafson Interior Design, masterminded this bedroom’s look by taking into account the brown hues in some of the darker bricks—they show up again in the vintage Sumak flatweave carpet hung above the bed. The mortar inspired the carpet and bed linens’ soft neutral.
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Skip Art and Display Instead

If you don’t trust your masonry-drilling skills and aren’t sold on brick clips, skip hanging art altogether in favor of an ample curio cabinet. Pull it in front of a brick wall, lean a large piece of art on top, and populate the inside with books and accessories that would normally live on wall-mounted shelves.
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Accessorize That Wall

Every room should have a houseplant, period (ok, we’ll let you off the hook in the toddler’s room), but a space with exposed brick gets an extra boost from greenery because green and red are complementary colors. Designer Gabrielle Aker of Los Angeles firm Oh Beauty Interiors one-upped the look in her own loft with hundreds of string lights whose warm glow plays up brick’s cozy factor.
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Lean into the Past

Though brick walls often find their way into new builds now, the O.G. wall was a genuine leftover from a building’s previous use (think: warehouses turned into lofts). Embrace that history with clubby furnishings like leather armchairs, accents in rich wood tones, and a few well-chosen antiques. Keep things up-to-date by sprinkling in a few pieces with modern lines, like the table and lamp in this lounge.
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Mute It with a Wash or Smear

For that been-here-forever architectural look, a wash that tones down the brick color is your route. Take it from architect Eric Olsen, who used the treatment in his own home. There are a few ways to get the look. A limewash covers bricks in a soft white color, is easy on the environment, and adds historical flair, but has to be redone every 8-10 years. A whitewash with paint lets some of the brick color show through but is tricky to get right as a DIY-er. A German smear (pictured) adds more character and texture to the wall by applying a mortar paste, then wiping some of it clean. It takes practice but is also DIY-friendly.
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Balance It

Next to exposed brick, a sheetrock wall falls a little flat. Orange Country designer Chelsea Lauren, principal of Chelsea Lauren Interiors, side-stepped that problem with a shiplap wall. The horizontal lines pile on the visual interest without stealing attention from the brick.
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Paint It Partway

A long expanse of exposed brick could dominate and darken a room, but it also adds character. The genius stylists at CB2 offer the perfect solution: Paint the wall partway, letting the color trail off in an organic line that suggests age and helps delineate rooms in wide-open spaces.
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Make a Texture Play

Brick, even painted brick, still adds a rough surface to a room. Play that up with an all-white scheme goosed with standout textural pieces. Designer Janie Hungerford of Vancouver’s Hungerford Interior Design hung a pair of African Juju hats above the bed and topped it with a shaggy pillow. The resulting soft-meets-hard mix is a fun surprise in a bedroom.