Using a Brick Wall as a Design Element in Your Home
Interior walls made of bricks help adjust the building’s temperature, as they store heat and cool air. In winter, the walls offer warmth, while on a hot summer day they have a cooling effect. This creates a pleasant indoor climate, which means healthy houses.
What is brick interior design?
Brick walls add character to any room by serving as a focal point or providing a backdrop that either complements or contrasts the room’s other design elements. Whether your style is industrial or rustic, the beauty and uniformity of a brick wall can add texture and beauty.
Exposed interior brick walls never seem to go out of style, but with the popularity of industrial loft and boho chic styles, they seem to be more popular than ever. So, how do you decorate a room with a brick wall? And, how do you add brick to your home décor if you don’t already have it in your home?
We’ve compiled this complete guide on how to use brick as a design element in your home and how to add it if you don’t have it. Plus, you’ll find tips on how to drill into brick to hang artwork and how to paint brick, too.
How to decorate a brick wall
Brick complements most decorating styles, including industrial loft, boho chic, farmhouse and French country. Even modern décor looks sharp when offset against a brick accent wall. If you already have a brick wall, here’s how to use it to its full potential.
- Expose it. Don’t hide the brick. Opt for floating shelves rather than covering a huge section of bricks with a large bookcase. Or purchase an open shelving unit that leaves a clear view of the bricks behind it. Similarly, instead of hanging a TV or large pieces of art on the wall, something that can be tricky to do, consider placing them on another wall. That way, you’ll see more of the brick.
- Dress it up. While you want to show off the brick, you can also add pops of color from art and other décor. Bright artwork and green plants add pops of color that highlight the brick. Just keep it simple, and don’t overwhelm the wall. Often one statement piece or a few potted plants is just enough to bring your brick walls to life.
- Go natural. In addition to plants, natural wood can make a brick wall look its best. Add wood accents such as shelves, ladders, headboards, chairs and dressers. Balance these with pieces in neutral tones. For example, a black sofa flanked by wood end tables will look stylish against a brick wall adorned with simple artwork.
- Paint it. Most people picture red or brown when you mention bricks. But bricks can come in various colors, from clay and tan to grey, black and white. Older ones may even be whitewashed. For a dramatic statement, you can paint your bricks. White is the most popular choice, but you can paint your brick wall almost any color as long as you’re willing to commit. Because brick is so porous, it’s difficult to remove the color once it has been applied.
How to paint brick walls
Classic red and brown bricks have a timeless appeal, but brick is trending today towards other colors as well, according to the Brick Industry Association. A survey from 2019 found top residential color choices for bricks included white, grey, tan, and buff, with increasing interest in green, black and ones with metallic glazes.
Want to change the look of your bricks? It’s fairly easy to paint your bricks if you follow these steps. Just be careful. Brick soaks up paint, so not only will you need more of it to cover a brick wall than an ordinary wall, but once it’s applied, it’s impossible to get the original color back.
Instructions for painting bricks
- Gather your gear. You’ll need a paint roller, paint trays, painters’ tape, drop cloths, a stiff brush, vacuum, water, caulk and spackling compound in addition to primer and paint.
- Prep the area. Cover furniture and floors with drop cloths.
- Scrub the bricks. Use a stiff nylon brush lightly to loosen any mortar, dirt or dust on the wall. Vacuum away the debris and loose bits.
- Wash the bricks. Fill a bucket with warm water and a few drops of liquid soap. Use this to wash the bricks and remove any remaining debris.
- Let it dry. Wait at least 12 hours for the bricks to dry.
- Fill in the cracks. Use spackling compound for small cracks and caulk for larger gaps.
- Tape. Be sure to tape around doors, windows and trim. Tape along baseboards and the ceiling, too.
- Apply the primer. Cover the brick surface with primer. Allow it to fully dry before continuing.
- Paint the brick. Apply water-based acrylic paint using a roller. Use a brush to cover areas the roller misses. Allow the paint to completely dry.
- Add a second coat. Brick walls require up to 50 percent more paint than ordinary walls. If the first coat didn’t adequately cover them, apply a second coat. Allow the second coat to dry completely.
- Finish. Remove the tape and drop cloths.
How to hang almost anything on a brick wall
Although how much weight you can hang depends on the condition of the brick you’re working with, you can hang just about anything on a brick wall, from framed pictures to a 60-inch flat-screen TV. You just need to have the right tools and know what you’re doing to hang items securely.
All it takes to hang most items is an ordinary drill capable of drilling a few 1”-deep holes. A standard carbide-tipped masonry bit should do the trick. However, large items will require deeper holes and more of them. Don’t bother tackling the job with your own drill, which could burn up. Rent a heavy-duty hammer drill from your local tool rental center. If you can, rent a carbide masonry bit, too. This can save you substantially since you’ll actually need two bits: one to drill the pilot hole and one to drill the actual hole.
Next, you’ll want to determine where to drill. Typically, brick is the better option since it can support more weight than mortar. But if the brick is old and fragile, drilling into the mortar may be a better option, especially when what you are trying to hang is heavy. When in doubt, don’t risk drilling into fragile brick, and drill into the mortar instead. That way, the anchor will expand against the bricks and not potentially crack an already weak brick.
Follow these steps to drill into a brick wall
- Mark your holes. Determine how many holes you need and how far apart they need to be placed. Using a pencil, mark the spot where you need to drill. Double-check the location against any template or mounting bracket you may have.
- Set a stop. Set a stop for the recommended hole depth if you are using a hammer drill. If you are using a regular drill, wrap tape around the bit to mark the recommended stopping point.
- Gear up. Before you start drilling, put on safety goggles and hearing protection. You should also wear an N95 respirator to avoid inhaling the crystalline silica brick and mortar contain. Inhaling even a small amount of crystalline silica can result in irreversible scarring of the lungs, breathing problems and death.
- Drill the pilot hole. Insert the pilot drill bit into the drill and set it on low speed. Make sure it is perpendicular to the wall (drilling at an angle will cause issues with alignment), and slowly start the drill. Keep a slow, steady pace. Drill to the recommended length using steady pressure.
- Make the drill hole. Replace the pilot drill bit with the bit for your hole. Make sure the drill is level and perpendicular, then drill slowly and steadily to the right depth.
- Clean the hole. Use an air compressor to blow out any dust and debris from the hole.
- Install the anchor. Place the wall anchor—also known as a drywall anchor—over the drilled hole and tap it in. The anchor should go in fairly easily if you drilled the right size hole.
- Hang your item. Insert the screws into the wall anchors just as you would under any other circumstances.
- Tidy up. With your protective gear still in place, sweep up any dust or debris on the ground. Vacuum or mop to get any remaining dust.
How to hang without drilling
Drilling into brick can be intimidating, and if you’re renting, it may not even be an option. To hang items without drilling into a brick wall, you can either use adhesive, brick hangers or brick clips.
- Adhesive: Double-sided sticky tape, Liquid Nails and even Velcro will work, although only for items that don’t weigh much. If you just want to hang a poster, opt for the double-sided sticky tape. One small picture frame can be secured to the wall using a hook attached by Liquid Nails. However, most items will require a more reliable hanging method.
- Brick hangers: The prongs on brick hangers fit into the mortar line and dig into the brick and mortar. While they can hold up to 25 pounds, brick hangers require deep enough mortar lines to fit the prongs into. Otherwise, they can’t get a good enough grip to stay in place and hold the weight.
- Brick clips: These clip over the face of the brick, with the top lip sitting on the ledge above the brick and the bottom clipping under the brick at the mortar line. Because they essentially fit over the brick, they don’t require mortar lines to be as deep as brick hangers.
How to make a brick wall with brick veneer
If you don’t have a brick wall but want one, you can create the look with brick veneer. Essentially, these veneers are thin bricks installed similarly to tile. They give the appearance of being an actual brick wall. However, they are lightweight compared to actual bricks and easier to install.
Depending on the wall’s surface, you may need to install ¼” cement backer boards first. However, you can apply a veneer directly to your existing wall in most cases. (Consult with the manufacturer’s instructions before you begin or confirm with your local retailer.)
Follow these steps to install the brick veneer
- Gather your materials. You’ll need veneers, mortar (also known as wall butter), a trowel, a brick saw (to cut pieces that don’t fit otherwise) and a wet rag or sponge.
Prepare the area. Place drop cloths over furniture and the floor.
- Measure the wall. Decide exactly how to layout the space. You don’t want to end up with awkward small pieces at the end of the project. It may help to mark lines for where each brick goes.
- Double butter. Work in a small area, applying wall mortar (butter) to the wall and the brick veneer. Start at the top and apply one row at a time horizontally. Cure for 12 hours.
- Apply the grout. Use a hard-edged rubber grout float to apply the wet mixture at a 45-degree angle. Fill the joints completely and wipe the excess away. (This Home Depot article gives additional information on how to apply grout.)
- Clean the mess.
Other ways to get the brick wall look
You don’t have to install a veneer to add a “brick” wall. Instead, you can achieve the look by adding wallpaper. Many of today’s brick wallpaper is simple enough to install that almost anyone can do it, and it looks like the real deal from a distance. Check any home improvement store and home decorating center for the latest designs. (Lowe’s has a square foot calculator to help you determine how much wallpaper you’ll need for your project.)
For a more three-dimensional look, you can install wall panels. These typically come in 4’ x 8’ panels that cost roughly $35 each and don’t take much more effort to install than wallpaper.
Follow these steps for easy brick wallpaper installation
- Gather your supplies. You’ll need the panels, Liquid Nails, hammer and nails, caulk or joint compound, a damp rag, paint that matches your brick, white paint if you plan to whitewash your wall, a small paintbrush and a sponge.
- Measure the wall. Add a few extra panels to the number you think you need so you have extra to match to the panels for a seamless appearance.
- Prepare the area. Cover furniture and the floor with drop cloths.
- Attach the panels. Apply Liquid Nails to the back of each panel when you are ready to use them. Place on the wall, lining up to bricks to the previous panel, so it looks natural. While one person holds the panel in place, nail the panel in place with small nails.
- Hide the seams. Apply joint compound to the seams, wiping away the excess.
- Paint to camouflage. Using the paint that matches the bricks, paint over the joint compound.
- Whitewash, if you want. If you want to paint or whitewash your faux brick wall, now is the time to do it. Some people use joint compound; others say paint gives a better look. It may come down to your personal preference. Make the bricks as white as you want.
- Clean up. Finish the project by removing the drop clothes, vacuuming and dusting.