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How to create the exposed brickwork effect in your house or flat

How to create the exposed brickwork effect in your house or flat

Introducing the exposed brick look to the interior of your home can be incredibly impactful – it brings a raw and rugged quality that’s difficult to match. Successfully achieving the style can be challenging but the end results are well worth the effort, and so here we share some useful tips and advice on how to do it…

Where does the look originate from?

Bare walls are certainly not a new feature of domestic living and, like many aspects of interior design, originally the concept was born out of practicality. Bricks have indeed been used in buildings for several thousand years and for much of this time there was little alternative other than to leave the walls exposed. Plaster then became more commonplace, although to keep costs down buildings were still being erected without plastered walls right up until the early twentieth century.

The emerging popularity of industrial-style buildings at the end of the last century helped to bring the look back in to fashion. Premises such as restaurants, hotels and offices led the way in the renaissance and these commercial entities were not only able to key in to a growing trend, but were also able to enjoy the financial benefits of the reduced fit-out costs as a result of being able to leave walls in a relatively raw state.

What are the advantages of the exposed brick look?

Quite simply, this approach creates a wonderfully distinctive style and can bring the ‘wow factor’ in your house or flat. It adds natural character to any room in your home, whether that’s the kitchen, living area, bedroom or hallway.

What are the disadvantages?

Most of the potential issues arise if you want the most authentic look (i.e. exposing real bricks). If this is your preference then it’s important to be aware that it’s not an easy undertaking – it’s ironic that there is actually some complexity involved in creating a look of simplicity – and there are other drawbacks besides:

  • The bricks can be quite porous and therefore exposure to moisture can potentially, over time, cause them to deteriorate, especially when they’re within a kitchen area.
  • From an aesthetic perspective, dirt can also begin to find its way on to the walls and is not always easy to clean off.
  • Acrylic-based paints or sealants can help to prevent the walls from being so porous and susceptible to dirt, but this in turn can sometimes alter the colouring of the bricks and / or trap moisture in them, which can create issues.
  • Applying paint, if desired, can be physically harder than painting plastered walls.
  • Rooms can become very cold and harder to heat in the winter time.
  • Finally, there is also the possibility that you’ll strip back the walls and you won’t like what you find underneath. If this is the case, an expensive re-plastering effort awaits.

How do I do it myself?

For the best results employing a professional is usually advisable but, if you’re practical and want to expose your own brickwork, this wikiHow article provides a good overview. 

Are there easier alternatives?

Absolutely. If you haven’t got suitable brickwork to strip back to or you simply don’t want to be susceptible to some of the disadvantages associated with real exposed brickwork, there are still very appealing compromises which can be made, meaning that you can still get the look in your home.

You can create the style using wall brick slips, tiles or stone-faced cladding, which can often look very authentic. These are very popular alternatives as they come without the aforementioned problems that are created with solid bricks and you’d be surprised by how many interiors you’ve seen in the past that are actually created with these, rather than the real thing.

Additionally, brick effect wallpapers are now available and are becoming increasingly popular. They generally don’t emulate the style as well as brick slips, tiles or cladding, but at the higher end of the price bracket wallpapers can still help to create the look, to a degree.

Which interior design styles suit the exposed brick look?

A range of styles suit the look and it’s certainly not only limited to ‘industrial warehouse’ nowadays. In particular, rustic and farmhouse / rural styles are also ideal.

From an interior design perspective, you’ll need to ensure that aspects such as furniture and flooring are also successfully coordinated and so it’s important to think carefully about these choices.

Which types of home suit the look?

If you’re seeking the genuine exposed brick effect then of course your home will need to be slightly older. Whilst it’s difficult to date which homes would and wouldn’t be suitable, as a general rule of thumb houses built before the Second World War are most likely to be suitable. These older properties will often have plastered walls that reveal interesting brickwork, when stripped back.

The aforementioned brick slips, tiles or cladding can work well in more contemporary homes, as long as there is some sort of nod to traditional, industrial or rustic elements within the wider décor.

Should I apply the style to every wall?

There are no absolute hard and fast rules but, generally speaking, you probably won’t want to have the exposed effect on every wall. As well as running the risk of appearing a little too stark, by overplaying the look it can actually dampen some of the distinction that it was meant to bring to the room. Try to use the effect to create an accent wall or two - it’s most certainly a case of ‘less is more’.




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