Bricks and the “Ick!” Factor

blog.fireplace.1Are exposed bricks inside a home viewed as ick?  Is their showcasing as a building material considered passe in today’s contemporary home interiors?

The answer, it seems, depends on where you live.  The age and quality of the brick also matter.  There’s plentiful debate online about the virtues and drawbacks.

During the past few years, I have helped several clients across Cape Cod remodel their dated-looking brick fireplaces.  Often this entails covering the brick with a stone veneer or cladding tiles with a highly  textured surface resembling a rocky cliff.

In one renovation, the homeowner’s massive fireplace (shown here) consisted of exposed brick on all four sides and extending two floors up. Power (2) So I asked the contractor to cover most of the brick with sheet rock, and then had the fireplace surround tiled. blog.fireplace.1

More recently, I advised another client on Cape Cod to cover — using mosaic slate — a brick wall panel lining a wood stove in their living room. The goal was to provide a more contemporary coastal look.  Here’s the work in progress (sans grout), demonstrating an emerging but nevertheless  dramatic change in aesthetics.

blog.johnsonWS.blog.fireplace.1But in metro Boston, it’s a completely different story.  There’s a reverence for aged brick, particularly inside modern-day condos built within centuries-old warehouses and other venerable structures. The real estate listings boast of the original (and often chipped) brick walls, the exposed metal pipes spanning the ceiling, and the rough-hewn wood rafters as architectural highlights.  Perfect spawning ground for industrial chic furnishings.

I recently invested in one of those Boston condos.  As I pondered the expanse of brick lining the dining room and master bedroom walls, my realtor cautioned me against painting or otherwise covering the brick. That would likely decrease re-sale value, she cautioned.

I’m actually a secret brick lover. The soft patina of an aged brick can be beautiful.  In my Cape home, a brick floor on my front porch consists  of so-called “designer bricks” – those emblazoned with a company name or logo of the manufacturer.  It created an interesting pattern of juxtaposed names and identities.

While traveling, I once stashed a cast-off brick found in Lucca, Italy into my suitcase.  It had the name of that lovely town engraved on it, so I knew it belonged on my front porch floor.   The TSA at JFK Airport held up that checked suitcase for a full day, no doubt pondering why anyone would pack a brick in their luggage. It finally arrived…intact.

If you’re an interior design aficionado foraging for inspiration, you never know what you’ll find in your travels that are keepers.