[image above by julia rothman]
today is the first installment of dear d*s: a column where d*s editors and experts tackle design questions sent in by readers. this week i’m tackling two of my favorites and next week we’ll be hearing from an interior designer and an architect about space planning and much more. if you have a question you’d like answered just shoot us an email right here with the title “dear d*s”. if you’re asking a specific interior design question please include a picture of the space in question and your budget for any new projects.
question: dear d*s, could you please discuss painting a brick wall? under what conditions is this a good idea? when would it be an absolute no-no? what colors are up to the task? should it match other walls in the room? are there any tricks to the actual painting process? -alan and jennifer
answer: hi alan and jennifer! after we posted sabrina’s painted brick kitchen makeover we started receiving emails about the do’s and don’ts of painting brick. i consulted with some of my favorite local interior designers and their consensus on painting brick, and matching walls were pretty much the same- it’s a subjective decision. many of them sites real estate as a reason to paint- explaining that red and brown brick is often cited as an eyesore by those seeking to buy or rent homes. on thing they did agree on was that neutral colors are always a safe and classic option. what colors did they love most for brick? grey, white, cream and light coffee colors- all easy neutrals for a modern or traditional color scheme.
as for the how-to, i emailed one of my favorite local handymen to talk about the pitfalls and tricks of home brick painting. here are their steps, broken down:
1. start with a smooth, clean base: before painting, checking the condition of your brick is crucial. any cracks, holes or broken pieces of brick should be filled and treated before moving to the next step. when the brick is fully repaired, make sure it is cleaned thoroughly to remove any dust and debris.
2. keep it dry: brick is difficult to paint because of its porousness. so treating your brick with a water repellent is important. whether you use a water sealant (surface level) or water repellent (which penetrates up to 1/4″) this step will greatly improve the paint’s ability to stick to your brick wall.
3. priming: because of the porous nature of brick, you’ll always need to prime. you’ll want to use a water-based exterior primer. apply several thin coats of primer, allowing at least an hour (for quick-drying primers) in between coats.
4. paint: a lot of people have recommendations for mixing glue into paint, adding hot water and all sorts of other tricks, but the painter and interior designers i consulted all agreed- regular flat paint is always a safe bet for painting interior brick. the process is a long one because of how quickly brick absorbs paint, but if you work in sections and take your time, you’ll end up with a more professional finish.
*tip to consider: paint with a glossy finish will accentuate any irregularities and unevenness in brick, so if you want your wall to disappear into the room, you will want to stick with a flat paint. if you want to show off the brick texture, look for a glossy finish- it will also be easier to clean (which you can do with mild soap and water) and will highlight the finish of the brick.
CLICK HERE for the next question & answer (color flow between rooms) after the jump!
question: dear d*s, i have a small house and i love color on the walls, but i do not want all my rooms the same color. how do you tie different rooms together when the color on the wall changes? -jane
answer: hi jane! this one is a toughy. if you talk to one designer they’ll tell you to go one way, and another designer will tell you another. the interior designers i talked to split straight down the middle so i figured i’d share their advice, along my thoughts on the topic.
1. keep it tonal: many of the designers i spoke with suggested keeping things in the same tone, working from dark to light as you move toward the interior of your home (because interiors usually receive less light). if you want to keep things simple, consider a color you love, or that you and the other people living in your home enjoy, and work with different shades of the color throughout your home. which are the best colors to try for this? if you’re looking to keep things neutral, shades of green, blue and tan work well in a wide range of home styles.
2. carry colors through: the other portion of designers i spoke with felt that if you didn’t want to stick to one color, to consider carrying the color from one room into the next room in an unexpected way- on a ceiling, on the bottom half of a chair rail, on the floor- or even on moldings. you’ll want to make sure this accent color works with the second room’s main color, but accent colors from one room will help you visually travel from one space to another.
3. visual cues: expanding on what the second group of designers said, personally, i focus on trying to make sure there is something in each room that visually ties into the next. that doesn’t need to be a large area of paint though. for example, my living room is grey and my kitchen is electric red/orange. those rooms aren’t terribly at odds, but they’re definitely a big jump in color. so we chose to use wallpaper with orange detailing on a small accent wall that you see when looking from the living room. when you look into the kitchen your eyes notice the tiny bits of orange in the wallpaper and connect visually to the orange walls in the kitchen. the overall effect is a bit of a flow, but in a less obvious way. the same thing can be achieved with colorful lighting, accent pillows, rugs and event artwork on the wall.
*tips on what to avoid: one things that designers mentioned again and again was to avoid playing with colors that clashed in terms of warmth. two different cool colors often work better together than a warm and cool color. if you choose to not focus on “flowing” between rooms (sometimes rules are made to be broken!) keep in mind that loud colors, or colors that clash in terms of warmth may be somewhat distracting to visitors and residents of your home.