JUST ANOTHER BRICK: Using Brick as a Distinctive Design Feature

Brick Design Cove Since we focus primarily on commercial interiors, our goal is to balance constantly changing trends with timeless design solutions. The spaces we design often need to maintain their initial appeal over the course of several years. Brick can be a great option for a design accent that will stand the test of time. This distinctive, yet flexible element can take on a number of different looks to make an appealing statement without feeling too trendy. Although brick is manufactured, it still has an organic quality and timeless character, perhaps due to its longevity as a building material. Fired bricks are one of the longest-lasting and strongest building materials, and have been used since around 4000 BC. Less common air-dried bricks, also known as mudbricks, contain a binding material such as straw or sawdust, and have been around even longer.

Brick wall in the Kissel Hill Cafeteria
The brick wall in the cafeteria at Kissel Hill Elementary School in Lititz, Pennsylvania was the end of the building prior to an addition. Now it’s a distinctive interior focal point.

Particularly in older buildings, leaving brick walls exposed is a great way to bridge the old and the new. The brick blends well with many modern finish options while providing a sense of history and connection with the past.  The tumbled look and patina of the brick adds dimension to the space. The brick just needs to be sealed to protect the surface and reduce the risk of disintegration over time.

Charlestown Terrace Cafe Brick Wall
This brick wall in the Terrace Café at Charlestown Community in Catonsville, Maryland is evocative of nearby Camden Yards.

Brick can also be added to newer buildings, with an array of color and pattern (or bond) options to fit a wide range of design styles from elegant traditional to contemporary industrial.  Particularly when adding brick to an interior space, brick veneer, also known as thin brick, faux brick or half brick, is a common choice since it’s more economical and the brick is not being used as part of the structure.  Another option for interior spaces are “brick” tiles, porcelain fired tiles with the patterning and coloring of brick.  Similar to brick veneer, they dramatically reduces the thickness and weight of a brick wall and allow more freedom for unique patterns.

Brick Edenwald Brandermill
Brick tiles are used to create a focal point in the Edenwald cafe in Towson, Maryland (left). The brick arches in the Brandermill Woods clubhouse bistro in Midlothian, Virginia (right) complement the stone wall in the display kitchen.

Brick adds texture and interest to any space. Even though brick itself is manmade, it blends well with stone, wood and other natural elements. Its variability and innate imperfection provide unique character without feeling overdone.

Pine Street Atrium
The brick variations used in this entry lobby at Pine Street Elementary School in Palmyra, Pennsylvania create a strong visual statement through color and pattern.

Bricks are available in numerous materials, sizes and colors which can vary by region and the time period when they were made. For fired bricks, the color is influenced by the chemical and mineral content of the raw materials as well as the temperature. A high iron content results in more of a pink hue, while more lime leads to white or yellow bricks. As the temperature is increased, the color transitions from dark red to purple, and then to brown or gray at around 2,372 degrees Fahrenheit.   Tinting is sometimes used to blend new brickwork with existing masonry.

Charlestown Terrace Cafe
We painted the brick to create a distinctive sign at the entrance to the Terrace Café at Charlestown Community in Catonsville, Maryland.

Whether used in its original state or painted, brick is a great way to make a statement. Imagine if the café sign above had been painted on a plain wall.

Becki Owens Brick Examples
Photos from BeckiOwens.com. The white brick in the kitchen (left) adds interest while maintaining the simplicity of the space. Similarly, the white brick in the foyer (middle) pairs well with the overall minimalist design aesthetic. The painted brick wall (right) serves as an eye-catching backsplash.

Painting a brick wall white or gray maintains a neutral backdrop while still adding texture to the space. If your brick wall has a lot of color variation, it’s a good rule of thumb to take a more neutral approach with the rest of the finishes and furnishings in the space, perhaps through a mix of complementary light and dark tones that echo the variations in the brick. If you are looking for a distinctive material that will stand the test of time, look no further than brick.

Kristin Novak, IIDA, LEED Green Associate, has 5 years of experience focusing on commercial interior design.  Kristin loves the flexibility and timeless qualities of brick that allow it to work well with a wide range of design styles and applications.

Blog Editor:  Jodi Kreider, LEED AP