Let's get it out of the way early. I realize that there are many purists out there who will flat out tell you that you never, ever paint brick in the same vein that wood enthusiasts will implore you to restore wood, but never paint it. If I'm being completely honest, I myself have a hard time seeing the original state of any crafted surface irreparably changed. Even still, I want to explore another way of looking at things and maybe even convert the traditionalist in you by praising the virtues of painted brick.
It's true. I may just be the girl most likely to wield a paint brush, but there are plenty of good reasons to consider painting out that brick wall you've been giving dirty looks to for the past 5 years. First and foremost- I am always a supporter of changing anything in your home that you are having a hard time living with. If you're unhappy with your brick wall or fireplace and think you'd be happier painting it out a bright white or gray or blue or yellow- by all means, go for it. Just know that once you do, you can't go back (well, you might be able to, but trust me when I say you really don't want to go through that hassle).
Your gut is probably right in telling you that you can brighten up an otherwise dark and dated room by painting out the multi-colored brick walls in a bright white. One of my favorite aspects of a painted brick wall is the architectural interest you'll achieve or keep simply through texture variation. It may not have to be a different color than the rest of the room. You can still break up what might otherwise be a white box of a room simply through a tone on tone accent wall of brick.
Achieve a more striking, yet neutral backdrop by painting out the brick in a dark charcoal tone. Be prepared to fall in love with all of your warm hued and brightly colored furnishings all over again. The wall plays a pivotal role, but will probably take a back seat to anything you put in front of it.
We chose to paint out some accent brickwork around our back patio with a dark gray, much like the photo above. It was a bit of a game changer for us. We saved money by not having to replace brick that was not aesthetically pleasing and once painted, found that it neutralized an area that would have otherwise been an unwanted focal point.
The virtues of paint stand well enough on their own. But I think by retaining the brick, we are still using the texture variation to our advantage. Take the room below for example. There is clear evidence that this was likely once a more rustic space. But what understated grandeur came from painting out the herringbone floors and that beautiful accent archway just a shade darker than the adjacent walls. It's clean, updated and elegant and arguably more striking because the renovators retained the pattern in the floors and ruggedness of the brick.
I would argue that painting brick is in a way preserving the original craftsmanship - not disposing of it. Making use of the existing material is an eco-concious compromise. Why tear down a well built structure simply because a more modern look is desired? A freshly painted brick exterior can be just as synonymous with classic tradition as unaltered brick. But I also think there's something to be said for bringing a fresh perspective to an older building or outdated space through unified color.
Not all brickwork is created equal. You may love everything about that new house you just bought, except for the 1980's all-red brick everything kitchen that nearly broke the deal. Likewise, brick that has been repaired and patched over may have lost its once more polished look. If you find yourself considering an impulsive 10pm paint job, know that there is some prep-work and a few bigger considerations to vet out before you go at it.
I focused primarily on paint here, but a wash or stain might actually be a better alternative for your particular situation. Here are some helpful links to help you do your own research.
1/ via Rue Magazine 2/ via int2architecture 3/ Creative Flats via Airbnb 4/ Mercer Street Loft by Martin Raffone via Houzz 5/ House to Home via Happy Interiors Blog 6/ Studio Eginstill via Petitepassport.com 7/ Hays Town Makeover by Ty Larkins 8/Sara Blee 9/Designer Nancy Duffey via Romabio