Real Estate

I Love Exposed Brick So Darn Much, and I Want to Shout It from the Rooftops

published Feb 13, 2020
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When you look at a wall, does your mind immediately wonder what’s behind it—as in please let it be brick!? Same. Even though ripping out plaster to expose those red-block wonders has its downfalls, I’ll still do it every time.

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While renovating my 1887 Victorian in Louisville, Kentucky, I’ve exposed a brick wall in the kitchen, every wall in the adjoining pantry, two small walls in the third-floor guest suite, and nearly all the walls in the carriage house. That’s a lot of brick. And I LOVE it. 

This look is nothing new, of course. We can thank our creative predecessors in the 1970s for the original exposed brick mania, according to The Independent. When people without much cash but lots of creativity moved into former warehouses and industrial areas of big cities, they found character in features like exposed brick walls, high ceilings, and loads of natural light that they couldn’t have afforded otherwise. 

Now, a few decades later, exposed brick and other industrial elements have become such a sought-after amenity that buyers will pay a premium of up to 20 percent more for a home with a warehouse feel.

Our collective enthusiasm for exposed brick walls also reflects “a return to an appreciation for craftsmanship,” explains Laura McGarity, an assistant professor of interior design at the University of Louisville. With our growing appreciation for eclectic interiors, she says, exposed brick “provides a perfect contrast to the smooth and reflective metal surfaces” that are so popular now. On top of that? Brick just “feels comforting and familiar,” McGarity says.

That doesn’t mean everyone’s a fan. A crotchety article in Traditional Building declares bare brick a mistake that won’t die, and urges us to keep our bricks plastered. “The craze seemed to have subsided,” reads the story. “But just as the full moon causes Dracula to rise once again from his coffin, so The Bare Brick Mistake has returned to cast its spell over a new generation of renovators.”

Well, I am full-on in the clutches of bare brick love, and I certainly don’t think it’s a mistake. Our homes are our refuge, our place to surround ourselves with whatever makes us happy. And the warmth and character of exposed brick makes me happy. There’s just something magical about the late afternoon sunlight dappling a wall of weathered brick. It’s something that can’t be replicated with any other wall covering. 

The way we live changes. The way we use our homes changes. The way we want our home to reflect our needs changes. Right now, in an age of fast fashion and disposable furniture and decor, I, for one, want uniqueness. Sure, exposed brick is trendy, but no other home on the planet has the exact same bricks as ours does. I want warmth and texture and variation. I want the stories held in the bones of the house to be told. 

I see every day how much people love exposed brick. We launched our carriage house as our second Airbnb last summer, in addition to the third-floor guest suite. While the third floor has a couple of interesting architectural features, like a nook with exposed rafters and a bit of brick, the lime-washed brick interior of the carriage house has far and away drawn more travelers. Even though it has a cramped bathroom, less space, and fewer amenities than our other listing, the allure of those brick walls makes the carriage house consistently book up faster. The same goes for pint-sized apartments in New York City. Plenty of people will pay a little extra in rent or forgo luxuries like a dishwasher simply because their apartment has the Holy Grail: exposed bricks.

So yeah, I’m not alone in my unending love for exposed bricks. But that doesn’t make them any less special to me. And you know what? Today seems like a good day to start a new project: exposing more brick walls upstairs.