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shari13_gw

Why is red brick "awful"??? Does awful mean outdated?

shari13
6 years ago
last modified: 6 years ago

I keep seeing posts which say things like "that awful red brick" Is it old-fashioned? Are red bricks known to grow teeth and bite the humans who use them? :)

I am truly curious because if there is a well-known book of "decorating sins" I would like to see it! I am considering my own decisions with appealing to a greater number of people as I might decide to sell, so in that respect I think its good to understand a majority feeling but that, to me, is not the same thing exactly!

PS. For anyone who loves their bricks, red or otherwise, no offense meant. I have just seen it at least twice today alone.

Comments (45)

  • nini804
    6 years ago

    I live in the South, brick country! Red brick is *not* awful! There are some gorgeous red bricks out there, plus some amazing mortar treatments to make them look even more special. The key is to make your brick choice match the architectural design of your house, and the setting. If you are building on acreage in a rustic setting, I might choose a brick with browner tones. A Georgian home in a city or suburban neighborhood? Red brick would be great! What I don't like are those solid colored orangey-red bricks used a lot in the 50's, 60's. Those homes usually look awesome once the brick is painted. They show those transformations often in Southern Living.

  • thankurnmo
    6 years ago

    This is news to me. I live in a red brick (front) home which I think is beautiful and many homes in my neighborhood are also red brick. I wonder if they were referring more to interior as in fireplace color? Our fire place brick is the same color brick as the exterior and I think I have noticed several folks on these forums not feeling the love for the fireplace brick colors and painting them . For me it's like a wood floor. Basic, classic, not to be tampered with.

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  • Annie Deighnaugh
    6 years ago

    Like anything else in design, it depends. Some red brick can be classic and timeless. Some red brick can look dark and dated.

    Designing for resale is hard, esp if you won't be selling soon, as what once looked fab can soon look dated. And it's hard to say what the next "best selling" trend will be whenever it is you decide to sell. I remember the paneling of the 70s that was everywhere, the "open concept" bathrooms of the 80s, the wood fireplaces in the master bedrooms in the 90s and the mcmansions of the 00s. What people are looking for these days is much different.

    shari13 thanked Annie Deighnaugh
  • RoseAbbey
    6 years ago

    I love brick of any color, what I do hate is the vinyl siding that is so popular these days. You often see what looks like a nice looking house with brick but it is only on the front and then vinyl siding sides and back. For me it totally cheapens the look of the house.

  • arcy_gw
    6 years ago

    Back in the day brick was considered upscale from builder's siding. The biggest upside was supposed to be the lack of maintenance. Fast forward to this century and all the rules went out with all the discretionary spending money people have. It became common and required to "update" and people jumped to remove "permanent" features in homes. When people begin painting brick either inside or out I cringe--you just added permanent maintenance issues to a maintenance free area. It is unfortunate we can't celebrate these permanent features no matter how "dated" they are judged to be. I totally agree it is your house so do what you want...but reality is it won't ALWAYS be your home and when you get sick of it and move on someone else will have to repaint the brick!!!

  • Delilah66
    6 years ago

    Beautiful red brick with an awful mortar job (as seen in many fireplaces) is awful.

  • tibbrix
    6 years ago

    I've not heard that it's "awful". Awful things can be done to what is a timeless, classic, and beautiful look. I'm a believer that natural materials - wood, stone, brick - never go out of style and hold their own forever. Exceptions are when people take the authenticity out of them.

    I just did my kitchen backsplash using thin brick. It's gorgeous, although I wish I'd made smaller joints. But it's timeless and beautiful and it looks like it was there all along, part of the original building, which is how I think brick should look. A friend is building a house and had thin brick used on the exterior of the foundation (versus cement). It is gorgeous, and they are considering using thin brick in the kitchen as the backsplash and up to the ceiling where they have antique wood beams. New house, but it will look like that section was a tavern, or something, back in the early 20th Century, and it would tie in with the exterior brick which is on the foundation, since it would be on the inside of the same wall.


  • deegw
    6 years ago

    Here is a link to Google images of red brick. To me, a few are awful but most look pretty good. To say all of one thing or another is dated or awful or tacky is foolish. How is one to know all the examples and context?

    Red brick

  • amck2
    6 years ago

    I think it boils down to context and craftsmanship.

    DH worked as a mason's tender during college in the '70's. His employer was a gifted craftsman but was sometimes asked to do work that just didn't suit a house. The flip side is a home, like many here in coastal New England, where someone has DIY'd using red brick where the brick suits but the work is shoddy.


  • MagdalenaLee
    6 years ago

    I live in Central Texas where local limestone & sandstone is the most popular masonry. After that is stucco. It would seem that, because of the other choices, brick (especially red) seems dated/out of fashion in my area. Also, red brick homes take longer than average to sell, so even if I loved red brick I would think twice just for resell purposes. So regional considerations are very important.

    shari13 thanked MagdalenaLee
  • practigal
    6 years ago

    Brick is regional. There is very little brick in the interiors in California because it acts like glass and breaks and falls down in earthquakes. It is relatively common outside on the pathways and for flower bed edging. The new trend to replace what would normally be brick with real wood. I think a lot of people are not really clear on what it takes to maintain real wood or they wouldn't do it.

    shari13 thanked practigal
  • IdaClaire
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    In the link of images shared above, I think the uniformity (exactly the same color of red) looks rather dated - or perhaps I just don't care for it and that's how it reads to me. Red brick with variegated shades has a much more organic look, and is thus more pleasing to my eye. I've never heard red brick dismissed on the whole as being "awful", though. Are you seeing the posts that you reference in this forum?

    There's a certain pinkish/salmon-colored brick that was widely used in my area in the 90s. I'm confident I can guess the age of a house done in that brick within a year or two. Brick is regional, though, and what may have been overdone in my area might look wonderfully fresh in another area.

  • sas95
    6 years ago

    In the Northeast, a brick house is considered desirable-- if it's nice brick and a nice house, of course. Stucco is not a top choice, but is common on some of the older, less expensive homes.

    The siding looks the worst to me, especially when it is paired with plenty of faux stone or veneer. There was one such house in our neighborhood-- it was a large and expensive new build. When it was sold, the first thing the owners did was strip the siding and stone and replace it with red brick at what had to be a very great cost. So go figure.

    Our house is a 50's house that is all yellow brick. I know it isn't in style in our area, nor is it probably considered a "dated" look, as we are the only house I have seen around with this sort of brick. As others have said, so much is regional, and if you're building new it's important to consider the style of the house and the setting.

  • always1stepbehind
    6 years ago

    I love old red brick. But there is some red brick that is UGLY. Also depend on where and how it's used IMO.

  • aprilneverends
    6 years ago

    Definitely regional and context-depending. What might look strange in the Southwest, might look wonderful in the Northeast.

    There is a reason for use of different materials and colors everywhere. The famous "timeless" is different everywhere too..)))

    To me red brick is quite beautiful. Even though stucco is my favorite..Limestone, too. I'm easy to please..))

    I like siding less though. I didn't grow up with it, and never fell in love with it later.


  • palimpsest
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    But there is some red brick that is UGLY.

    There are plenty of building materials that are ugly or inappropriate to their setting, or how they they are used, or how well done it they are. It's not limited to brick or red brick just because it is the most common and oldest in many areas.

    Plug in something else. "Why are 70 year old women awful? Is it because they look old/dated?"

    Yes, because some 70 year old women are ugly and old looking, it follows that "70 year old woman" means ugly or awful automatically

    This type of rationale does doesn't make any sense and it's applied to design all the time.

  • blfenton
    6 years ago

    I like red brick if it is an "intention" for the house. I don't know if that makes sense or not. For ex - our house is a post-and-beam cedar construction and there was one small wall of red brick. I have not idea why it was done but it was just eye clutter so we had it boarded over.

    My MIL lived in a bungalow that was of brick construction and it was a nice looking house. She sold it 18 months ago and it was torn down last week. A fake/mock something or other monstrosity will be built in it's place.

  • suero
    6 years ago

    I've heard redbrick used pejoratively, but that was in the context of British universities, meaning not Oxford or Cambridge.

    As for Virginia, red brick is highly desirable, very colonial. Just look at Williamsburg and Charlottesville.

  • shari13
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    palimpsest - Very interesting post! I think perhaps since I am currently falling into the "no particular taste"!
    Good points about it being "regional" as well. I grew up where brick was the "nicer" choice but where I live now in the southwest its stucco, stucco, stucco! - which is what I was actually looking for when I ran across the brick posts. IdaClaire - not this specific forum, but on HOUZZ design forum.

  • gsciencechick
    6 years ago

    Red brick owner here! We have cream-colored trim, black front door and faux shutters, and a cocoa brown deck in the back.

    We have a lot of flippers who are coming into the neighborhood and immediately painting the brick exteriors. I just don't like painted brick, although I don't really mind a whitewashed colonial brick house if it's done well. I agree, it's making maintenance where there isn't need for much, and why buy brick and paint it when there are so many other non- brick homes available? I really don't get buying something you don't really like.

    The homes in our neighborhood have a variety of colors of brick. I actually like the red the best.

  • monicakm_gw
    6 years ago

    I live in the south where brick rules (and brick/stone combo). I've seen many gorgeous red brick homes. My parent's home is one of them...black shutters and white porches and trim and dark gray roof. Don't recall the mortar color. It's a Southern Living home. Anything can look awful if it's not done right (and if it's not your taste). I did a Google image search and this was one of the first images. I thought it was my parent's home upon first glance :o Theirs is kinda similar without the turret looking feature.

  • powermuffin
    6 years ago

    Pal, as usual you are soooo right. I grew up in So. Cal. and didn't see much brick of any color. I've been in my beloved Colorado for a long time and love brick, especially red brick. Of course the style/design of the exterior can be awful even with brick.

    To me, brick houses seem more substantial and permanent. Denver has some amazing neighborhoods of brick homes. Alas, my 1908 house is all clapboard, not a brick in site. But it is the original wood!

  • nosoccermom
    6 years ago

    Spam-colored brick is awful.

  • nini804
    6 years ago

    For some pics of beautiful brick homes, both painted & red brick, check out this post on one of my favorite blogs. http://www.thingsthatinspire.net/2010/03/painted-brick-houses.html

  • tinam61
    6 years ago

    I'm not sure where you're hearing red brick is awful. Dark red brick is not my favorite (nor is dark brown for that matter) and I think it looks more "formal" and around here is seen on a certain type of house. I'm also in the south and brick is big here. I love what I call antique red brick. Looks like old, faded red brick. The brick on our house is light and mixed. Shades of grey, light red, taupe. In general I prefer lighter shades of brick. Siding is pretty big here too, not just vinyl but vinyl is popular. I would be careful of saying it looks cheap, or that just the front bricked looks cheap. It is popular in areas and I'm sure there are people on this board that have siding and/or brick on the front only. I think someone mentioned that on this thread. In our area while there are many brick homes, there are also lots of farmhouse style homes. These of course are siding, some with brick chimney, foundations, etc. but not all. Lately I've seen a few new builds that are a type of board and batten. Very nice one going up near us with stone trim and a nice barn going up. We are in a farm area. I do agree the materials are regional and also think some are more of a trend. You don't see much stucco around here and definitely not limestone.

  • Tmnca
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Red brick can look classic and beautiful or it can look institutional. I think the quality of the brick itself, and the quality of the design and craftsmanship make a difference. To me, some types of brickwork evoke depressing images of housing projects in London, 70s elementary schools, sanatoriums and other dismal associations. On the other hand well-laid quality brick suitable to the home design looks classic, warm and timelessly beautiful.

    I think of the word "dated" as bad thing when a home or its decoration style looks like it is "trying" to be something self consciously - and usually that something was a trend which has come and gone. Beautiful and historic on the other hand is a home or decorating style that looks like it was in tune with its era and neighborhood, and just has good aesthetics. There are some eras IMO when homes were built and decorated in which the trends just did not suit my tastes, and therefore I will never want to live in a dated 70's home for example because I just do not like the exterior or interior aesthetic.

    Here are some examples and my unskilled-design eye's view:


    AWFUL. I'm not sure if I need to describe why, but I guess the fact that it looks like someone literally bricked over an existing home with some random leftover brick is the main problem.


    Abandoned housing project in Manchester. Evokes a feeling of hopeless poverty and coal-soot stained walls and children. At some point an attempt to brighten it up with paint failed.


    AWFUL, IMO. I guess some people might like this but to me it looks barren, unwelcoming, unfinished and in all ways just yuck.


    The association with depressing and institutional starkness comes from buildings like this.


    Blah... I find this facade unwelcoming and reflective of the photo above, but with some colonial details it could be much improved.



    Classic beautiful home, it's what the photo above wants to be... the lintels, columned porch, roofline and facade relief details all make this house look like it was built as it was meant to be.


    Another classic brick beauty


    A historic Dutch home/duplex with the right side sporting a special roofline that has some significance, I can't recall but I remember having it explained when I visited. The details and craftsmanship make this appealing to me.


    Another historical beauty. Even though the facade itself is simple and square, there are skilled details of brickwork and the light mortar and shutter details prevent it from looking stark.



  • User
    6 years ago

    I think red brick is timeless and I dislike the HGTV shows where they paint the brick on the outside of the house. We have many brick houses in my town as well as brick streets (both pure brick streets and those under the asphalt) because we had 2 brick factories in our town in the late 1800s. Those street bricks are coveted because they are imprinted with the name of our town. Besides our brick house, we have brick lining our cemented sidewalks and drives and the paths in our back garden. I like brick and I especially like "old" brick!

  • lana_roma
    6 years ago

    In my home country brick is a standard construction material, just like concrete or wood logs. No frame construction with plywood or OSB boards. It's considered too flimsy and suitable chiefly for backyard sheds or summer vacation cabins.

    However, there are different grades of brick. There's rough construction brick that makes the bulk of a brick wall, and there's finishing brick that goes on the outside of the wall. Industrial buildings like machine shops, warehouses or garages are often built with low grade construction brick. No one would consider them pretty and they are usually restricted to industrial districts or back alleys.

    On the other hand, residential and administrative buildings are almost always built with finishing brick or stucco/plaster over the construction brick.

    Typical thickness of brick walls in single family homes or apartment blocks is 1-3 ft. The minimal thickness required by code is 1 ft (for a single family house, 1 story plus attic). In multistory apartment blocks the brick walls are much more substantial.

    What I find off-putting about brick veneering here in the U.S. is that they often put it on the front facade only and don't bother about the side and back walls. The dissonance between the nice front and primitive warehouse-like back with windows like random holes is so jarring.

    shari13 thanked lana_roma
  • RoseAbbey
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    " I would be careful of saying it looks cheap, or that just the front bricked looks cheap. It is popular in areas and I'm sure there are people on this board that have siding and/or brickon the front only. I think someone mentioned that on this thread. "

    Tina, why do I have to be careful, that is my personal opinion, and I should be able to state that. I am not personally attacking anyone, just expressing an opinion.

  • kathyhibbert
    6 years ago

    Fads, fads, fads. Bidets, all white kitchens, no laminate counter tops, ceiling fans are ugly,etc. etc. I recently read that after years of brass-hate, fixtures and accents are making a comeback!! That makes our home an embarrassment of riches! :->

  • PRO
    Sombreuil
    6 years ago

    I did the trim on a new house (long, long ago) where the owner chose a very dark red brick, and compounded the error with black mortar. This was one of those cheaper "colonials" where the ends and back are vinyl siding. The color looked like raw liver.

    Casey

  • palimpsest
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    One of my favorite houses growing up was a rather ordinary rancher but it was done in blushing grey brick with weeping mortar joints. I didn't realize until much later that the identical house had been built across the street in conventional red brick and lacking some other details. I had always considered that one not so much ugly as banal. I think sometimes its not the red brick itself so much as it is yet another element of the entire house lacking imagination.

  • Tmnca
    6 years ago

    Lily'smom, to be fair, I believe I have only seen people here refer to brick in or on their OWN house as "awful". But as a home decorating forum, it's interesting to discuss aethetics and yes that is a subjective issue.

  • kittymoonbeam
    6 years ago

    If people want to take down their brick, I will happily accept it for my garden. I am slowly building all my garden paths and bed edgings from recycled brick and it looks beautiful. If I want to change the paths, the bricks can be repositioned. Not many people have brick inside because of earthquakes. I prefer the real used brick not the paint splashed pretending to be used brick. If the bricks are a little worn, that's even better.

  • lana_roma
    6 years ago

    I don't have anything against brick or stone veneer per se. It can enhance the looks of a house a lot.

    But I also believe a house should be styled as a consistent whole. The back of a house should harmonize with the front facade. If one doesn't have the means to finish all the sides with brick veneer or fancy stone or whatever else, then the best course is to apply a less expensive finish throughout or use more expensive materials sparingly as accents. The key points are harmony and consistency.

  • maggiepatty
    6 years ago

    I live in an neighborhood full of brick: solid color, variegated, red, tan, gray, white, cream colored, we've got it all as houses were built here from the 1940's through 1970's. Several years ago I noticed an uptick in how many were being painted--red brick houses became white, green, gold, even powder blue. In many cases, the houses did look more charming, if only because they stood out more from the pack. When you have twenty houses of the same brick in a row, the eye craves some variety, I suppose.

    And often, the same people who care enough about how their house looks to go to the trouble and expense (and anticipated ongoing maintenance) of painting bricks are also the folks who put a fresh color on the front door, remove tired old awnings, make creative choices in shutters and landscaping, etc. So yes, the house ends up looking much fresher, but it isn't only because the bricks are painted.

    And, as Pal and others have pointed out, paint colors and painting bricks are trends, and trends swing back and forth. Today it seems "classic", but one day when painted brick is "dated", someone is going to make a lot of money blasting it off my neighborhood.




  • palimpsest
    6 years ago

    I am going to get on my design high horse and probably offend some people who personalize discussions about design theory, because I am good at annoying people in this way.

    First, I think almost anybody who buys a post war house in almost any part of the country that was not built as a completely custom house is probably going to end up with a lot of choices in houses that include a patch of brick or stone on the front facade and plain siding or plainer brick on the rest.

    Almost anybody who builds a new house in a development or subdivision or home owner's association is not only going to face the same, thing, but in addition are not going to be allowed to leave the stone or brick accent off even if they want to. The element that was originally used as a budget cutting device is now "important" to the design and consistency of the entire development. The consistency of materials of the individual house is no longer important, but the inconsistency of materials and how they are used must be consistent throughout the neighborhood.

    The building a house forum is full of questions about how to tack the stone or brick onto the front of their houses even if they don't want it because the guidelines say the house must be 10% stone and 30% brick on the facade.

    Second, I don't think there is anything the matter with vinyl siding. I don't think there is anything the matter with any particular building material. Frank Lloyd Wright built beautiful houses out of concrete block. There's nothing the matter with building a plain rectangular house with plain modest materials that go all away around the house and calling it done. But as a culture we have been convinced that this is cheap looking somehow. But if its three sides of a rectangle with a convoluted elevation on the front including three or four different building materials, it's
    "pretty".

    Third, if you are building a custom or semi custom house, why not build something that you can afford to finish the same on all four sides? We are also in a culture where people are pressured into feeling it's necessary to take everything to a level that we can just barely afford it. And who is that impressing? Some random stranger may be impressed by your house driving by, but what about the people who get inside, and see that there's barely any furniture, and many of the rooms are cheaply detailed drywall boxes. I understand if you live in a HCOLA that it is easy to be house poor, but whats the point of a 4000 square foot house when you are entertaining people on card tables. Sheer volume isn't everything.

    Should you apologize to friends because the back of your house is vinyl? I dunno, but think about where you are putting friends and family. There is this fancy facade out front that no one ever spends any time in front of. They are escorted to the back yard. There are $1M townhouses here that have stone and brick facades with genuine copper bays and details on the front. The end unit has plain stucco on the side that faces a side streets. The backs are vinyl siding (you can easily see all three materials together.)

    So some stranger sees the fancy front of the house where the real friends are taken out back where they sit on crudely built pressure treated decks next to vinyl siding with all sorts of PVC pipes and vents and such sticking out all over with no concerns about esthetics, or quality, and it's all right at eye level. As a culture, maybe we should apologize.

  • Ellie RK
    6 years ago

    I'm also from the north east and there's nothing dated about brick homes here.

    But, I dislike brick immensely when used on the inside for fireplaces, or when they try to make it a feature as in "exposed brick walls."

    We had a brick wall in an apartment here and I hated it. It was very dusty, and I'm guessing there were cracks in it because it was very cold in the winter, and warm in the summer. Ugh, never again.

    shari13 thanked Ellie RK
  • robo (z6a)
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I like your rant pal...even though I do have an ugly beige box of a house with a crudely built pressure treat deck! One thing I regret now being in my house for five years is not putting aside a bigger budget for deck/backyard stuff. I was just so thrilled to have a backyard that I kind of ignored the previous owner's horrible deck situation.

    I had a bedroom with exposed brick wall in Montreal and I loved it so much. I'd do that again in a heartbeat. But it was between two apartments so didn't have cold/warm issues.

    I live in a very working class neighbourhood and vinyl is the siding treatment of choice (what everyone upgraded to after their tiny postwar homes' aluminum or asbestos shingle siding got tatty). We also live in a harsh climate that is fairly unsuitable for stucco and even hard on wood siding. I totally get it. I don't love it but I get it. Brick homes are rare around here except in newer subdivisions but I do love the look.

  • palimpsest
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    iI wasn't meaning to rant, really, just to question what has gone off course in our culture when it comes to design, and why and how people have been influenced to like what they like. There have been books written about this for decades including architectural historians who put forth that we haven't had an innate sense of proportion since sometime in the middle of the 19th century. I don't think it is quite that bad, but I do think we are in a period that is not going to be looked back at with great admiration from an architectural or interior design standpoint when it comes to commonplace houses.

    Many of the simplest and most ordinary houses in the past had a certain amount of charm. The standard "minimal traditional" house built in the middle of the 20th century may not quite meet current standards when it comes to layout and bath sizes, but very few of the designs are actual ugly. Plain, dull, ordinary maybe, but when well kept and with a little landscaping out front, perfectly pleasant. A lot of the standard builder stuff being built now, just--isn't. And I don't think nostalgia will increase the charm.

    Robo, as for the beige box. I live in a tan stucco box. To some extent I live in an ugly tan stucco box. The only reason I even looked at this house was because there was an open house when I walked by on the way to another open house. And I went home and said "I think you need to see this house and I think I want to make an offer on it". Why? Because the architect understood what the inside was about, and about getting lots of light inside without putting in windows that people could see right in and you would have to cover up anyway.

    Everybody who has anything to do with building or renovating or the trades like that walks in this house and after seeing the inside comments on what a great or neat house it is. And right now it's a wreck condition wise. But since they see an awful lot of different houses I think they understand the rationale behind this house and the livability of it. And livability is not always an easy proposition in 14' -19' wide lots with no possibility of windows on two sides.

  • patriceny
    6 years ago

    I'm so glad you are back Pal. I enjoy reading what you post and I love learning things along the way. I work in higher ed so you speak/teach in a way I'm familiar with.

  • eandhl2
    6 years ago

    I love old, used brick. Some with paint, some with dates etc..

  • designsaavy
    6 years ago

    The brick colors in this photo of our fireplace (red, orange and gray) when we had the floor installed isn't exactly accurate, but fairly close.

    It's not my favorite, but I've embraced it and I'm considering a very sheer whitewash to soften the look . My only fear is it will turn out pink! And painting the mantel as well. (The stair railing is another story....double yuck).

    I can see fully painting it if you completely hate it.

  • violetlilly
    last year

    I know that this is going to sound really weird but red bricks scare me and give me the feeling that something bad is going to happen soon. I purposefully avoid red bricks and my fear of them is so intense that I will even avoid anything that looks like red brick. I don't think red bricks are awful or outdated in fact I find them quite beautiful. My fear of them has to do with something I don't even remember