The Allure of an Exposed Design

Remodeling >

There weren’t very many older homes in the area of St. George, Utah, where Brooke Ulrich bought her house. “Everything about it was just plain,” she says. “We wanted to kind of create that older character look. I felt like brick was one of the best ways to do it.”

In order to give her home some personality, Ulrich joined a growing number of amateur and professional designers by exposing the internal elements of the house, such as bricks and beams – even though they hadn’t existed before.

“It’s a classical look,” says Steve Barron, owner of Barron Designs, which offers faux brick and faux wood beams, and is based in Deer Park, N.Y. “It’s not something that goes in and out of style.”

And while adding an interior brick wall sounds like a job only a mason could perform, there are a variety of ways to incorporate the trend, some of which are DIY. Ulrich, for example, quickly transformed her kitchen by nailing faux brick panels to the wall and then whitewashing them, which she chronicled on her blog, The project cost less than $100.

“It’s not coming down anytime soon,” she says, “which is a big deal around here, because we redecorate a lot!”

If you’re looking for another do-it-yourself option, it only takes one to two people to install faux wood beams, says Barron, who oversees The high-density polyurethane beams offered are popular choices for kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms.

“Most of what people want is that old-world rustic, lots of knots in our beams. To find the real version of that is really expensive. We’re running out of old farms,” he says.

Instead, beams are duplicated, which makes for an easier installation and lower cost. “It’s actually an exact replica, even the wormholes will get picked up,” he says. “If someone left a screw in there, you’ll see the screw head.”

For those that desire an even more realistic texture (but still without the mason), thin brick is another option. It’s real brick, only a fraction of the size, made by cutting the face off of a regular brick.

While this option has the potential to be more costly than faux brick panels, it has its advantages over real brick, which is heavy.

“If you got a residential house and you have interior walls that you want to put brick on as an accent piece, you’d have to beef up the floors and give up six inches of space on your floor plan,” says Gabe Powers, national director for thin brick at Thin Brick by Owensboro (Ky.).

Powers says the biggest trends right now are in reclaimed brick, and tans and browns. However, one of the biggest appeals of brick is that it’s classic, no matter the color.

“We want our product to look old the day you put it on the wall,” Powers says. “A loft look, a colonial look – that’s really the niche we built.”

While it’s possible to achieve these looks with some DIY skills, a professional installer can add a special touch.

Stephanie Dixon, owner of interior decorating company Dabble Co. in Huntersville, N.C., included a faux brick wall in a design for a client’s husband who described his preferences as “retro, cigar bar and loft-like.”

She used a painting technique in which every grout line was taped off, then layered up with a finishing material and glazed.

“Her husband went crazy over it,” Dixon says. “It was his favorite thing. It felt like it has always been there.”

Tags: exposed brick, exposed ceiling beams, trends