My Childhood Home (And the Trouble with Our Current One)

July 14, 2016

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I spent the first 18 years of my life in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, growing up in a red brick home. And when we were  in Pittsburgh last month renovating a kitchen, we did a drive by of that home. It wasn’t the fanciest house and my parents were never concerned about home decor trends–I slept on the third floor in a wood-paneled room for at least a decade–but I really loved that house and I still do. Maybe, it was even my first love.


It’s always kind of nerve-wrecking to visit childhood homes, right? I’m worried it will be so changed and look so different than the loving memory I have locked in my head. But this house, minus a few hedges, looks just the same.

I told Chris I’d love to live in a red brick house again one day and every time we pass one, he points it out, “Do you love that house?” And I usually do. But I’m also pretty particular about the red brick color. For instance, pink or maroon brick is not the same as red brick, which, unfortunately, is what our house sports. Exhibit A:


Exhibit B:


The truth is, I’ve never cared for the color of the brick on our home. I believe the original door was chosen to match the brick, or maybe the brick was chosen to match the door, but either way–they were both maroon to start with. The good news is, it’s only on the bottom half of  the front of our home and lately, we’ve been talking about painting it.

I know this might be a polarizing topic, and there are brick purists reading this that cringe at the idea. We, ourselves, have gone back and forth on the idea for the past three years, and I can’t shake it. Would it make me love the outside of my house more? Would it make me feel more comfortable here? Would it hurt any potential resale? Help it? Would it look better?

I had my sister help me mock up what it could look like and it made me want to run out and get paint this weekend!


However, this photoshop rendering doesn’t take into account the bricks will no longer have the variance. If we did paint it, they will be one solid paint color that matches the siding. Chris talks about replacing all the siding and brick down the road but I don’t know how realistic that is.


Other things to note: The wall sconce and camp chairs are also on their way out. (Ha!)

Ps. Check out the before and afters of that Pittsburgh kitchen we renovated right here.

What do you think?

  1. Erica says:

    What about doing that german schmear thing that was on a episode of Fixer Upper?

    • Tara says:

      haha. GREAT idea! i just came across this old post and it turns out you DID the schmear in your new place!

  2. alice says:

    a lot of my house is sided in beige or almond how would this look if not close to the color>?

  3. I love the painted brick and there is a way you can paint them different shades – it will be more time consuming but worth it in the end! Check out my post on my blog for details on how I painted my faux brick wall in the basement.

  4. kim-in-the-cove says:

    DO IT!!! :)

  5. Loren says:

    Have you ever heard of white washing? I am sure you have but go on pinterest and look at others who have done it. I think you might be happier w/ white wash rather than paint.

  6. Kelly says:

    Stain it! I did this at our last house and it turned out great.

  7. katie says:

    So my house is a brick 1940s cape cod. It was painted white by a previous owner years ago… and now we have a chipped white paint brick house. The neighbors all find it “charming” but it kind of drives me crazy. The previous owners would also power wash the house every few years to help get some of the flaking paint off. We tested the paint when we moved in and it is lead paint, so I don’t really feel comfortable power washing it… you can see a few photos here:

    Sometimes I dream of having someone just come out and repaint the entire thing. I’d love a dark gray house with black accents. The brick seems to be lighter red / pink in color, but it’s really hard to tell bc it still has a whitewash to it. Our neighborhood is a mix of traditional brick and painted brick, so we could go either way.

    All that being said – if you do decide to paint, make sure you love the idea because maintenance on it will be much more difficult. I like the idea of the stain, that might be worth looking into as I imagine that penetrates the brick and would require much less maintenance.

  8. Devlin says:

    Hi, Julia – my background is historic preservation of architecture and many times we discourage painting brick due to the damage and high maintenance it can cause if done incorrectly. Another option might be to stain the brick. It is breathable, long-lasting (no peeling paint!), and you can still see some variation in the brick. Might be worth some research? Good luck!

  9. Gretchen says:

    Your childhood home looks gorgeous! What part of Pittsburgh are you from? I’m a born and raised yinzer so it’s fun to see one of my favorite bloggers is from the area as well! I agree with Sally..painted looks great.

  10. Sally says:

    I vote (your house is a democracy, right?) paint – 100%! It will make your home feel like YOUR home, it will make the outside match the inside, and you have the texture of the basketweave pattern to add interest. Doesn’t matter if you decide to stain, whitewash, shmear, or paint – you can certainly achieve a look that you’ll like more than what you have now. Do it!

  11. Jessica Dee says:

    I might be wrong, but it looks like most of the bricks are lighter but not very pink and then a few of them are very burgundy. This might be a terrible idea, but what if you ‘brick red’ washed just the burgundy bricks?

  12. Sarah says:

    So I’ve been contemplating this SAME thing since we bought our house.

    It also just has the brick on half the house, we did just reside it due to a bad storm so we got lucky and that was covered but now I’m stuck! I think I want to paint it the same color as the siding which is Scottish thistle.

  13. Alli says:

    Adding to the pro paint comments, I love everything you do inside and out but it gets me every time when I see a photo of your red brick. Paint it!

    Ps. I added some curtains with black Pom Pom trim to our office and they look awesome! Thanks for the idea!

  14. Monique says:

    Why not get a quote from a brick layer to replace it with red brick and even see if that is possible? You might be pleasantly surprised

  15. Sara says:

    I loved the German smear technique on Fixer Upper. HOWEVER I don’t think it would look right on your home. It’s meant to look older, sort of like weathered mortar which would look really strange with vinyl siding above it. They are completely conflicting styles. I say paint it whatever the heck color you want, your design intuition has (almost) never led you astray (won’t mention the purple wall ha!)

  16. teresa says:

    Maroon and pink brick is always the exception to the no painting brick rule! I used a lime, salt and water mixture to whitewash my maroon exterior steps and i love it! (I remember reading that the lime mixture is less permanent than paint? and has some natural insect repelling qualities) Wish i had pictures to share, I know it’ll be beautiful no matter what you do :)

  17. Lynn says:

    The German Smear technique from the episode of Fixer Upper seems exactly what you want :)

  18. Christy says:

    I say paint it! But I think going darker with the paint on the brick would be a dreamy contrast with the siding instead of it all being a similar color.

  19. We must be on the same wavelength today. I also posted about painting brick. We’re remodeling our wood-burning fireplace (a bit of context: we bought an abandoned 1930 bungalow, totally gutted the place), and I’ve finally decided what I want it to look like: WHITE! And I realize all of the cons of my decision and have asked myself the very questions you’ve posted here, but what it comes down to is that I simply can’t imagine living with a biggo red brick fireplace right in the middle of the open concept living space. I just can’t. And if that means it’ll hurt the re-sale value, so be it.

    I can’t wait to see what you decide! XO

  20. ErinY says:

    Have you thought about painting it black? It might give some contrast and be a nice nod as to what to expect inside the house.

  21. Carol says:

    Painted my orangy pink brick on my 1956 ranch about 5 years ago and have not once regretted it. My house looks so much more modern now and better matches the non-1956 (aka modern updated) inside. I think your house would look great with painted brick and it would also help the exterior better match your beautiful interior.

  22. Nichole K says:

    Stain! I wonder if a mostly opaque grey stain would work?! Or try for a real “brick red.” I just can’t get on board the German Smear train.

    I wonder if you could get a few similarly colored bricks somewhere (Lowes, Habitat store, salvage yard, etc.) to test out a few options….hmmm.

  23. Tracy says:

    I also vote paint/stain. I’d probably go a touch darker because with the light grey it just blends in to the house.

  24. Callie says:

    As others have mentioned, the German Smear is worth looking into. Our brick is ugly. My husband is a brick purist. So I photoshopped our house painted…and he loved it. (Like ready to get out there and tackle it, loved it!) I may have gone a little crazy and added a new porch swing, a third dormer and a new red brick walk too… But what is this? One of those “spot the differences” kid’s activities? No! See what you think!

  25. Meredith says:

    Have you even thought of staining the brick? There is a british company that has a line of brick stain specifically for this. You can mix your own custom brick colours so that there is variation, etc. It is entirely permanent and designed to weather in all 4 seasons. It’s been on my ‘must convince husband’ list for a while… we have a salmon-ey bricked house. sigh.

  26. Melissa says:

    While paint is always an option, it looks like brick stains and dyes are also available. While I am not against painting bricK,I do prefer to see natural variance, and a dye and stain would allow that.

  27. Lynn says:

    Definitely paint – white/gray washing it.

  28. Stephanie says:

    German Smear vote here!!!!!!

  29. Haley says:

    Definitely paint! I like the idea of white (or gray) washing it.

  30. Jenn says:

    I agree with the German Schmear comment! Saw it on Fixer Upper the other week and it adds SO much character. I also saw a house the other day with a lighter ‘top’ like yours and navy blue painted brick below that was SO adorable! Good luck :)

  31. Meagan Briggs says:

    We live in a neighborhood with majority classic red brick homes (it’s traditional in the south) and homeowner painted their brick home white (without HOA approval! The uproar!!) with black shutters. While I don’t mind the look, in this neighborhood it looks stupid. I like the idea of painting it the color of your house.

  32. Liz says:

    Would you consider painting it a few shades darker than your siding? I think that could offer up some nice visual interest instead of beige on beige.

  33. Kates says:

    I think my architect co-workers would say there is a stain out there that you could do without ruining the integrity of the brick. Because bricks need to breathe a little. However I want to paint mine and one of my co-workers (architect) has a painted brick house. Once you paint it you have to maintain it. So painting it over again in a few years. But I love the idea of one solid color but the “textures” are different! I am for painting!

    I haven’t considered the durability of the climate on the paint/brick? I see a lot of homes with painted brick on pinterest but I always wonder what sort of climate are they located in. So would a home that gets more snow/extreme weather need more maintenance? Maybe something to ask an expert!!!!

  34. shannon says:

    This is a tough one. I generally don’t like it when brick or wood is painted. But…your brick is pink and maroon so something must be done ;) My first approach would be the brick staining option to see if you can get it to be the red brick color that you like. Perhaps since it’s already kinda red-ish that will help the stain color take more deeply? Option 2 = whitewashing/limewashing, and I would leave paint as Option 3. I’m interested to see what you guys test out and of course what you do in the end!

  35. Becky says:

    We just had our house painted and we stained the brick. I love it! Staining is supposed to be less maintenance than paint–and guess what?–it’s cheaper! To paint the brick would be 2-3 coats and stain was one. You can get more translucent stains if you want more of the brick color variances to show or go opaque (we chose opaque) and it looks like paint, but more matte. There are brick staining products that can be expensive, but our painter uses H&C concrete stain and there are off the shelf colors, but it can be custom color matched. We had ours matched to the same paint on our house and the match is perfect. We were terrified to paint or even stain it as there are plenty of original owners (40 yrs) in our neighborhood and no one has painted the brick.After we did, so many people have told us they loved it and that they hate their own brick, but were afraid to paint it and now they regret trying to pick colors to complement the brick that they never liked anyway.

  36. Staci says:

    I also grew up in Pittsburgh, and now live on the west coast. I miss so many things about it, and all the brick houses is for sure one of them. My parents still live in the home I spent my high school years in. When we bought our current home last year, I fell in love with our house because it had brickwork on the bottom just like yours.
    I say paint it! It’s your home, and you’ve got to love it!

    • Gretchen says:

      Another Pittsburgh girl gone west, only I’m in the desert. I’m in the land of new construction stucco houses that all look the same, and I would kill for brick…and more green trees/grass.

      Julia, your house photo gave me flashbacks to riding the T to South Hills Village from Dormont with my grandmother when I was a kid…you know, when Woolworth’s had a snack bar. It’s SUCH a South Hills house!

      I say paint it, stain it, shmear it… we’re talking 80s brick, not fabulous red brick. If it will make you happy each time you pull up, do it!

  37. I can’t see the words German smear without hearing Chip saying it in a fake German accent! And I love the look! Like you said, with paint you lose the texture and variance of the brick, which personally is something I really like. Have you looked into staining or limewashing? The latter intrigues me because it’s eco-friendly and is a super old method. Both let the brick still feel like brick, plus the maintenance sounds like less work: you just reapply when you think it needs a refresh (sounds like every 5+ years) – no peeling paint to address first. Whatever direction you go (paint or something else), I’m sure it will look great!

  38. GwenJorg says:

    Paint it!!! … Then blog all about it so that we can learn how best to paint our ugly pink/maroon brick on our 1980s fixer! :)

  39. Em says:

    There are brick stains made just for this kind of thing. I’d look into a brick stain to mitigate the pinker ones.

  40. Beatiz says:

    Yes! I would totally white (or gray) wash it first. If it’s not what you’re looking for than paint it. Definitely!!

  41. M says:

    Maybe try to photoshop in a darker, more grounding colour? Your wise to take the time to test this investment first! I like both original and painted brick…. and I understand that feelings you hold for your first home!!

  42. Amy says:

    100% paint it. Paint it white or gray or whatever, but yes paint it.

  43. Laura C says:

    Paint it for sure.

  44. Liz says:

    I whitewashed my brick fireplace! It kept the variance and I LOVE IT! I got a lot of grief from some birck purists… AKA my mom! But now she loves it too!

    We just used watered down white paint and it took several coats. I am not sure about exterior brick though.

  45. Carol says:

    Driving past my childhood home always gives me a twinge of hurt. The new owners just don’t care – they park in the front yard, ignore the rotting shed, and have left a fallen tree for years. So sad for a home that is the backdrop of 14 years of my memories!

  46. Amanda says:

    We whitewashed our red brick fireplace surround, and we love it. It still has some variance in color, similar to your photoshop version.

  47. Nicole says:

    Have you thought about staining it? I remember an old episode of Sarah Richardson’s show where she stained the brick in an entire mid century split level. I personally love painted brick, but if you wanted to maintain the variance staining could be an option.

  48. Jenna says:

    Have you seen that episode of Fixer Upper where Chip applies some type of mortar (I think?) to the brick and then wipes it off in a selective fashion to give kind of an old-world look to it? Look it up… it’s so pretty! No one would miss that pinkish brick if you did that!

  49. Judi says:

    First of all, I love your childhood home. It looks exactly like the drawings of dream houses I used to do as a kid.

    Purists, shmurists. I’m a huge fan of painting original woodwork white and I’ve been castigated for that one! You mentioned that if you painted you’d lose the variance in the bricks. Have you seen this “German smear” ‘technique that’s trending? I saw it first on Fixer Upper and now it’s all over Pinterest. Maybe it would allow you to keep the variations in color but still blend your brick a bit more with the siding?

  50. Erin says:

    Paint it! Paint it! Paint it!

  51. Brooke says:

    I live in an old brick home (yellow brick!) and I can only imagine the uproar if someone on our neighborhood painted. But the style and type of brick on your house is different. I’d paint it in a heartbeat. As much as I like brick, I think painted brick can look awesome. I hope you go for it.

  52. Kelly says:

    Call The Pugmires! I’m sure they’ve never regretted painting theirs! ?

  53. Stacey says:

    You must paint it!!!

  54. Gabrielle says:

    I would be super surprised if you couldn’t stain it grey with some product out there. The variances in your grey mockup look pretty awesome, but if you can’t keep them then I think your right that painting the brick solid would look way better. Can’t wait to see how it all shakes out.

  55. Ben says:

    I’m all for leaving brick alone normally, but that doesn’t cover pink or maroon brick. You paint that. You paint it now and never look back.

  56. I know what you mean about brick purists, and I think it all depends on the house. I passed a historic (not designated historic) brick home painted blue, and I die a little inside each time I think about it. :D Paint on brick is forever, and even the most basic of old homes had character that cannot be duplicated today without a boatload of cash and a craftsman. So, I have more purist leanings for old homes. If our 1880s house had brick, I would go to my grave hating the color rather than change it. In more modern architecture (1950+), I see the homes as more of a canvas for the homeowner. Creating character is up to the occupant, and people never cease to amaze me with their creativity, you included.

  57. Rebecca says:

    Paint it and you won’t look back! I have a home from 1961 with a brick front only on the bottom half – horrible design sin. But its painted now and it looks fantastic, you don’t think twice about.

  58. Could you whitewash the brick, to keep the variance? I just whitewashed my orangey brown fireplace rock, and it looks awesome!

    • Carol says:

      Oooooh! Love this – I definitely think it’s worth a shot. Try whitewashing an area and if you don’t love it, move forward with paint?

    • Erika says:

      Oh, I agree! I think the variance is part of what makes that mockup so amazing! My vote would be for white/graywashing as well!

    • Julia says:

      That turned out awesome!

      • Thank you!! I was SO SCARED when I was doing it. I loosely followed YHL’s technique, and repeated to myself the part where Sherry swore it would soak in. At first it looked like I straight up painted it gray!! I was in a panic! But I got into a routine of blotting/smudging with a towel after every second stone, and it turned out so, so well. Now I’m just trying to decide if I want to put a sealer on it that will make it appear like the stones are wet…

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