When it comes to building materials, it doesn’t get any more basic than brick. Small (mostly), modular and generally cost effective, brick has been around for thousands of years and has been a building material of choice from ancient Sumeria to modern America. Available in a range of sizes, shapes, colors and textures, brick can provide high style or a common touch. It can dress walls, floors and ceilings. It can be left just as it came out of the kiln or finished onsite with paint or another treatment. It can be laid with wide or thin jointing, arranged in a variety of patterns and used to create three-dimensional effects.

There are far too many uses for brick to mention but here are a few of my favorites:

Celebrate the brick’s irregularity. Even simple, common brick takes on an elegance and richness when left exposed.  Color, texture, patina and craft combine to create a perfect complement for an interesting fireplace.


Use brick authentically. Celebrate the permanence and weight of brick by using it all around. Although it costs more, turning the corner with brick lends a sense of caring and quality that brick veneered only to the front can’t achieve. Consider arches, corner quoins and other details that celebrate the long and rich history of brick construction.


Use brick decoratively. Brick comes in any color and size imaginable. So vary the color, size, placement and location when laying a brick wall. Also consider changes to the mortar joints. By changing colors at different courses and by deeply raking the horizontal joints while filling the vertical joints flush, Frank Lloyd Wright achieved amazing visual effects.


Add a little detail. It doesn’t take much to go from boring, bland and severe to interesting and relaxed. It could be as simple as the addition of a horizontal shadow line every few courses.  You also could add detail with a pattern of diamonds across one part of the facade, using brick to create shadow and texture in an easy and inexpensive way.

Use brick to warm and cool a home. With its mass, brick is a natural heat sink. During the day, brick will absorb the sun’s radiation and retain it as heat. During the night, when temperatures are cooler, brick will give off this heat, keeping the interior cooler in summer and warmer in winter. This natural ability, combined with deep verandas, kept many old Southern homes quite comfortable throughout the year.

Many thanks to Houzz for great ideas!!

Ron and Martha Wolford are the leaders in luxury home construction in Louisville, Kentucky.