Five creative ways brick could shape your next masterpiece

Five creative ways brick could shape your next masterpiece

It is the peak of home renovation season, with summer weather providing ample opportunity for homeowners to leave their mark on properties. The best dream homes balance aesthetic quality with longevity and investment return, making brick a top choice for owners and their contractors as a construction material. But these benefits will be even more pronounced in 2024, and there are a number of key reasons why.

“The challenge for homeowners is renovating in a way that satisfies their design tastes, while controlling front-end costs and maximizing resale value,” said Denise Smith, marketing manager for Glen-Gery, one of North America’s largest brick manufacturers and a Brickworks North America company. “Brick is one of the few materials that checks both the emotional and practical boxes in an upgrade checklist. It’s beautiful and sensible all in one.”

With brick, the utilitarian is never boring. These five possibilities, with high-quality Glen-Gery bricks in each example project, richly illuminate why.

Using brick as a focal point

Industrial designer Dieter Rams is quoted as having said that good design is “as little design as possible.” It logically follows that the architectural focal point in any room should draw attention, but not monopolize it, or make too many demands of the viewer. 

In many contemporary homes, the fireplace serves as the focal point in a living room or lounge. Instead of being surrounded by plaster, as is often the case, John Ronan Architecture’s Chicago House realizes the whole fireplace with Glen-Gery’s Flint Hills Roman Maximus Brick, enclosing it within a larger design of geometric oak panels and storage units. The brick fireplace speaks with confidence, but is also graceful, soothing and visually contiguous with the oak. 

The conversation between the Roman Maximus Brick and white oak is not unlike the one between the house itself and its historic neighborhood. Brick homes predominate here, providing wind protection and weather resistance amid harsh Midwestern winters. The seamless external and internal use of brick in this project lends Chicago House timeless appeal and staying power among its historic neighbors, while also making a bold individual statement.

Brick when a design calls for unique colors

Five creative ways brick could shape your next masterpiece

When projects call for a particular color or shade, brick delivers down to the finest details and accents. This brick home using Glen-Gery’s Cape Charles is one such example. 

From a distance, Cape Charles may appear like a normal white brick. But closer inspection reveals gray, red and sandy notes that beautifully engage the passing sunlight, while also matching more conservative choices in the door and window frames.

Using brick as a transitional material

Another example of brick’s versatility can be found in Guntersville, Alabama, where a lakeside home called Upton Manor features Glen-Gery’s Aztec White. This choice complements the surrounding environment, the pavement and water features, while also being an energy efficient material for Southern humidity.  

Indoor and outdoor spaces appear seamless with this brick choice, with the visual transition barely noticeable between multiple construction materials. “Our brains are known for being prediction machines; people naturally like to know what comes next,” says Glen-Gery’s Smith. “When Aztec White is used, the eye doesn’t have to work as hard as it moves between the different features of the project.”

Brick as a superior choice for bathrooms

Inside a contemporary residence in Virginia, Home Perfection Contracting used Romero black brick to conceive a placid bathroom suite complete with a spacious wood-paneled sauna. Romero bricks on the floors and walls create a spa-like sanctuary, and their simplicity and synthesis with nature contrasts perfectly with an unsettled outside world. 

But it isn’t just the emotional meaning of brick that matters. Much in the same way that brick is ideal for the often humid outside weather of northern Alabama, this choice holds up well to the interior moisture exposure inherent to bathrooms.

Harnessing brick to create versatile architectural patterns

Glen-Gery’s pellucid Venetian Glass Brick is at once eye-catching and functional situated in this breezeway. The Golden Amber Natural serves two purposes in this project, both beautifully absorbing the sunlight and creating an inspiring space for passers-by.

“This is a really great example of how very simple design choices can make a huge difference,” said Smith. “These bricks aren’t meant to be load-bearing, but they can easily enhance interior and exterior spaces and don’t require much for preparation and installation.” 

Like all Glen-Gery bricks, Venetian Glass is readily available at one of 26 company-owned Brickworks Supply Centers and across a vast distributor network. When a project like this is still in the imagination phase, three Brickworks Design Studios in Baltimore, New York City and Philadelphia offer centralized spaces to collaborate on designs and make purchases. Even more project inspiration can be found online at glengery.com

With minimal maintenance needs, brick lasts at least as long as a century; another study puts its average lifespan at five times that long. It can be incorporated into almost any design style imaginable, enabling its buildings to transcend and harken different trends and periods as we build for the future. 

A few years ago, a report from the National Association of Realtors identified two primary motivations by homeowners for getting a project off the ground. First was the practical desire to upgrade dated or spent surfaces, finishes and materials. Second, and perhaps equal, was improving the livability of their homes by adding new features and customizations.

It is impossible to separate these desires from the long-term potential of performing a renovation. One study suggested American homeowners recouped an average of 69 cents for every dollar spent on upgrades. As red-hot housing markets begin to cool down from a confluence of higher inflation and mortgage rates, this may end as a more bearish year for home improvement projects. 

None of this is to say that 2024 is inauspicious for restoration. On the contrary, this is precisely the year to perform such work with brick, a long-lasting and cost-effective construction material, versatile enough to help realize a masterpiece.