This post has been sitting in my drafts for a few weeks now cos I’ve been really unsure about this project, but I figure it’s time to face up to my decisions; good, bad or otherwise. I have also changed quite a lot of stuff since I wrote this and I’m not very happy with the photos (generally taken in a rush and a period of general chaos), so cut me some slack. There we go, always good to start a post with a disclaimer!
Whitewashing brick is not a new trick, but sometimes needs must. This is the second house we have lived in with one of these ‘funky’ (I’m being kind here) brick arches between the living and dining space. Originally the front room and dining room would have been separate rooms then some wiseguy decided put an arch in.
I mean, I’m so glad they opened up the space. It means we can see our wonderful view to the back from sitting on the sofa in the front room, and of course it brings in much more light including the late summer sun.
It’s very common in the UK for houses that originally had lots of small, dark rooms (probably a lot easier to keep warm back in the days before central heating) to have been opened up. But they couldn’t just put a nice big square hole in, or get rid of the wall all together (I don’t even know if that’s possible, load bearing? blah blah I’m sure some building wizardry could do that right?). They had to put a super neat arch in. Feature arch!
In our last house (rented) the arch was a really scary 70s tan colour and it tied in with a whole fireplace feature they had going on. It was truly eye-watering. Obviously we couldn’t do anything about it then because we were renting, but when we bought our current house and there’s yet another brick arch I was like “Oh, hello old nemesis”. This one is deep reddy brown, and if it they were lovely old reclaimed, chipped bricks I would probably be into it, but these were sort of modern and too uniform for my liking. They just looked cheesy as hell, ok. And were so dark. They just took over the whole room.
So my brain has been stewing away trying to figure out what I can do with it (without the costly process of removing the whole thing and making a nice square hole). Answer? Not a hell of a lot!
I finally (yet tentatively) decided whitewashing might be the solution? (See how tentative… I’ve already done this project and I’m still using question marks).
I had a big ol tub of cheap white acrylic paint leftover from painting some of the ceilings when we moved in, so I decided to give it a shot. I did some reading up about how much to water down the paint (some saying half and half water and paint), but as the paint I was using was already pretty thin and crappy / cheap I took that down to about ⅔ paint and ⅓ water. I mixed it up in an old jam jar so I could mix it easily by shaking it with the lid on. (Sorry, that was weirdly detailed).
I washed the bricks first, to get rid of dust and cobwebs (not exactly a regular duster, me), and then I got to painting.
I started by putting the paint on a tiny hidden area at the back of the arch because I was still not convinced it wouldn’t look awful. Fully aware that I might be making our main living area completely unattractive to future buyers, I jumped in.
The paint soaked in really quickly and actually what I thought would be a super quick job was a pain in the arse and took ages.
Far from spreading paint on a smooth surface, this was a case of labouriously dabbing the paint on and making sure it smooshed into the texture of the bricks. I was glad I hadn’t watered the paint down anymore, and in fact it could have been a little thicker even.
It probably took me about 3 hours all up. That was just one coat. About ⅔ of the way through I ran out of paint so I mixed some more up.
I had drawn lines on the jar so I knew what the ratio should be, but I didn’t want to mix up as much this time so I kind of guessed. I actually made the formula a little thicker and in some places it dried a little too white, so I went over those bits afterwards with a clean, wet paint brush and watered it down a bit. That seemed to work.
Here’s the final result. It took me a couple of days to stop giving it the side-eye every time I was in the room but I’m really happy with it now. I mean, I think Jamie described it as looking like it was covered in spooky cobwebs, so that’s a win right?
It is so much mellower. It isn’t like ‘Blam! Arch!’ when you walk in the room anymore. It’s really softened the look of it and the plant growing up it softens it more still.
I may still do another coat of whitewash, but I’m sitting with it as it is for now.
What do you think? I can take it! Do you prefer the look or have I ruined it?! Should I do another coat? Should I just paint the thing fully white? Burn the house down? Let me know in the comments.
2 thoughts on “Whitewashed Brick Arch”
We’ll be using limewash in our new (old) cellar, I’ll let you know if we have any spare!
And fwiw, i prefer the toned down thing. Super hard to work with 90’s bricks for sure. I guess the only other option would be to plaster over them/ knock them out and plaster over the detritus..?!
Yeah I hope one day if we live here long enough we will be able to knock them out and just make a nice normal rectangle shaped hole!!