Dear PoP – Painted Rowhome Edition


The above painted rowhome is a former house of the day from August.

A reader writes:

“I would like to propose the following question for the consideration of you and your readers. I will soon be repainting the exterior of my brick rowhouse in Petworth. It’s a pretty classic Petworth style — three levels plus basement with a front porch. Looks a lot like the photo of the house you post with the real estate sales updates every once in a while, except it’s already painted so keeping it natural brick isn’t an option. The block is a mix of renovated and unrenovated houses, which means there are some really beautifully painted houses, some that are painted and faded, and some that are the original brick. I want the house to look warm and inviting and not too bold or out of place. I also think a new paint color is a chance to add some style to the block and maybe even encourage other owners to do the same. On the other hand, I don’t want it to be too obnoxious or out of place.”

I happen to be a huge fan of painted brick and genuinely believe you can’t go wrong as long as you don’t chose too bright a color. But as my house is vinyl I’m going to defer on paint choices to those that actually live in brick rowhomes. Remember this home is already painted so “keeping it natural brick isn’t an option”. Knowing that – what color(s) would you recommend?

22 Comment

  • Whilst I was traipsing around the city back in the day for Hizzonner (before he got the title), I was struck by how beautiful, and colorful especially, some of the neighborhoods east of the river were. So many brightly colored rowhouses. It was gorgeous. So, I like bright colors on rowhouses. Understand it’s not going to be a particularly popular opinion for Petworthians.

  • My brick is pink – not bright pink, but a sort of muted, mauve-y pink, with a maroonish trim (all with the approval of the Restoration Society, of course). I love it – it’s easy to tell people who visit, “It’s the big pink house on the corner.”

    There is a ton of painted brick over here on the Hill – you might consider taking a walk around here for some ideas of colors to paint your brick.

  • We painted our house 2 years ago – a dusty denim blue, white trim, black shutters – which is pretty subdued, but still colorful. Then we added a bright purple door – which is my favorite part, and adds a bit of character without being too obnoxious.

  • I love bright painted brick. Makes me think of Key West or San Fran. Also very nice to look at in the winter! Go Turqoise!

  • I don’t mind the end result painted brick so much, if it’s nicely maintained, but I would NEVER paint my own house. Once you paint it, you are doomed to painting it every couple years FOREVER or it will look like crap. And good luck scraping paint off brick when it starts to peel. What a pain. And if you don’t scrape well your new paint job will fall of in no time.

    The reality is most houses with painted brick look like crap because it is so much maintenance and people choose not to deal with it, since the consequences of that are only cosmetic.

  • Vonstallin

    Jamie Says:
    January 27th, 2009 at 11:31 am


    Thanks , thats just what i needed to hear. I was debating on painting my virgin brick row house after watching a few episodes of HGTV shot in DC and VA.

    I will figure another way to spruce the front up.

  • Vonstallin- It’s not as bad as he says. Paint it!

  • My brick house was partially painted when I got it. So, I am stuck doing it. It can make a nice aesthetic, paint, and in general in my area the monotony of all-brick houses all-over gets a bit much. I am repainting my bricks this spring, will go with a creamish sort of of color, with trim done in white.

  • Any reputable house painter will high-pressure wash and brush the exterior with a mildew killing solution a day or two before painting. That gets rid of chipping paint, fungus and mossy-looking stuff that grows on the bricks. The guys who painted ours were really great and affordable. Shoot me an email if you are interested, and I’ll see if I can dig up their contact info. They even offered a discount if you can convince a neighbor or two to paint at the same time…

  • Hey Melanie, I’d love to get that contact info for your painter. Thanks!

  • I love taupe with white trim – always looks fresh and clean. It is really cool when you paint a part of the window trim black like an outline of the window – it adds nice contrast.

  • Sorry – I meant to include my email in that last message:

    melanie underscore j @ hotmail dot com

  • My house is painted a nice yellow (and added a PoP blue door!) and think it looks quite dandy (and I’m the only painted house on the block.)

  • Love this colorscheme. There’s also a great house I always see when I’m driving up New Hampshire towards Sherman Circle that has a great combo of yellow, green, light green and orange. So cheery!

  • Ross,
    Do you remember specifically what brand and name of paint you used? Looks great.

  • Thanks — I’ll check my basement, but not sure if I still have the can. It was definitely Duron paint (a local company.)

  • maybe this is too obvious, but if you like natural brick color, don’t feel like it’s not an option, you can always just paint it a brick color.

  • Ross- I agree, your house does look great. Love the blue door; really sets off the yellow.

  • If my house wasn’t painted I wouldn’t have painted it – who needs the expense – and I am from New Orleans one of the more colorful US cities.

    If done by reputable painters who prepare the house right and know how to paint over older paint it should last. I had mine painted gray with a blue door back in 2001ish and it still looks good. I do think some paints and paint color age better than others and obviously if not done right it will look like crap rapidly.

    Again, if it hadn’t been painted I would have just left it brick.

    As for the house pictured – not a fan of yellow no matter where it is painted – though it is apparently one of the more popular colors for interior and I assume exterior.

  • Nice palette but-
    The shutters could have been left out- I understand the need for something to complete the blue border around the windows, but the shutters don’t fit and have no obvious purpose but to hold blue paint. Did this house used to have a porch cover?

  • “any reputable house painter will high-pressure wash”

    This a really bad idea on a 100 year old house. The problem is a reputable house painter may not be much of a mason.

    The chances of your mortar being in good shape is very low. Even just to the touch, it may crumble. If you put 1500 PSI water against the side of your old house you are almost guaranteeing yourself a repointing job. Hence, the need to scrape rather than pressure wash when repaiting, which is very time consuming.

  • Scrape or chemical peel. Pressure washing lime mortar is a definate no-no. Need I say NEVER sandblast?

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