How to create a feature with an exposed brick wall

Follow Gabrielle Blackman's step-by-step guide to unveilling a stylish, bold focal point in your interior scheme

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Adding an exposed brick wall can add 
warmth and character without fuss 
or frill – perfect as part of a laid-back, but stylish decorating scheme. An exposed wall can create a wonderful, versatile focal point to a room, but getting the look right takes careful preparation, attention to detail and patience, as it can be a long, painstaking task to strip walls back 
to their original façade.

Here are 
some top tips for creating an 
exposed brick wall in your home, from choosing the right surface, to finishing and sealing the wall…


Related articles: 10 exposed brick walls to inspire your industrail scheme | VIDEO – how to prepare and paint a wall | 12 expert tips on decorating with colour | Tips for decorating a north facing living room


1. Pick a wall to expose

An exposed brick expanse is 
a dramatic statement, as whichever wall you choose will become the focus of the room. The easiest 
wall to strip will be one with no doors
or windows, as working around edges will slow you down, plus will need filling and careful repair when you’re finished. Look at how many radiators and sockets are on the wall, too.

Bare brick works better with a ‘raw’ contemporary look, so I would advise changing the style of any face plates and radiators 
to metal if they are not already. An exposed brick wall marries itself to 
an industrial-style interior, so if you go for this look, consider running power cables into some galvanised trunking.

2. Prepare the wall

The scary thing about revealing old brickwork, is there is no real way of telling what the wall will look like until it’s done. If you are the sort of person that will be unhappy with rustic, uneven bricks, cracks and patches then proceed directly to my cheat option (below).

Once you’re ready to take the plunge, first drill a pilot hole to be sure there is actually brick back there. To ensure the bricks are of good enough quality to make a feature in a scheme, uncover a test site (approximately 30 square centimetres), which should give you a good idea of the quality of your bricks. If you are not happy with them, 
stop there, but if you like the look, 
get ready to tackle the rest.

How to cheat the look

Modern brick cladding comes in 
a wide variety and type of bricks. 
Try Reclaimed Brick Tile for an authentic aged feel, or Slimbrick 
or Matclad for brick slips that you apply with specialist adhesive.

3. Protect yourself 
and surroundings

You will need goggles, gloves, masks and sensible clothing. Seal off the rest of the room, too, to ensure nothing gets damaged in the process of stripping the wall. Invest in the toughest plastic sheeting you can find and lay all over the room, floor and furniture, and place cardboard directly under your work area. Remember, this project is going to create some serious dust, so it’s wise to have two buckets on the go 
for removing the old plaster, so you can continually empty them in small loads.

rustic brick wall kitchen design

Owner of this Victorian terraced house in Cardiff, Pippa Mundy, painstakingly stripped the plaster off the kitchen wall to create a statement feature that offers the perfect backdrop to her carpenter-made kitchen in a steel grey shade


4. Be patient

I can’t lie, stripping a wall back to brick is a hard and dirty job, but one that is worth it once completed. Think of it as more of an archaeology project than a demolition job, one that needs careful, patient attention to get the best finish.

Don’t just go at the wall with a crow bar or hammer away at random spots – this will only create more dust and a bad finish. Starting 
at your test area, hit the wall with precision across a one foot square radius. Then, pry the plaster off with 
a putty knife, which will hopefully 
come off in chunks. Some parts of 
the wall will be trickier than others 
to reveal, but be persistent and don’t lose heart – it will look amazing.

5. Finishing an exposed brick wall

  • Sponge down the newly exposed brick to minimise dust.
  • Deep clean the bricks using a stiff wire 
brush and a mix of equal parts powdered soap and salt, combined 
with enough water to make a paste.
  • Use brick acid if there is stubborn plaster residue, or use a sandblaster 
to achieve a smooth finish.
  • Rake out the joints to 2.5cm and flush point with a lime mortar.
  • Finish the wall with 
a terracotta sealant.

Gabrielle Blackman


Gabrielle Blackman is an interior designer and presenter of BBC One’s DIY SOS and Channel 5’s Cowboy Builders. With more than 18 years’ professional experience, she has worked with designers such as Mary Fox Linton and Nina Campbell, and is involved in many projects, from designing luxury kitchens, TV sets and yachts, to homes for private clients. Follow her on Twitter @CushionCrisis