project addition: black* brick / white brick

Let’s talk exterior materials for a quick moment. I did an overview of lots of materials awhile back, which is worth a read if you didn’t catch it the first time. We’ve researched and reviewed all of these possibilities, and have weighed them against the historic district standards in our neighborhood, ease of construction, first cost/long term cost, maintenance needs, etc. and we think we’ve settled on using brick. Two of our garage walls and one of our addition walls will sit directly on our property lines, so the less we have to bother our neighbors for maintenance access, the better. Masonry walls will require tuckpointing at some point, but that could be decades down the road. And brick really fits into the existing fabric of our neighborhood well.

But – I do not want to pretend like these buildings are original to our house, so the detailing and the color of the bricks will be a more modern interpretation of the existing housing stock on our street. I’m really leaning towards using a black brick, and M is on board *as long as we call it “slate colored” brick – which is where we’re pulling our color inspiration from. We have lots of black details on the historic part of our house already – the slate mansard roof, the window sashes, the decorative wrought iron fence. The materials of the addition will match the character of the existing, but will look distinctly different as well. I think this is a good thing.


The main level of the addition will sit out of the ground quite a bit – just like our house does. The original house has limestone foundation walls, but the new addition will have concrete foundation walls. We could leave these exposed or we could install a veneer over them – stone or brick or stucco, etc. I don’t like the idea of stone veneer at all. There’s no way to match it to the existing real stone, and I know it will end up looking like a cartoon version of the original. So we’re thinking we might draw from many of the street facades in our neighborhood and install glazed black brick at the foundation with matte black brick above. (I mean “slate gray”!) I think it will be a subtle difference, but will carry through that horizontal line that is so prevalent on the existing house… and be modern and sexy too. That’s what I’m going for, at least.

Another benefit of the dark color will be the way the new construction recedes visually. We’re greatly reducing the amount of backyard that we will have, and so I want the built construction to play second fiddle to the new outdoor room we’re creating between the addition. And green plays off black beautifully!


The existing two-story porch will be enclosed – a generous walk-thru pantry on the first floor and an enclosed reading / sleeping porch on the second floor – with access to the new roof garden above the addition. We’re thinking this will be black cladding as well, but not brick. Nice clean details, and then we’ll install some sort of offset trellis to support climbing vines. Ultimately I’d love for the entire porch structure to be covered in a vertical green garden with only the porch openings on the second floor and the transom window in the pantry visible through all the green. No one really sees this elevation of the house because it’s in the narrow gangway between our house and the neighbor’s. But I think it will look so gorgeous to look down that narrow path and see green, green, green.



On the inside I’m picturing the exact opposite – lots of white surfaces that will show off walnut hued wood casework. Some of our existing exterior brick walls will become interior walls, and so we’ll probably paint those white. I’d also love to expose the brick on the main kitchen wall – but I also like modern conveniences like insulation and power! So I’m leaning towards using a white glazed brick finish on this wall from countertop to ceiling – very appropriate for the era and style of our old house, but still has a clean, modern edge to it. We have a couple of samples from Fireclay Tile hanging out in our current kitchen. It’s going to be really important to bounce around light within the kitchen since there technically won’t be any windows in the room. But it will be open to the new pantry which will have a high transom window, and there will be a large skylight in the link between the old house and new. And the kitchen will be completely open to the new dining room which is all glass looking out to the garden, so I think natural light will not be an issue. (Light control just might be!)

13th Ave loft 2

That’s where we stand on some of our material choices at the moment. I’m starting to feel a little more confident about the direction we’re moving in. The process is overwhelming to say the least. So many decisions! I’m trying to channel thoughts of reading on the second floor porch or looking out into the back garden to fuel all these late night work sessions. Walking in the garden never hurts either. I can’t wait to breakfast in one – the transformation here is going to be amazing.

3 Responses to project addition: black* brick / white brick

  1. Wow! This sounds like it’s going to be incredible. Reminds me of the houses we used to walk by on the Brooklyn Heights promenade, wishing we could live in one someday. Can’t wait to read about the results!

  2. Pingback: elevations | third story(ies)

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