7 Steps to Choosing Brick and Stone for your Exterior

There is a very expensive neighbourhood in the Lower Mainland filled with individual homes built using a combination of brick and stone.

When I drive around, I have yet to see a good example of a combination that works, or colours that were chosen well to coordinate with both the brick and stone.

I'm not exagerating when I say that most of these homes are so ugly, I start feeling bad for the homeowner. Also, it makes me wonder if I'm the only one who notices that the combination is not good. Surely there was a designer involved with some of them?

I have consulted with many homeowners who are not happy with the plans their Architect has drawn up. And many times, together, we have either eliminated the specified stone or brick or moved it around on the home so that it looks more balanced.

When we have eliminated it entirely, it's because it makes no sense. It's almost like it's the Architects version of accent tile inside the home. They add it because they think it makes the home more interesting, even if it's not necessary and certainly not timeless.

However, if you are committed to choosing a combination, here is my best advice:

1. Don't try to find a combination that matches.

I would ONLY choose a matching combination if you found a house that you liked and could source the EXACT stone and brick on that house.

Going through image after image, I mostly find countless examples of homes where the final result looks like the they tried to match the stone and brick, but failed. This home (above) succeeded in a matched combination, but again, unless you could source exactly what was installed on this house, I would not try this at home, by yourself.

Plus when you think about it, if the stone and brick match this closely, why add stone at all? Better to just build the entire house with brick so you don't run the risk of clashing with a close, but not close enough, look.

2. Choose a combination with contrast, but keep one of the choices pale grey, white or cream, like this house below.

Contemporary Landscape by Milieu Design

3. Match the brick to the colour found in the stone.
Here you'll notice that there's a nice contrast between the creamy/green stone. The green brick was chosen to coordinate with the green accent colour found in the stone.
Notice the stone here is not solid green but with green undertones or accents. It's choosing two solid and patterned combinations that I'm saying you should avoid, as shown in step number one.
This house (below) is totally charming and built in the 30's. I like the way the stone highlights the front door and draws you in. And miraculously, the brick works well with it.
4. Choose the correct type of stone that coordinates with the style of your home.
This european chateau would not work at all with more contemporary stacked stone.
5. Keep your colour combination classic and simple.
One solid (the stone) and one pattern (the brick). No need to introduce a third colour if it's not necessary.
6. If your brick clashes with the stone, paint it.
The colour combination and painted brick on this house (below) looks intentional, and I love how the flagstone and cobblestone in the landscaping was carefully chosen to coordinate with the house.
7. Choose your roof to coordinate.
With a stone and brick facade that won't ever change, a black roof is not the answer. This house is a typical example of a combination that in no way relates, however the black roof and black shutters were also a mistake here.
image Image via Garden Web
If you've seen a fabulous combination, post the link below! It'll be useful to everyone.
Related posts:

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25 Responses to 7 Steps to Choosing Brick and Stone for your Exterior

  1. With the new love of stone in the new subdivisions (and renovation of old as well as in-fill homes) this is a timely posting. Thanks Maria.

  2. Dawn says:

    So interesting! Yes,yes, yes (!!!) I pay close attention to exterior colors and stone/brick combinations. In fact I was recently looking at one of our old homes via zillow and noticed the shutters and front door had been painted red; the brick is taupe (I think that's the right color name; the undertone is pink). It was like nails on a chalkboard for me:) When we built the home (the builder already had the brick chosen and installed), we took the taupe (?) in the brick and deepened it significantly for the shutters and door. It's difficult for me to visualize any other color working except "maybe" a charcoal grey as I believe there was a little in the brick.

    Another pet peeve? The heavy use of brown in all of its various shades for exteriors!

  3. Laura says:

    Excellent article and so well explained, Maria. Thank you for the great photos as well. It truly puts into perspective what you're saying!

  4. bfish says:

    Your advice is right on, as usual. The Atlanta 1930s house looks good because they used real stone back then, rather than veneer or engineered "faux stone" masonry products. In the contemporary examples shown, the stonework looks pretty realistic but I'd largely attribute that to these houses being upscale and superior products were used. Stone exteriors that scream "veneer" are jarring. Another pet peeve is using brick and/or stone on the front facade and siding on the other three — go big or go home.

    I agree with Maria and Dawn that the trim colors chosen are very important. Lots of colors clash with, or aren't complementary to, brick and it limits the choices, especially regarding any color with some red in it. Bright white is also a big mistake (looking at the ugly and prominent white gutters on a brick, stucco and half-timbered Tudor house across the street, no other white on it, and cringing . . .).

  5. Angela n says:

    I live in a brand new subdivision in central florida and rarely/if not ever see a combo that goes well together.

  6. franki says:

    The thought waves must be flowing…I want to put stone around the lower part of our cabin which is weathered gray w /slate roof. I JUST SAID to my husband that it has to be the genuine article…a task ahead of us for certain. franki

  7. Have you been reading my mind? As in interior design professional like yourself, I also take great interest in the exteriors as well. I live in southern Ontario where the majority of home exteriors are brick with or without stone. This topic has been my pet peeve lately as I watch yet another huge epensive home being built in my neighbourhood, replacing the 1950's bungalows (which I might add are also decked out in ugly brick with ugly stone), all with a brick and stone combination and ALL of them UGLY!! I feel terrible for the eventual homeowners, all seem to be spec homes. I keep asking myself, how can no one be able to choose an attractive exterior? How does this keep happening? I keep my eye out for a brick and stone combo that is truly appealing, I have yet to find one and I have been looking for years. In my opinion, I just wish everyone would just stop trying, stop combining brick with stone, it just doesn't work. Do all brick or combine stone with stucco or the wood siding that is now available that is maintenance free because the finish is baked on. Builders have been combining stone and brick here since the 1950's, probably even longer, and I have yet to see it work. It is one of the most permanent things on a house that cannot be changed, at least tearing out the accent tile in a shower or backsplash can be done, this hodgepodge of stone and brick is usually never undone until the house is torn down, so now we all get to suffer and view it for decades. I have been seriously considering moving to BC Maria and brick and stone exteriors are one of the things I look forward to leaving behind!! I can't stand the assault on my visual sense everytime I walk out the front door, there is one directly across from my front door!

    • maria says:

      Haha, great comment, I totally agree, it so rarely looks good. Maria

      • Judy Dixon says:

        I've searched for homes that have a great brick/stone combo in my area and online and the only ones I found were the few online that you noted, Maria. We're building and the hubs wants some stone exterior accent and I don't for the very reasons you have listed. For the compromise, would a stone fireplace with sitting hearth and large wood mante look out of line with no other stone in the home? Great article, Maria, you always know what we need to know when we need it!!!

  8. Melissa says:

    Amen! This post should be required reading in all builders design centers. I live in the Houston suburbs and the newer master planned communities going up are perfect examples of what not to do! Builders recommend using a variety of brick/stone/stucco that does not relate to each other in any way. The neighborhoods are lovely and the homes are expensive. I just don't understand this!!

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi neighbor!

      I'm in the Houston burbs too. Like you I'm seeing this in most of the new development around me. Personally, I loathe the look. I also wonder if it's going to age well.

  9. Rhonda says:

    Good Morning Maria,
    In example #7 what would you have suggested for the roof, shutters and front door? And will you be doing a post on garage doors. Never sure what should be done with them. Thank you.

    • mairi says:

      I second that. I'm on my third colour for garage doors- went from red garage doors next to weathered wood sidng to a blended monochromatic look of gray green and now it looks boring but the doors do recede that way. Garage doors are tricky because they're so bossy.

  10. Malia Carlsen says:

    This is exactly what happened with my house inside and out before we bought it. There was lots of brick used inside and out and then a previous owner decided to add a stone fireplace inside and a stone wall to the pool, all directly next to the brickwork. The pool would be an expensive fix that I will save for later, but I am going to paint the fireplace brick.

  11. Peter says:

    Good post Maria. I see so many examples of bad brick and stone combinations.

  12. Grumpy says:

    And this is why when I built my house I used only brick! I really haven't seen very many combos that look good. I'm the only house in my neighborhood with brick only. I think brick+stone is going to be dated eventually.

  13. Josie says:

    Rule 2 is important and often overlooked out here.

    There's some sort of horrible thing going on here (Sydney Aus.) where there seems to be a competition between builders to put as many different cladding materials on one helpless house as they can.

    Want some brick? Okay.
    Well if you want brick you NEED some stone! It doesn't have to go or anything. It just has to be there. How about that plus render plus maybe some seamed metal or some stained wood?

    Ugh.

    I like pale, pale gray stone. And yes, I know it bothers some people, but when in doubt – paint the damn brick, especially if it was ugly brick veneer in the first place.

  14. I too feel sorry for homeowners with new construction. It seems that architects today have that McMansion mentality. The Wikipedia definition makes sense:

    …mix multiple architectural styles and elements…multiple roof lines, unnecessarily complicated massing…producing a displeasingly jumbled appearance. The builder may have attempted to achieve expensive effects with cheap materials, skimped on details, or hidden defects with cladding… old to “parvenu” – those having new money but lack the necessary refinement. The definition of parvenu on Wikipedia references Molly Brown survivor of the Titanic – who went from rags to riches overnight.

  15. mrsben says:

    Very informative, Maria. My pet peeve with many homes that I see; is stark white clad windows that scream…. 'look at me, look at me'. ☺ -Brenda-

  16. Becky says:

    Hi, can you tell me what would be a better choice on example 7 for the roof, etc.? To me the black does not look bad.

  17. paula Ryan says:

    Oh I can't tell you what a pet peeve of mine this is! I live in the midwest in Illinois. The big trend right now here is trying to make a regular house have a "prairie" or craftsman look. So adding stone, brick, shake shingles and the wrong roof pitches are making me crazy! Thanks for sharing this. I want to take it to every builder in town and show them the right way to combine the brick and stone!

  18. KJ says:

    Oh, mismatched, horribly clashing exterior brick and stone is a huge problem here in Dallas and the surrounding suburbs. I thought it was just our area but it sounds like it's a nationwide or even worldwide epidemic! You must choose your mixture very, very carefully or it looks awful, awful, awful!

    Would anyone be willing to look at this picture and tell me what color this brick is? I guess it's recycled old Chicago brick, but I cannot figure out the predominant color or undertone. And do you think our brown tile roof, brick and stone accents work together? I can't decide if it blends even though it's blah or it's totally hopeless.

  19. tara dillard says:

    Keep it simple sweetie.

    Beyond certain price points it's an idea tossed to the middle & lower classes.

    Yet looks like champagne budget on beer taste.

    Amazing how often, aka each job, I have to sell elements of what I call 'the poverty cycle'. The best design isn't about $$$.
    .
    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

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