Growing up, my mother always taught me to never mix mix polka-dots and stripes. This is a lesson I’ve brought into my architectural practice. Excessive patterns are visually distracting. You can be forgiven for the occasional fashion faux-pas. However, when selecting exterior building materials, you live with the consequences. Too often, I’ve witnessed failed attempts to mix brick and stone on the exterior of homes that land on either end of the spectrum: “polka dots and stripes” or “why bother?”.

When both the brick and the stone are visually busy, you’re left with a migraine of polka dots and stripes as seen below.

Conversely, when the brick and stone are so close in color, size, and pattern that you can’t distinguish between the two materials from the street, “Why bother?”

Consider stone as your polka dots and brick as the stripes. If you listened to my mother, you’d never combine the two. Mixing brick and stone can create conflicting patterns without careful selection. However, it can be done. The solution is making one of the materials mimic a solid and de-emphasize its pattern.

A stone with high color variation featuring both light and dark tones will act as the polka dots. The corresponding brick to this stone needs to be monotone or neutral. When selecting the brick, consider the mortar. High contrasting brick and mortar transforms even a monotone brick into scary stripes.

However, let’s not confuse “monotone brick” with “matching the stone”…  A neutral, solid brick paired with a monotone stone only washes out the two.

You can still choose brick and stone of varying colors and values, just be sure one of them is more visually dominant and the other is secondary. This is achieved by selecting a quiet stone palette and a quiet brick combination, so long as there is contrast between the colors or values, creating a successful color blocking strategy.

French Country & English Country styles work well for combining materials. I like to use brick as header material in Tuscan style homes, but this is usually a single line of brick and not nearly as difficult as selecting large fields of both materials.

French Country

Tuscan

Considering color, contrast, value and pattern when selecting exterior materials is crucial. Weighing these variables simultaneously can be daunting. Breathe! Recall the polka dots and stripes lesson & you’re well on your way to a timeless facade!