The Brutalist design movement, which gained popularity after World War II, has been making its way back into contemporary design. Brutalism is a distinctly bold, even aggressive style, but we love it for its audacious proportions and moody tones. Characterized by raw, industrial materials, harsh lines, and monolithic forms, Brutalist pieces can add personality and texture to any space. Read on to learn more about the history, design style, and explore my tips for incorporating Brutalism into your interior design.
- Kelley Mason, Manager of Creative + Content
Discover Brutalist Design
Brutalism emerged following World War II as architects developed a newfound zeal for design with limited resources and practical constraints. The movement’s monolithic designs laid bare their industrial composition in a stark, neutral palette. The use of raw concrete and metal, jagged edges, and heroic dimensions directly responded to the warmer, sleek minimalism associated with earlier twentieth-century modernism. As it evolved, Brutalism took on its characteristic aspects—angular lines, rough textures, and arresting silhouettes that seem to emerge from the wrought material. The result is a visually stunning design grammar with a distinctive style. Images provided by @brutalism.toronto and @monderstudio
Recognize the Elements
When we think of brutalist furniture, we think of monolithic, raw, and rugged pieces. Traditionally composed of heavy materials, these pieces are chunky and often contain repeating graphic elements or patterns, as in our Remi Sideboard or Miko Coffee Table. Lighting and decor pieces can be more refined but retain the same rugged essence—the Batista lamp shows the hallmark mix of jagged lines and textural surfaces so intrinsic to this look. Textiles are used sparingly and are usually solid or feature geometric patterns in neutral hues. In identifying the Brutalist aesthetic, picture the architecture—familiar to us in the masterpieces that still tower over our landscape, such as the Geisel Library by William Pereira and Habitat 67 by Moshe Safdie. Images provided by @santamonicaproper and @anthology_creative_studio.
Refresh the Look of Your Decor
Brutalist pieces allow for honest, architectural shapes to act as showstopper pieces in any room. Though I love the resurgence of this design school, too many Brutalist elements together can look cold and austere. My take on modern Brutalism is to use pieces inspired by the look and pair them with a softer piece for contrast. For example, a concrete coffee table can set off a luxuriously curved sofa, while a cozy shag rug could be the perfect complement to a jagged, metal light fixture. A monolithic stone pillar can look stark and chilly, but adding a romantic bust or delicate floral arrangement on top can soften the edge a bit. Offset the rawness of this style with something refined for a unique juxtaposition and modern take on the trend. Images by anthology_creative_studio and @stephenkentjohnson @billycottonstudio @billycotton @archdigest