Brutalism in Interior Design: Integrating the Utilitarian Style Into Your Home

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Brutalism, an architectural design that emerged in the ‘40s, had made its way back to the mainstream. The aesthetic, which is characterized by minimalist construction and exaggeration, has been gaining popularity over the past few years. On Instagram, scrolling through #brutalism will return thousands of photos, from interiors to pieces of furniture and decor.

It seems to be a reaction from the wild and bold patterns and colors that were everywhere during the late ‘00s and the early ‘10s.

In interior design, brutalism is often paired with minimalism. The utilitarian look of brutalism goes hand in hand with the minimalism’s understated style that foregoes decor and furniture except for a few basics.

However, the most recognizable features that are most often associated with brutalism are raw materials and strong geometric form. The term “brutalist,” after all, stems from a housing development in Marseille, France which utilized a lot of rough and unpainted concrete.

Blocky and Minimalist Furniture

Brutalism also manifested in furniture, especially right now. Popular furniture designers have introduced simple and geometric new pieces that scream brutalist.

Take, for example, the Jewel swivel chair, with its sharp angles and corners, by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.

However, it does not have to be a designer piece. Table consoles, countertops, armoires made of concrete are characteristically brutalist and can be done on your own at home. All you need is to understand how to mix and mold concrete. You may also need to be equipped with a diamond cup grinding wheel, which can cut through dry concrete, for adjustments and customization.

Concrete is the New Brick

The past decade has been all about the exposed brick. With brutalism, exposed concrete has become fashionable.

Instead of covering a concrete wall with bright colors, the common building material is allowed to become a design element. It lends a dark, cold, and somber atmosphere to a room.

Floors, too, are given the opportunity to shine. Poured concrete floors topped with the right finishing are low-maintenance, durable, modern, attractive, and brutalist.

Modern bright room with air conditioning

Keeping Things Neutral

Neutral colors dominate brutalism in interior design. Because the concept highlights the beauty of raw materials, you will see a lot of grays, blacks, browns, etc.

With brutalism, walls do not need to be painted over and floors do not have to be covered. Accent colors that will brighten the room, therefore, come from decor elements.

The vase, throw pillows, the couch, or the small area rug can have their bold colors and patterns but you should make it as minimal as possible so as not to overpower the raw materials around the room.

Not Just Concrete

Concrete is not the only material that can be considered brutalist. Other common building materials such as wood, brick, stone, steel, bronze can also be used.

Fixtures made in metal fit in the style well and so do furniture made of rough-hewn wood.

Function Over Style

With brutalism, even decor has to serve a purpose. You can still have fun by playing with lamps, vases, mirrors, etc. They all can provide a more modern touch and even playfulness.

Moreover, you can make unique choices that, overall, reflect personality by putting care on small features like wall hooks, taps and showerheads, doorknobs, and other things around the house.

Brutalism is naturally minimalist. Owning more stuff than you need may only contrast with the overall style of a room or your entire home.

Inject Softness

Brutalism can be very imposing with its sharp edges and bold geometric shapes. Choosing rounds and curves strategically can add softness to your lighting, carpeting, seating, and other features. It does not all have to be squares and diamonds. A circular or globular light fixture perfectly creates contrasts.

Warm colors also integrate coziness. Concrete can feel cold, especially when the weather outdoors is gloomy. Having warm colors gives the illusion of warmth.

Brutalism is still popular in 2020 and will likely remain relevant in 2021 and beyond.


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