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The Resurgence of Brutalist Interior Design

CEO Khai Intela
Brutalist interior design, once associated with European socialist housing and 1960s protests, has made a comeback in recent years. But what exactly is Brutalism? It's not contemporary, mid-century modern, or industrial. To truly understand this...

Brutalist interior design, once associated with European socialist housing and 1960s protests, has made a comeback in recent years. But what exactly is Brutalism? It's not contemporary, mid-century modern, or industrial. To truly understand this design style, it's important to explore its elements and history.

Elements of the Brutalist Interior Design Style

Brutalism celebrates raw materials and the honesty of construction. Instead of covering walls with trim and paneling, Brutalist designers let materials like concrete, glass, steel, and stone speak for themselves. This approach creates a unique and unadorned aesthetic.

Exterior with Brutalist Elements Exterior with Brutalist Elements (Design by Amity Worrel)

In line with architectural honesty, Brutalist design relies on simple geometric shapes. This minimalist approach allows designs to become modern sculptures, playing with positive and negative spaces.

Textures play a crucial role in achieving a captivating layered look. With little ornamentation, rough concrete, reflective glass, and exposed piping become art forms in their own right.

Less is more in Brutalist interior design. It embraces unadorned minimalism, removing any excess finishes and furnishings. Only the essentials are included in the design plan.

Brutalist design is not just about aesthetics; it focuses on functionality. Each space is carefully planned to ensure it serves its purpose and allows people to move through it seamlessly.

Historical Influences of the Brutalist Style

Brutalism originated in the United Kingdom after World War II as a cost-effective way to rebuild. While Europe embraced Brutalism, America leaned towards the Modernist movement. Brutalist designs rejected the clean lines and futuristic thinking of mid-century modernism, opting for rugged and confrontational forms made of inexpensive industrial materials.

During the Red Scare and Vietnam War protests, Brutalism found its way to American college campuses. The menacing and fortress-like buildings became the backdrop for the activism of the era.

However, by the 1980s, Brutalism fell out of favor. The structures became associated with urban decay, and American design shifted towards the colorful and shabby chic styles of the time.

Will Brutalist Interior Design Make a Comeback?

Brutalist design had a brief resurgence in the late 2010s, highlighted by Kim Kardashian and Kanye West incorporating Brutalist trends into their Calabasas mansion. The minimalist movement was also gaining popularity, with Marie Kondo inspiring people to declutter and embrace simplicity.

Yet, the 2020 pandemic shifted design trends once again. As we spent more time at home, the importance of creating a cozy and well-adorned space became apparent. This led to the return of shabby chic and cottage styles, overshadowing Brutalism's recent revival.

The All-American Impact of Brutalist Design

Brutalism has left a lasting mark on American culture. Whether it's the post-WWII imagery or the concrete structures on college campuses, Brutalist design has become ingrained in our visual landscape. Whether or not it will return to American homes remains uncertain, but for now, many prefer to cozy up on plush sofas next to charming fireplaces.

If you want to learn more about residential design, check out Design 101.

Further Reading: All-American Style: Southwestern Interior Design

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