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South American living

Brazilian furniture design: A timeless interior trend

For over a decade, mid-century modern has been the world’s number one interior design trend, and it can be found everywhere – from living rooms to stylish cafes and DIY blogs . It has become so popular that it’s impossible to imagine the world of interior design without it. Now, the mid-century look is being reinterpreted by Brazilian designers.

Sideboard in dark brown wood with armchair in foreground

Materials like wood are characteristic of Brazilian modern design. They represent a connection to nature and create a warm ambience. (Photo: Studio Muar / Saccaro)

An interior design trend with deep roots

To understand why Brazilian modernism is only now finding its way into living rooms, bedrooms and so on, we first need to talk briefly about its origins. Like many other styles, Brazilian modern has complex political and cultural roots. Under the military dictatorship that ran from the 1960s to the 1980s, exporting furniture abroad was one of various prohibited activities. This meant that South American designs never achieved popularity outside Brazil. Of course, there were exceptions, including Oscar Niemeyer, Sergio Rodrigues and Lina Bo Bardi, to name just a few. But things are shifting in the world of interior design, and the borders are being redrawn. Brazilian modernism is on the rise – for very good reasons.

Two armchairs with wooden frame in front of a large window front

The Poltrona lounge chair from Herval combines two typical features of Brazilian modernism: solid wood and modern lines. (Photo: Herval)

The characteristics of Brazilian modern

While the relatively recent design history of Europe and North America has been the main influence on the interiors scene until now, Brazilian modernism has kept a relatively low profile. Nevertheless, all design currents have one thing in common – a focus on the functionality of individual pieces of furniture. And the designs, in simple organic and geometric forms, are fairly understated, which creates a look that is somewhat reminiscent of Bauhaus style .

What distinguishes Brazilian modern and makes it so special is the choice of materials. In the 1950s, man-made materials like plastic, fibreglass or stainless steel were not widely available in Brazil. The country’s designers were forced to use local materials. It may seem at first glance that this put the country’s design industry at an immense disadvantage, but the shortage of materials ultimately became an advantage. Wood, leather and wicker rose to become the USPs of Brazilian modern design – and they still are today.

The pieces created by the designers from Móveis de Madeira combine solid wood with modern materials like acrylic and fabrics in delicate earth tones. In its collaboration with various designers, Saccaro , a South American furniture retailer, also focuses on the origins of Brazilian modernism. Dark wood, black metal and soft edges are typical features of the designs. In this way, Brazilian designers are translating the history of their country into modern furnishings. You can discover pieces from both retailers, and many more besides, in the Brazilian pavilion at imm cologne from 17 to 31 January 2022 .

Shapes, colours and materials in Brazilian modernism

The main thing that mid-century style and Brazilian modernism have in common is their design language: clean lines – straight or slightly curved – as well as elegant construction remain rooted in Brazilian designs to this day. But it is above all the materials that make Brazilian modernism a special interior design trend. Chairs incorporating wickerwork, armchairs with generously upholstered leather seats and tables sculpted from solid wood are characteristic of Brazilian furniture design.

The coffee table designed by Jorge Zalszupin in the early 1960s is a key piece in the history of design. Its dark wood and geometric shape clearly embody the trend’s roots. The beauty of native varieties of timber like rosewood and mahogany and the high quality to which they are worked are distinctive features of Brazilian furniture. When combined with pale shades of cream, an exciting contrast between light and dark is created, projecting both visual tension and warmth at the same time.

The pared-down range of colours used in Brazilian modernism expresses the restrained approach that lies at the heart of the interior design trend. Subtle browns, creams and powdery shades give sofas, armchairs and other furniture a high-quality look. Young designers are widening the colour palette to include bright but very discreetly placed splashes of colour in emerald green, mustard yellow or petrol blue. Even today, many examples of Brazilian furniture design are painstakingly handcrafted.

What else makes natural materials special? The way they feel. Leather, wood and textiles feel pleasant and warm against the skin. They appeal to all the senses and conjure up dreams of tropical forests and faraway places.

Brown wood coffee table in geometric shape

Andorinha Coffee Table by Jorge Zalszupin for l'Atelier, 1960s (Foto: Pamono & Olibil // Available at Pamono.de)

Brazilian modernism: many trends combined

High quality, natural resources and a hint of history – the desire for individuality, provenance and sustainability continues to drive furnishing and design trends. The Brazilian interpretation of mid-century style fulfils this longing. The natural shapes found in Brazilian modernism and a connection to nature are growing in popularity. It’s becoming more and more common to see natural colours and materials combined – not only in private homes, but also in cafes and hotels. Brazilian modernism is a timeless style that remains true to its roots.

Incidentally, you will be able to get hands-on with the key trends from the interior design industry at imm cologne 2022 from 17 to 23 January.