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Grey colours, coarse surfaces

The brutalist style is coming back, and is now showing its cosy side

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Rough textures, unfinished walls, neutral tones and geometric forms: having emerged in the 1950s, the brutalist style is one of the best-known design trends of the modern era. And although the style has often been criticised as cold and coarse, it never completely went away. The trend is now experiencing something of a renaissance and is enjoying an increasingly high profile in the social media world. Find out here what makes brutalism so interesting and how it is being used in contemporary interior design.

A bright bedroom in the brutalist style with a grey concrete wall. (Photo: pixabay)

A bright bedroom in the brutalist style with a grey concrete wall. (Photo: pixabay)

The origins of brutalism

The name “brutalism” comes from the French term “béton brut”, which means “exposed concrete” or “raw concrete”. The reference to the rough, untreated material could not be clearer. One notable pioneer of the style was the Swiss-French architect and designer Le Corbusier. Other popular representatives of the movement include the British architects Alison and Peter Smithson.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, brutalism polarised opinions from the very beginning. With its raw, unapologetic aesthetics, the style caused a stir in the architecture world from the early 1960s onwards. By the 1990s especially, brutalist buildings and rows of houses were reviled as concrete “wastelands”, “jungles”, “bunkers”, “monstrosities”. Stark design, however, has always had its supporters – and so too has brutalism. Proponents appreciate its honest, authentic and powerful aesthetics. The style puts the focus firmly on people and their reality – just as realism did in art. And the diverse opinions about the movement alone make it extremely interesting.

In addition to that, the concrete materials used in brutalism offer one big advantage: they can be cast in any shape. The brutalist style is gaining in importance in the field of interior design, and it is even being celebrated on social media for nostalgic reasons. Brutalism is also undergoing another kind of transformation: it is coming to life again because contemporary architects are staging the enormous concrete buildings in a stylish, modern and minimalist way.

Statement furniture, large windows, rough walls

Brutalism is experiencing a revival in furniture design because the style can be easily combined with other trends such as industrial chic and minimalism. Because of the geometric shapes and clear lines, the style immediately strikes the onlooker as cool, austere and orderly. However, objects also have a practical and functional use in the living environment.

Robust and eye-catching statement furnishings are therefore very popular in brutalist-inspired interior design. Rough stone surfaces, such as those found in angular kitchen islands or on staircases, round off the stark ambience. Unplastered walls in the classic concrete look give living areas an industrial feel. Large windows that let in a lot of natural light are also very popular.

All in all, spaces designed in the brutalist manner do not feel cold and uncomfortable. They tend, rather, to appear neat and have a calming effect. Brutalism, then, is less brutal than its reputation would have it. The style simply lives by the motto “less is more”, just like the minimalism trend .

The Statement table fits in perfectly with a brutalist interior. (Photo: pexels)

The Statement table fits in perfectly with a brutalist interior. (Photo: pexels)

Less is more: focus on stark design

The starkness of the design comes through particularly in the selection of colour and material. In brutalism, the most popular materials are concrete and stone on walls and for furnishings. Concrete design boasts the huge advantage of being very durable, and there are now viable alternatives to conventional concrete that are more sustainable. Another innovative material is sintered stone, an architectural surface material. It is made of natural raw materials such as sand, ceramic substances and kaolin. The industry has succeeded in accelerating the natural process of sintering. And the resulting product is prized in the fields of architecture and interior design for its excellent quality, durability, sustainability, and its elegant look.

The materials used in the brutalist style – in trendy concrete designs, for example – exhibit cool grey tones and neutral colour nuances, lending spaces a stark, almost clinical atmosphere. Warm wooden objects or dark stone surfaces on tables or sideboards can provide pleasant contrasts. Brass accents and various light sources form a counterbalance, providing a little mid-century feel – and bringing sleek elegance, cosiness and functionality into harmony.

Brutalism – a revival with potential

Brutalism is making a successful comeback. These days, however, the brutal, often-scorned look is showing its calming side. With unfinished surfaces, rough textures and neutral colours, which really come into their own in combination with warm accents in wood or brass, the style manages to stay true to its roots. Yet brutalism in interior design today also combines its rough aesthetics with a certain cosiness. A variety of influences, from minimalism, mid-century and industrial chic, come together perfectly here, creating space for new ideas and innovative and sustainable materials.

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