The Resurgence of Brutalist Interior Design: Unveiling its Raw Beauty

The Brutalist interior design movement has experienced a resurgence in recent years, challenging preconceived notions and leaving a lasting impression on American style. Contrary to popular belief, Brutalism is not contemporary, mid-century modern, or industrial....

The Brutalist interior design movement has experienced a resurgence in recent years, challenging preconceived notions and leaving a lasting impression on American style. Contrary to popular belief, Brutalism is not contemporary, mid-century modern, or industrial. It is essential to understand the rules and history behind this unique design style. As I embarked on a cross-country road trip to explore all-American design styles, I made stops at college campuses and even Kimye's house to delve into the world of Brutalism. In this article, I will share the key elements and historical influences of Brutalist interior design, as well as discuss its potential future in the design scene.

Elements of the Brutalist Interior Design Style

Raw Materials

At its core, Brutalist interior design celebrates raw materials and embraces the honesty of construction. Rather than covering interior walls with trim or wallcoverings, Brutalist designers showcase the beauty of materials such as concrete, glass, steel, and hewn stone. Instead of hiding behind adornments, these materials speak for themselves, adding a sense of authenticity and character to the space.

Exterior with Brutalist Elements Exterior with Brutalist Elements, Design by Amity Worrel

Geometric Shapes

Brutalist design simplifies buildings to their most basic forms, relying on simple geometric shapes to create visual interest. While the resulting aesthetic may appear stark and cold to some, it offers a canvas for treating designs as modern sculptures. The art of Brutalist design lies in the interplay between positive and negative space, creating captivating shapes that captivate the eye.

Textured Surfaces

As Brutalist design strips away unnecessary ornamentation, textures become essential in achieving a layered and visually captivating look. Rough concrete, reflective glass, and exposed piping become art forms in their own right, adding impactful visual interest to the space using the most fundamental building materials.

Unadorned Minimalism

In the world of Brutalism, less is more. The design philosophy revolves around removing excess finishes and furnishings, resulting in a stark and almost Spartan appearance. Only the minimum amount of furniture and decor necessary for comfort and function are included, creating a clean and uncluttered space.

Focus on Function

Despite its often boxy and unconventional exterior, Brutalist design revolves around careful planning based on functionality. The layout of Brutalist spaces is meticulously designed to accommodate the flow and purpose of its occupants. This meticulous attention to detail ensures that the different zones within a space harmonize seamlessly. Unlike other design styles that may include superfluous elements, Brutalism focuses solely on the essential aspects of architectural planning.

Historical Influences of the Brutalist Style

The Brutalist movement originated in the United Kingdom after World War II as a cost-effective solution for post-war construction projects. It quickly gained popularity throughout Europe, driven by the need for affordable materials such as concrete. The term "Brutalism" originates from the French word "béton brut," meaning raw concrete.

Boston City Hall Boston City Hall, Photo by Bill Lebovich, Sourced from Library of Congress

In contrast, while Europe embraced Brutalism, Americans were captivated by the Modernist movement during the same period. Brutalism directly challenged the clean lines, bright colors, and futuristic aesthetics of mid-century modern design. The heavy and rugged forms of Brutalist architecture were forged from inexpensive industrial materials, leaving nothing concealed. In the context of the Cold War era, American universities adopted Brutalist design for their campus buildings, inadvertently lending a menacing backdrop to the student protests of the 1960s.

The Rise and Fall of Brutalist Design

Despite its initial popularity, Brutalism began to decline in the 1980s. Many of the original structures associated with this architectural style aged poorly, developing cracks, discoloration, and becoming targets for graffiti. The design style became closely tied to urban decay and the grittiness of city life. As America shifted its focus to the suburbs and embraced the vibrant colors and shabby chic styles of the 1980s, Brutalism faded into obscurity.

The Revival and Future of Brutalist Interior Design

In the late 2010s, Brutalism made a brief comeback, largely fueled by Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's adoption of the design style in their Calabasas mansion. However, the minimalist movement gained momentum, driven by Marie Kondo's decluttering philosophy and HGTV's influence, ultimately overshadowing Brutalism. However, with the pandemic forcing us to spend more time at home, the desire for cozy and well-adorned spaces has given rise to other design styles such as shabby chic and cottage style.

Kim's Bathroom Sink Kim's Bathroom Sink, Sourced from Daily Mail

Brutalism, while not currently at the forefront of design trends, has left an indelible mark on American culture. Whether it evokes images of the post-WWII era or reminds us of the concrete fortresses on college campuses, Brutalist design has become a prominent landmark in American design history. While its resurgence in American homes remains uncertain, for now, many find solace in cozying up on plush sofas next to charming fireplaces.

Conclusion

Brutalist interior design embodies a unique approach that celebrates raw materials, geometric shapes, textured surfaces, unadorned minimalism, and functional spaces. It originated in post-WWII Europe and made its way to America, leaving a lasting impression. While it may not be the current design trend, the raw beauty and authenticity of Brutalism continue to captivate those who appreciate its unique aesthetic. Whether Brutalism will reclaim its position in American homes remains to be seen, but for now, we embrace the diverse range of design styles that allows each individual to create their perfect sanctuary.

1