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Brutalism isn't a word that evokes feelings of warmth and coziness, and, in a way, it's not meant to. Born out of post–World War II as an architecture movement that prioritized raw, unfinished materials to create imposing fortress-like structures, the aesthetic filled a need for widespread low-cost rebuilding and durable materials that could provide protection against foreign attacks. The movement, which remained popular until around the mid-1980s, is now making a comeback on the design scene.
Alongside the growing popularity of minimalism, perforated metals, and other rough-around-the-edges trends, brutalism evokes a moody, post-apocalyptic vibe that's eye-catching and complementary to modern spaces. When used in today's modern homes, the trend reads less dramatic and moody, and more attention-grabbing. Even better—it is the perfect complement to softer, rounder pieces, like curved sofas and unmade beds. Ready to give your décor a unique edge? We outlined the main characteristics of this daring trend.
Because the Brutalist movement was born out of a postwar era, architects and builders were specifically interested in materials that were inexpensive, unrefined, and resistant. Concrete was the material of choice in Brutalist architecture, but it is still beloved in contemporary architecture today, like in this New Zealand house by architect Amanda Yates.
Jonathan Adler used raw concrete as a base for his surreal planter collection, blending industrial materials with inventive shapes.
This simple West Elm industrial side table is made of hand-cast solid concrete and iron—two materials that are widely associated with Brutalism.
Brutalist accents are characterized by jagged edges that mimic mechanical post-apocalyptic shapes and forms. Torch-cut brass chandeliers, which are synonymous with Brutalist décor, were popular in the 1950s and have recently made a comeback.
Largely viewed as one of the forefathers of Brutalist décor, Tom Greene specialized in layers of aged torch-cut brass.
With an abstract organic form, a rough texture and a dark, earth-toned palette, this dining table is the embodiment of Brutalism.
In furniture and décor, the Brutalist movement was somber and almost post-apocalyptic—giving importance to eerie organic and rugged shapes in dark, earthy tones. This hotel lobby in Anguilla, designed by Kelly Wearstler, embodies this trend perfectly.
Sculpture was a large part of Brutalism. This abstract bronze piece is reminiscent of the mechanical era and rotates on a rolling bearing to be admired from all angles.
Made of hand-carved glass and patinated steel, these 1980s chairs are an homage to the Brutalist movement.
Weathered brass, organic shapes, and thin iron legs—this side table has everything to create a subtle Brutalist statement.
The primary materials of the Brutalist movement were primarily concrete and metals—although not all metallics made the cut. Artisans and architects preferred the raw burnished look of unfinished metals like iron, bronze, and steel. Anything to give the metals a lived-in patina.
This iron sconce is made of hand-cut geometric shapes and welded together in a tribal pattern. The light that reflects on the raw surfaces mimics a rusty texture.