The Most Controversial Architecture Style Is About to Take Over Your Living Room — Are You Ready?

published Feb 3, 2021
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Credit: Andrew Bui

If you thought you could hide from Brutalism’s blocky modularity and severe geometry forever, I have some bad news: this in-your-face style is about to be, well, back in your face. The post-World War II architectural movement, seen in widely-criticized buildings like Boston City Hall, is characterized by utilitarianism, and the use of raw materials, such as concrete or steel. While popular well into the late 1970s, Brutalism’s eventual downfall lies in the very material that defined it: For being seemingly indestructible, concrete’s inability to weather visual decay from the elements meant many Brutalist structures started to visibly fall apart. Plus, architects and design insiders loved the style, but a lot of other people just plain hated it.

That said, all trends eventually circle back… and now, it’s Brutalist design‘s turn. These days though, it has fresh colorways, smoother textures, and the addition of warm metals. Even though Brutalism has become significantly more approachable, it still has its signature stark minimalism and simplicity. I scoured the latest spring collections to find Brutalist pieces that show why this (actually beautiful, trust me) style deserves a second chance. Here’s what I found (just keep in mind that because of their materials and unique shapes, these furnishings are on the pricier side).

1. Crafts Manhattan Concrete Side Table

This new wave of Brutalism is brought to you by this monolithic concrete side table spotted on Etsy by Patrick Cain Designs. The maker’s take on the concept is all about a 21st-century refresh, achieved by way of a pale peach color and a playful, wavy silhouette to boot. Even though the handmade piece itself is hollowed out — otherwise it would weigh so much it’d be tough to move — it still manages to retain its solid, statement-worthy stature.  

Buy: Crafts Manhattan Concrete Side Table, Starting at $599.00 from Etsy

2. Harrison Indoor / Outdoor Round Coffee Table

Although you can always count on the presence of concrete and steel in Brutalist design, I’m loving the fresh interpretations of it, such as this minimalist coffee table from Lulu & Georgia. The piece’s moody gray hue is offset by its warm metal frame, while its oval shape softens the intensity of the concrete build. 

Buy: Harrison Indoor / Outdoor Round Coffee Table, $829.00 from Lulu & Georgia 

Credit: IKEA

3. BESTA Cabinet

True Brutalist furniture and decor tend to come with a steep price tag, but, of course, you can always count on IKEA to serve up trends with an affordable spin. Cue this modular storage unit that features a concrete-like finish minus the hefty density and price point. Mount the cabinet on the wall for a media center with a streamlined look. 

Buy:  BESTA Cabinet, $360.00 from IKEA

Credit: Ligne Roset

4. Togo Fireside Chair 

Brutalism as a couch looks a lot like Ligne Roset’s Togo sofa, which has had its fair share of time in the limelight recently. This iconic designer piece is beautifully unstructured and effortless cool. Available in plenty of fun colorways, it’s a true investment piece that’s primed to transform your living room with comfort and style. 

Buy: Togo Fireside Chair by Michel Ducaroy, Starting at $3,475.00 at Ligne Roset

Credit: CB2

5. Hex Cement Pedestal Tables

When it comes to the old school aesthetic, furniture as art takes on a whole new meaning with architecturally-forward pieces that can stand alone as decorative sculptures. These hand-sanded, cement pedestals from CB2 are a prime example, doubling as a landing spot for everything from table lamps to floral arrangements. Though to be honest, I’d just leave them as is. 

Buy: Hex Cement Pedestal Tables, Starting at $199.00 from CB2

Credit: Joss & Main

6. Argent Fiberstone Bench

Cool and modern yet beautifully understated, this fiberstone bench from Joss & Main epitomizes Brutalism through and through. Pair this minimalist piece with a cozy sheepskin for a textural juxtaposition in your living room or arrange it on either side of a dining table for a streamlined seating solution. 

Buy: Argent Fiberstone Bench, $564.00 from Joss &  Main

Credit: West Elm

7. Profile Wide Bookcase

Emulating the geometric and modular accents of Brutalist design, this sleek steel storage unit is an ode to the industrial framework of the style. While books are a given, layer in neutral stoneware and complementary decorative pieces to further accentuate its form. 

Buy: Profile Wide Bookcase in Antique Bronze, $599.00 from West Elm

8. Dada Console Table

Mixed materials, angled slab legs, and a rounded silhouette are just a few of the many characteristics that give this Crate & Barrel find its Brutalist-inspired feel. The raw textural finish of the base, coupled with its sleek amber glass top, is a lesson in pairing opposites and making it work. Place this piece behind a sofa in an open-layout room to distinguish zones, styling it with a monochromatic stack of books and a statement vase up top. 

Buy: Dada Console Table, $999.00 from Crate & Barrel

Credit: 1stDibs

9. Modern Geometric Aluminum “Helium” Stackable Stool 

Influenced by the clean lines of Brutalist architecture, these jewel-toned stacking stools offer a contemporary riff on the classic concept. Finished in a durable powder-coat steel, which makes them ideal for both indoor and outdoor use, I love the idea of designating this one as an end table (or even a nightstand) that’s about as no-frills as it gets.  

Buy: Modern Geometric Aluminum “Helium” Stackable Stool by Arcana, Starting at $450.00 $360.00 from 1stDibs

10. Holloway Large Side Table

You’ll often find traces of mid-century modernism in this iconic style, especially when it comes to furniture. This multi-faceted storage chest from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams illustrates how fluid these two styles can be, although the geometric features and blocky front are all Brutalist. Versatile enough to live in the bedroom, living room, or even hallway, this unit is your key to keeping clutter at bay. 

Buy: Holloway Large Side Table, $1,727.00  from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams