Brutalism with first impressions frequently reminds people of the Soviet Union era. There is no question that government buildings around the world have definitely utilized the style, whether intentional or not, to evoke the power of the institution. However, the style is also becoming quite the standout for interior design, especially in warmer climates like Los Angeles, where many of the materials and designs work well with warmer air and more than an average number of days of sunlight.
While it doesn’t work for every home or building per se, brutalism has a very unique and strong look, ergo the name, for a Spartan approach to living space. Where minimalism leaves off, brutalism picks up with emphasis. The style is heavy on monochrome color schemes (grays dominate), heavy use of cement and stone, and sleek facilities or furniture with a noticeable absence of decoration or accessories. It is “austerity”, with a capital A, underlined, and printed in bold.
The goal of brutalism is oftentimes to subjugate the surroundings to the focus of the inhabitant. The room should not be a distraction. Everything in it in terms of texture, color, and feel should be subordinate to the direct attention of the client’s vision and being. As a result, furniture, decorations, and textures are muted and stripped away. All attention and detail are hyper-centered on the inhabitant versus the surroundings. The absence of luxury ends up making a room bigger, expansive, and clearly unique in appearance.
A key commitment from a homeowner or building owner is to be willing to engage and accept a very strict vision that comes across as monolithic, and overpowering in its bareness and scarcity. Many have compared brutalism in home design to living in a cement box with big windows. That’s not quite accurate, but it’s in the ballpark. Bare cement floors and unfinished walls and fixtures are regularly used. Bare wood, rough edges, and noticeable texture without being polished or finished are common as well. The details of the materials in their raw state become much of what makes brutalism so memorable. And yes, it does take a certain type of person to be comfortable in such an environment, no question.
Los Angeles interior designers don’t typically see a high demand for the brutalism style, but that’s not to say the appearance is not possible. In fact, a number of homes play with hybrid versions of brutalism, emphasizing a sparse but highly intentional design for occasional use, often favored by clients who travel a lot. Alternatively, the style is very much relied on by institutional clients and companies looking for a striking look that relies on little in the way of decor investment but has a powerful effect on visitors.
Even the best interior designer in Los Angeles can be challenged by the criteria of brutalism, especially when applied in a home. At first blush, the style seems to go against everything one would want in a personal living setting. However, there is a particular appeal to the Spartan view of personal living, one that evokes a masculine purist application of a home environment, void of anything in terms of comfort but clearly designed for maximum utilitarianism. Karl Marx would definitely be happy in such a place. And for those needing an extra setting that can double as a futuristic bare form of living in the 22nd century, it works pretty well too (aka Blade Runner-type sets).
No question, brutalism is unique as an interior design. For those who definitely want a home to stand out and be memorable with the least amount of inventory, it definitely qualifies. The style is not for everyone, but certain clients will definitely enjoy its specific loyalty to design discipline and beautiful barrenness.