Brutalist design furniture

brutalist furniture by paul evans for laneMr. Modtomic left a nice comment yesterday, so I went to take a look at his blog, too. And what did I see but a Lane “Brutalist” bedroom set “in the style of Paul Evans” that Mr. Modtomic spotted at the Salvation Army for $249.99. I think… this brutalist stuff is a big deal. As I have said many times before but perhaps still not often enough, I am not a Ph.D. interior designer or historian and most certainly not a DIY-er … I am an obsessed writer-decorating-homebody-sweet-on-the-small-stuff woman in love with all things mid-mod especially all the back stories. The why-why-why-why-why. One of the main joys of the blog is the continuous journey of discovery. And now: I have discovered the world of brutalism, thanks to Mr. M.

Okay, so my main source of info about brutalism so far is Wikipedia, but that’s a start, right? The term “brutalism” was coined in 1953, (not the 70s or something!) when architects were working with concrete and I guess, because of the nature of the material and also for socio-political reasons (there is always a “utopian” vision, usually communist, behind this stuff), they created blocky designs that “showed” the wood forms and such.  Big chunky structures that they did not try to make look all smooth and perfect. W-pedia says the word Brutalism actually comes from the “French béton brut, or ‘raw concrete, a phrase used by Le Corbusier to describe the poured board-marked concrete with which he constructed many of his post-World War II buildings.”

Indeed, the most famous brutalist was Le Corbusier — hey, I heard of him before, for sure! Montreal Habitat’67 was brutalist — hey, I’ve even been there! A few years ago we drove to Montreal to visit friends, and I made DH drive by so I could take photos (above). It’s very cool … But … but … I am not sure I would want to live there. It looks cold. And like, I bet I would get lost finding my cube. Back in the day, the style did not catch on much either. Interestingly, Wikipedia mentions the failure coming in part due to “poor maintenance” and “urban decay.” Hey: Shouldn’t that be our counterpoint to the “the suburbs suck” pundit-crowd?  I am heading into rant territory so I’d better stop. Suffice to say: Suburb-bashing annoys me.

Back to: Brutalism is kinda cool. And especially: That furniture. It surely screams “style!” The more I see of various design styles… understand their raison detre… and see how one design just kind of flows into the next (there usually are not hard “lines”… it’s a river that flows…), the more tolerant of all styles I become.

brutalist chandelierQuickly surfing around, I see that Jere sculptures also are being called brutalist. Above: Chandelier in the brutalist style by Tom Greene for the Feldman Company, $425, from retrosymphony on

Mr. Modtomic … feel free to tell us more! Many thanks!

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  1. says

    Thanks so much for the Shout Out Pam! What an Eye Bulging Surprise! My lil’ ol’ Blog got a BIG bump in hits today! And doubled my “Modtomitrists” list! You were a big inspiration in creating a blog BTW. I’ve been reading and commenting here for about two years.

    Chris S.

  2. Jonathan says

    Wow, I had no ideas that Brutalism has ever made it into furniture designs.

    After reading this blog and people’s comments, I realized that I have long admired brutalist architecture mostly because they were so starkly different from the rest of the buildings in the city. It didn’t matter if it is a Ramada Inn in the town where I live and where my grandparents used to stay whenever they were in town visiting from Toronto or if it was a university building at the two universities where I studied at (the MacIntosh-Corry Building and the Watson Hall at Queen’s University, the Lady Eaton and the Champlain College at Trent University, and the ever so hulking Ross Building at York University), I always secretly admired them while my peers would mock at their monstrous, griege, and sprawling appearance.

    Actually, Toronto has a large number of concrete buildings. Some are done in a Brutalist manner. If you wish to read up more about this in Toronto, then I would recommend this book: Concrete Toronto – A Guide on Concrete Architecture from the Fifties to the Seventies.

  3. midmodjobs says

    Yes many of us here know Mr. Modtomic. If you dig and dive around the estate sale scene in ST.L chances are you know him. You should see his house, the content of which should be qualified for museum grants.
    This is just one more of many reasons why you need a trip to St. Louis! ModernSTL wants to host a regional pow pow in 2012, and have you as a guest speaker. You could be in store for some serious adventure and discovery in the “Lou”.
    Get in touch with Amy, again! We would love to show you around.


  4. marta says

    I was at my local second hand store this morning and they had the same bedroom set! if anyone is interented and lives near Montgomeryville, PA. it’s a great deal, I wish I had the space for it!

  5. Zachare Daugharty says

    I recently acquired a set of furniture for $150.00 I am having trouble identifying. So far what you have here is the best description but I would love to know for certain. I have pictures but not sure how to upload them here.

  6. bror and caryn says

    We recently obtained a table lamp in the brutalist style and are unsure of its provenance. Who would be a good source to contact on this? Thanks for any help you could provide.

  7. Kyle says

    I don’t see my late sixties split in a sixties Brutalist style (I drift more toward Hollywood Regency) because in the sixties and seventies I spent more time in Florida than in Montreal, but not by much. I grew up in an eakly sixties split that my mom still lives in. It was very boxy. My home is rather open, which is what had me at hello :) I remember touring Habitat as a kid and I can understand the Brutalist concept very concretely (no pun intended). While it was cool, it had no warmth at all. Really it was like a storage locker on the inside, very post Iron Curtain curious on the outside. Thanks for posting the picture, brought back a flood of memories,

    • pam kueber says

      I would LOVE to tour the inside of Habitat. A few years ago I recall seeing a “time capsule” unit. Wish I had that photo (with permission to archive it). Alas.

  8. Ed says

    That Habitat ’67 building reminds me of the Borg from later Star Trek productions. Or perhaps sprawling, third world slums, on a hillside- chaos as far as the eye can see.

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