Brutalism Is Making Waves in 2024, But Can You Adopt It in a Rental Apartment?

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The ever-changing world of interior design saw the resurgence of a dormant style in 2024: brutalism. This style, once considered ideologically colored and rather rough, has been brought to the forefront of interior design by artists, architects, and fashion designers, who infused it with warm hues and natural touches to complement its original beauty. That’s why we saw it reach #1 on our top of interior design styles to watch in 2024 

But being a style quite focused on rough and unfinished materials, it might be intimidating for people living in apartments, especially for renters. To help restructure this giant into something more approachable, we’ve reached out to interior designers to give us their top tips for implementing brutalism in a rental apartment. Here’s what they told us.  

Embrace the unfinished look 

Ilian Petrov of the Home Design Institute said that “to infuse Brutalism into rental apartments, you should use bold accents and exposed structural elements to take advantage of the unfinished look, but balance them out with natural elements like wood and plants. Incorporate utilitarian fixtures that can easily be swapped out and add personal touches that will further enhance the aesthetic.” 

Include sculptural and abstract items 

sculptural items

Kamil Kozory, interior designer and co-founder of Unique Tiles, said that “I always recommend hanging sculptural lighting fixtures with angular or geometric designs reminiscent of Brutalist aesthetics to create focal points and add visual interest to the space. Always go for fixtures with clean, minimalist lines that do not take up too much space and add an industrial touch to the overall design such as exposed bulbs or metal accents.” 

Along the same lines, if you don’t want to change the light fixtures, finding brutalism-inspired artwork could be the perfect option for renters. “My suggestion is to display abstract artwork with bold colors, dynamic compositions, or textural details that evoke the spirit of Brutalist architecture and add personality and character to the rental apartment,” Kamil said. “This includes paintings, prints, or even tapestries that can be easily hung on the walls without causing any damage. I love the versatility of abstract art as it can be easily changed or rotated to refresh the space without making permanent changes.” 

Use lighting to your advantage 

Chris McGuire, founder of Real Estate Exam Ninja, gave us another tip that is easy to implement and is sure to enhance your living space. “In addition to architectural elements and decor pieces that echo the Brutalist style, lighting plays a crucial role in enhancing the Brutalist ambiance of rental apartments. Opt for minimalist lighting fixtures with geometric shapes and clean lines to complement the overall aesthetic. Pendant lights with exposed bulbs or fixtures made of metal and concrete can add a contemporary touch while illuminating the space with a soft, ambient glow.” 

brutalist accents in interior design

Go for Soft Brutalism 

Michelle Petersen, Marketing & Operations Manager of Love Decor Works, talked to us about the 2024 spin on brutalism. “In 2024, the traditional Brutalist style takes on a more modern interpretation with ‘Soft Brutalism’ by integrating industrial materials, maximizing natural light, playing with geometry, keeping the space minimal, and adding warmth through textiles and elements of nature like wood, plants, stones and sustainable materials.”
“When working with Soft Brutalism, the color palette takes on a delicate balance,” Petersen said. “Neutral tones of gray, beige, and white serve as the foundation, creating a cohesive backdrop that allows the raw materials – such as concrete, glass, and metal – to truly shine. These classically neutral colors create a cohesive backdrop that allows the raw materials to stand out.” 
“Splashes of navy blue, mustard yellow, or rich terracotta can be used sparingly to inject personality and visual interest, while deeper hues of brown, rust, or olive green can add a sense of warmth and depth to the space. This careful interplay of colors and textures helps to soften the inherent harshness of Brutalist design, making it more approachable and inviting for the modern renter.” 

If not Brutalism, what else could you choose? 

We were curious to see what other trends the designers saw as up and coming for this year. The answer was quite unanimously biophilic design. As people find themselves craving a return to nature, this trend comes with the perfect answer by guiding people in accepting natural accents and infusing their homes with greenery and earthy tones. 

biophilic design

Michelle Petersen gave us an idea of what biophilic design does to a space. “For the past few years, the prominence of biophilic design in rental apartments has solidified its position as a defining characteristic of modern living. This design approach prioritizes the integration of natural elements, such as plants, sunlight, and eco-friendly materials, into the indoor spaces of rental units. The result is not only a visually appealing environment but also one that promotes a deeper connection to nature and a heightened sense of well-being among residents.” 

Ilian Petrov also told us that biophilic design “focuses on integrating natural elements and features into interior spaces to foster a connection with nature. Expect to see an increase in indoor plants, natural materials such as wood and stone, as well as ample natural light and views of greenery. Biophilic design not only enhances the visual appeal of rental apartments but also promotes well-being and sustainability, making it a sought-after trend for modern living spaces.” 

The beauty is that biophilic design is not an exclusive trend, as it can be easily integrated with other design styles, even with brutalism, to warm it up and make it more inviting. So, will you give these 2024 design trends a try in your own rental apartment? We hope these tips will help you in case you decide to embrace brutalism and go on this creative journey. 

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Mihaela Buzec is a senior writer and online content developer for RentCafe. She covers topics about everything related to the renting lifestyle, from decorating and interior design to finding the right apartment, frugal living, money saving advice, and more. She dives deep into topics of interest, writing well-researched comprehensive guides on subjects such as renting with pets, saving on utilities, or avoiding rental scams to help renters stay informed and live smart.

Mihaela holds a BA in English and German Language and Literature, an MA in Current Linguistics, and she is currently pursuing a PhD in neurolinguistics.

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