Unexpected Combos: American Colonial and Brutalist Decor


I’m always trying to meld antique and modern in our house, and lately have been obsessing over brutalist décor and fixtures – which I think would work shockingly well in an antique setting!

So much of ‘primitive’ style reminds me of brutalist pieces. This chandelier, for example, is a colonial reproduction, but skews brutalist (especially if it were made in brass!):


Brutalism is definitely not for everyone! It tends toward the heavy and rugged, exposes the elements and purpose of an object or building, and in architecture you find it uses lots of concrete. Hence the concrete kitchen in the cover image, which blends amazingly well into its traditional setting. I really enjoy Brutalism, but like most styles, don’t love everything!

In décor, the brutalist style overlaps with American primitive in that both use a lot of metal and wood and focus on the purpose of an object. Brutalist décor is certainly more ‘glamorous’ than primitive, often incorporating brass. I like this because I think it can modernize and brighten a space. For example, imagine this beautiful, classic Colonial nook:


With one of these gorgeous lamps on the table:

It would immediately give the space some shine, but the metal look is consistent with the classic pieces.

Of course, some items, like these andirons, already look like they could be antique:

They would fit in so beautifully with this antique fireplace:


Maybe even with this gorgeous pair of starburst sconces (which are vintage brutalist, but look so much like Colonial mirror sconces!):

Here is a beautiful Colonial dining space incorporating super-popular glass counterweighted pendants:


But if you wanted to make this space truly unique, imagine a brutalist pendant shining in the space, like this one!

Here is a classic American Colonial keeping room, super neutral in white with no rugs:


If it were me, I would love to add an organic element to the room, like a pair these beautiful sconces by mid-century designer Curtis Jere:

And instead of the sign over the mantel (I’m not a huge fan of signs and words as décor – ‘EAT’ in the kitchen, for example, or something like this sign that doesn’t have meaning to the house), I would put up this brass ship sculpture, ideal for over a fireplace near the coast, like we are:

Here is an austere, Colonial dining area with a large chandelier:


Imagine how much this piece would warm up the room:

Or, if you wanted to keep the neutral look consistent but add a tiny bit of the modern:

A brutalist case piece like one of these with their book matched wood:


Would look lovely in a traditional farmhouse space like this:


I certainly don’t always prefer the brutalist piece. For example, I love this dark, heavy classic colonial highboy in this entry:


And even though there are so many cool brutalist case pieces out there, like this one:

Sometimes the classic is best!