The New Outdoor Design Trend? Believe It or Not: Brutalism
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The New Outdoor Design Trend? Believe It or Not: Brutalism

What’s behind the revival—and how to pull it off without turning your backyard retreat into a totalitarian bunker.

Fri, Jul 22, 2022 11:51amGrey Clock 2 min

CALL IT FLINTSTONES CHIC: On balconies and in backyards, hulking stone chairs and chunky concrete tables are making their weighty presence known. The look, though not actually prehistoric, is one with a past. Brutalism, the modern-design movement more typically associated with no-frills 1960s and 1970s public buildings than patio furniture, has long been an aesthetic critics love to hate. So why, after years of trim minimalism, are designers embracing the monolithic look for outdoors?

“People want unusual, sculptural pieces that have an edge and patina,” explained New York designer Amy Lau. Brutalist designs tick those boxes. Cameos in high-profile Instagram feeds like Gwyneth Paltrow’s haven’t hurt, either: Recent snaps of the lifestyle guru’s new Montecito home show what appear to be vintage “pod chairs” by Brutalist designer Willy Guhl looming trendily around an equally chunky fire pit. (Snag your own pair on 1stDibs for a rather brutal $21,293)

The post-apocalyptic style, named for the French term, “béton brut” (meaning “raw concrete”), might seem at odds with gentle plant forms, but fans say that juxtaposition is exactly what makes it work. “[Outdoors] the bold, elemental shapes of Brutalist furniture create a sense of dynamic contrast and edge,” said Kelly Wearstler, a Los Angeles designer whose work is heavily influenced by Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, midcentury masters who ushered in the Brutalist movement.

Take for example, the Boletto Chair from Cassius Castings, a Santa Monica, Calif., studio specializing in made-to-order concrete pieces. With its angular shape, drab colour and textureless surface, it sets off verdant green spaces with satisfyingly bratty dissonance. A Corten steel chiminea from Terrain also upends gentility with a straight-from-the-steel-mill look—though its saffron patina and columnar, tree-trunk shape evoke more natural forms.

Brutalist patio furniture can also be just plain practical. As Ms. Lau explained, concrete—one of Brutalism’s signature mediums—does particularly well outdoors. “It’s sturdy, and you don’t have to cover it for winter.”

For those worried Brutalist furniture will make their terrace look more like a totalitarian bunker than a posh retreat, Gaithersburg, Md., designer Shoshanna Shapiro points out that many new designs—like Boxhill’s lightweight and surprisingly elegant swooping Lucio loungers—are more approachable than their 1960s-era counterparts. Another way to temper the severity of Brutalist elements: Use them sparingly, or combine them with more delicate wood or rattan pieces.

“We’re seeing more sophisticated versions with slimmer, gentler curves and richer colours,” Ms. Shapiro explained. One of her favourite examples of this new iteration is the monumental, modular Spolia planter from Opiary. “It blends biophilic design and Brutalism in a modern, minimalist way.”

Neo-Brutalist designer James De Wulf also marries the organic and the industrial with his new bronze and concrete Exo dining table. While he’s best known for his hulking half-ton pieces, the craftsman’s recent work skews subtler. “I’m letting the shapes be organic rather than following the rigidity of circles and straight lines,” he explained.

“Some clients shy away from [Brutalist pieces] thinking they’ll be cold and uncomfortable,” said Seattle designer Anna Popov, who says she’s recently been crushing on a sensuous line of sealed concrete furniture from Sunpan. “But the truth is that it’s form, not material, that determines comfort,” she said. “A well-designed chair, in any material, can be the most comfortable one you’ve ever sat in.”

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: July 21, 2022


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

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RBA Governor explains the rate rises we had to have

Philip Lowe’s comments come amid property industry concerns about pressures on mortgage holders and rising rents

Wed, Jun 7, 2023 2 min

Leaders in Australia’s property industry are calling on the RBA to hit the pause button on further interest rate rises following yesterday’s announcement to raise the cash rate to 4.1 percent.

CEO of the REINSW, Tim McKibbin, said it was time to let the 12 interest rate rises since May last year take effect.

“The REINSW would like to see the RBA hit pause and allow the 12 rate rises to date work their way through the economy. Property prices have rebounded because of supply and demand. I think that will continue with the rate rise,” said Mr McKibbin.  

The Real Estate Institute of Australia  today released its Housing Affordability Report for the March 2023 quarter which showed that in NSW, the proportion of family income required to meet the average loan repayments has risen to 55 percent, up from 44.5 percent a year ago.

Chief economist at Ray White, Nerida Conisbee, said while this latest increase would probably not push Australia into a recession, it had major implications for the housing market and the needs of ordinary Australians.

“As more countries head into recession, at this point, it does look like the RBA’s “narrow path” will get us through while taming inflation,” she said. 

“In the meantime however, it is creating a headache for renters, buyers and new housing supply that is going to take many years to resolve. 

“And every interest rate rise is extending that pain.”

In a speech to guests at Morgan Stanley’s Australia Summit released today, Governor Philip Lowe addressed the RBA board’s ‘narrow path’ approach, navigating continued economic growth while pushing inflation from its current level of 6.8 percent down to a more acceptable level of 2 to 3 percent.

“It is still possible to navigate this path and our ambition is to do so,” Mr Lowe said. “But it is a narrow path and likely to be a bumpy one, with risks on both sides.”

However, he said the alternative is persistent high inflation, which would do the national economy more damage in the longer term.

“If inflation stays high for too long, it will become ingrained in people’s expectations and high inflation will then be self-perpetuating,” he said. “As the historical experiences shows, the inevitable result of this would be even higher interest rates and, at some point, a larger increase in unemployment to get rid of the ingrained inflation. 

“The Board’s priority is to do what it can to avoid this.”

While acknowledging that another rate rise would adversely affect many households, Mr Lowe said it was unavoidable if inflation was to be tamed.

“It is certainly true that if the Board had not lifted interest rates as it has done, some households would have avoided, for a short period, the financial pressures that come with higher mortgage rates,” he said. 

“But this short-term gain would have been at a much higher medium-term cost. If we had not tightened monetary policy, the cost of living would be higher for longer. This would hurt all Australians and the functioning of our economy and would ultimately require even higher interest rates to bring inflation back down. 

“So, as difficult as it is, the rise in interest rates is necessary to bring inflation back to target in a reasonable timeframe.”


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

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