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In conversation with Béton Brut: London's trailblazing design gallery, prop house and consultancy

Learn more about how design, prop curation, and photography merge in this trailblazing brand.

Styling and furniture curation by Béton Brut
In conversation with Béton Brut: London's trailblazing design gallery, prop house and consultancy
Clara Carlino de Paz
June 9, 2023

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This article was originally posted on Making Space, a Substack penned by our Cofounder, Matteo Grand. Subscribe below to receive more content just like this.

Today we’re thrilled to present you Béton Brut. First founded in 2013’s East London, the brand weaves together the realms of interior design, prop curation and photographic artistry. Echoing architectural grandeur, the very name 'Béton Brut' evokes the spirit of modernist ingenuity and aesthetic commitment. Since its foundation, Béton Brut has solidified itself as a trailblazer in the field of vintage and collectible pieces and has recently expanded into contemporary design.

Within Paul Smith’s London flagship shop in Mayfair and their Hackney studio, Béton Brut’s twentieth-century furniture and lighting take centre stage, carefully curated by the discerning eye of design dealer Sophie Pearce. Pieces from the collection, a testament to timelessness and craftsmanship, are available for purchase or hire by private and trade.

To learn more about the brand and the brains behind it, we’ve enlisted the help of Stanley Quaia, Gallery and Studio Director at Béton Brut.

Hi Stanley, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today! Could you tell us a bit more about yourself and the origins of Béton Brut?

Béton Brut was founded in late 2013. It originally specialised in architect-led design from the 20th century but has expanded to include both antiques and contemporary design. I joined Sophie in 2017, from a fine art and design background, when we became a small team of two! I now head up Contemporary design and nearly all projects – from exhibitions and collaborations, to our residency at Paul Smith – as well as looking after our team.

The name 'Béton Brut' refers to an architectural technique where concrete is intentionally left in its raw, unfinished state after the casting process. This distinctive approach allows the concrete to reveal the intricate patterns and seams imprinted upon it by the very formwork used during its creation. How does the brand embody these qualities in its approach to design?

The brand is honest and uncompromising – just like ‘béton brut’. The process of building the collection is a candid one – all pieces are handpicked or commissioned by Sophie and each must meet one criteria, that she loves it and would want it in her real or imaginary house. It is also an ever unfinished story – the accumulated patina of a piece through time, or the evolving Béton Brut aesthetic, always morphing while remaining recognisable. 

The brand has always been informed by the principles of modernism: clean streamlined forms, a neutral colour palette, strong geometric shapes, functionality and innovation.

Furniture selection by Béton Brut from London
Furniture selection by Béton Brut

Béton Brut integrates furniture hire and sale, prop curation, and photographic studio services seamlessly. Could you elaborate on how these different realms intertwine within the brand's vision?

Béton Brut’s relationship with fashion comes into play here. Not in the literal sense of (just) garments. The brand’s original vision was to bring brand or fashion into the world of vintage design, where it was largely absent. To create a distinctive aesthetic with vintage, without fixing it in one time – letting the curation evolve ahead of tastes and trends. 

Shapes, forms, tones and moods from the archives, real life interiors or the moving milieu of Instagram inform Sophie’s buying choices, or what we commission from designers. Fashion brands, photographers, set designers I think are keen to hire our pieces, as they operate in this same milieu – always seeking new visual inspiration. The same goes for interior designers and private collectors who buy our pieces. 

It's fascinating to hear that Béton Brut's twentieth-century furniture and lighting have found a prominent showcase within Paul Smith's London flagship shop in Mayfair. How did this collaboration come about and what has it meant for the brand?

Both Sophie and I were very excited when this proposal came through the door. We both knew Sir Paul was an avid collector of design and artwork and the prospect of working with him and his team was one that we couldn’t turn down.

On paper our brands don't necessarily make natural bedfellows, however, their brief was to inject a sense of curation into their furniture and art offering. Which also afforded Sophie the unique chance to explore colour, a dramatic departure from the Béton Brut look and feel. Nonetheless, the more we delved into his world the more we found commonalities, primarily the craving for sculptural forms and a blending of eras and styles.

Sophie studied in Nottingham and experienced his first store in person, regularly visiting and getting inspiration from it. I think this store had a great influence on her as it managed to capture a unique sense of style whilst constantly innovating the client’s journey. So in that sense it felt like a full circle moment for her.

I have actively bought into Paul Smith for a long time. Drawn in by his ability to be traditional and contemporary at the same time as well as his infectious sense of intrigue and playfulness. My mindset is very aligned with the Paul Smith head space. In part this is thanks to my mum who was a knitwear designer and was given her first break working for him after graduating in Nottingham in the 80s. On top of that, my dad actively wore his clothes all the time and my younger brother worked in his Floral street store for several years.

The collaboration has also given us retail space whilst we are in between galleries and this has been invaluable. I am pleased to say it has been extended and I hope it carries on even after our new space in London Fields opens hopefully in late 2023. ​​

Furniture selection by Béton Brut from London
Furniture selection by Béton Brut

Soon, some of your pieces were exhibited in Portaire’s Making Space at B&H Studios from 23 May to 25 May. Could you give our readers a snippet of what they missed out on?

People saw a set of 1970s fibreglass sofas by Cini Boeri, which we reupholstered in tan mohair. A very rare Artifort armchair in ivory alpaca, attributed to Pierre Paulin. A revolving white bookcase by Charles Rennie Mackintosh from the 1970s. A super rare tensegrity chair from 1969 called the Galaxie by Jacques Henri Varichon. And an array of sculptural forms. 

Thank you so much for your time. How can people learn more about Béton Brut and stay in touch with you?

We encourage people to visit our website and follow us on Instagram @betonbrutlondon – alternately you can email us