Design Dilemma: How to do the Industrial Look
Why has the industrial look become so hot? Once the sole province of loft dwellers living in the meatpacking district of some grimy city, today the industrial look has found its way into homes of all sorts — including placid suburban ranches, rustic cabins perched in the woods and modern apartment buildings. The trend seems to have caught on for several reasons. For one, we’re all looking for ways to do more with less, both to save the planet and to save a few bucks. Re-purposing vintage industrial elements fits in nicely with this theme. For another thing, more of us actually DO live in lofts these days, or at least houses and apartments that are in some ways “loft-like.” These large open spaces naturally lend themselves to industrial elements. The whole point is to maintain a bit of rawness in a space. If it feels too fussed over and finished, then it’s not industrial. So what are the essential elements of the industrial look? Let’s take a look:
1) A generous use of metal.
The industrial look is all about letting the bones show. In industrial spaces, these bones are often metal — including ductwork and pipes. Newer spaces may seek to incorporate steel elements, such as steel railings and beams. Older spaces show their metal through heating ducts and old steel support beams. The picture above is a perfect example, incorporating steel cable railing, a steel wood burning stove and a steel grate catwalk.
In the open, airy beach house above, metal elements also play a slightly more subtle role in steel cable railing, steel trusses, metal pendant lamps and metal table legs. Below, check out a different view of the same home. Notice the chandelier which carries along the metal theme.
In the kitchen below, exposed fire sprinklers and an exposed heating duct are essential design elements contrasting beautifully with the carrera marble backsplash.
2) Concrete and brick, also play a starring role in the industrial look. After all, they are the bare bones of that old factory. In both homes above, polished concrete floors are critical to creating that industrial feel. Below, an industrial style kitchen features exposed brick and concrete floors.
3) Repurposing of older industrial elements in new ways. Every respectable industrial space seems to feature an interesting lighting fixture fashioned from some industrial element. In the picture below, old propane tanks have been repurposed as pendant lamps. What’s interesting about the space below is that it incorporates industrial elements, without going whole-hog industrial. The cabinets are traditional.
The lamp below is a perfect example of the industrial look. It’s not old, but it’s designed to look old. It’s actually the caged pendant lamp of aged steel from Restoration Hardware. It was designed to evoke early 20th century industrial lighting.
What should you keep in mind if you are going after this look?
- Keep some elements raw — either through leaving some elements exposed — such as exposed brick, ductwork or beam — or allowing some furnishings to retain a rough and unfinished look.
- Pay a lot of attention to lighting — the wrong light can ruin your look, the right one can tie everything together. In general look for lighting that incorporates metal, naked light bulbs, some vintage or re-purposed elements. Lights that reference older factory styles are great, as are very minimal modern light fixtures.
- Keep furnishings simple, uncluttered and veering toward the modern. While there’s no hard and fast rule about furnishing s, in general, interiors veer toward the minimal and modern. Minimal, modern furnishings provide a delicious contrast against worn, rusty elements in an industrial interior. On the other hand, you can bring an industrial feel to your home by furnishing your home with some objects made of recycled and reclaimed materials. Old drafting stools, zinc-topped tables, navy chairs and coffee tables of metal and reclaimed wood fit the bill perfectly.
- Think vintage. Incorporate vintage styles where you can, whether it’s white subway tiles with grey grout or a vintage medical cart made of steel.