This is confirmed by the numerous publications on the subject, the dozens of style variations, and the countless examples within public places and private spaces that have interpreted the guidelines of industrial style over the years.
All professionals know this style; they know what the elements that distinguish it and what materials and furnishings are necessary to include to have design results worthy of this trend that towers over the interior design scene.
Before tackling the aesthetic result of concrete, iron and exposed brick, however, it is perhaps appropriate to dwell on the historical and cultural reasons for the emergence of the industrial style: a style that has the raison d’etre in an architectural heritage whose distinctive features we find practically identical in every area of the planet.
Modern industrial interior design is based on the concept of “reuse,” which can be intended as the recovery of spaces, once designed for industries or offices, and now used as houses, as well as the reuse of materials, which makes it an incredibly sustainable style.
The industrial style, in these terms, developed in the early 1950s in New York and was most exalted during the years of Pop Art by Andy Warhol.
The elements that distinguish this style are dark-colored objects, use of ferrous materials, metal, wood, and copper, light-colored walls, which makes the place look more prominent. Some particular design objects appear with essential and clear sober lines, often colored, to give some warmth to the area, clearly visible pipelines, and pipes, exposed bricks, and vintage objects.
The space that best hosts this style is definitely an open space, a loft, or a studio apartment. Also better suited for large areas, because they perfectly reflect the idea of an old factory.
Balancing the distinctive elements with design objects is fundamental but not as easy as it seems. The essential thing is to guarantee the idea of industrial style, embellishing the furniture with any objects that reflect our personality, perhaps of a particular set of colors we love.
Another element that characterizes this style is light, which must be natural. The rooms must be irradiated by external light filtering through windows and fixtures. This way, the “heavy” structure of the furniture is lightened. In addition to natural light, however, the modern industrial style includes floor lamps, spotlights that illuminate the room from the roof, or suspension lamps.
Why choose the Modern Industrial Interior Design?
Modern Industrial style coexists with any other decoration, and this is just one of its many advantages. If your living room showcases a breath-taking marble fireplace, this will not collide with exposed brick, a metal coffee table, and industrial lamps. On the contrary, this anachronistic touch will have an exceptional effect in the living room, bringing a sense of warmth and welcome.
Main Benefits of the Modern Industrial Style
1. Old materials and furniture recycling
The materials used are wrought iron, aged and raw wood, ropes, copper, lead, and other metals. It will then be easy to choose furnishings and accessories worthy of the style of your home.
Aside from buying second-hand furniture, you can recover and reuse old furniture or furnishings you already have to give character to the rooms and to breathe more family air and history.
This is not only a money-saving benefit for you but a sustainable approach.
The industrial style leaves room for the reuse of old furniture and objects, often rearranged to a different role from what they were initially intended for. A cheap and sustainable idea that is both modern and industrial is to use pallets to create original furniture.
You can use them to build a beautiful coffee table, to be covered on the surface with a glass top, or as a bed frame, shelves for books, even as a base for a couch.
2. Industrial elements and furniture can be found at an affordable price!
By now, every well-stocked store and even the most various e-shops have industrial furnishings and accessories available at the most competitive price.
3. It can be interpreted at will
Industrial furniture can also be interpreted at will because it is incredibly versatile. That is, you can combine it with other styles, revisit it, mix it with a more modern look, and there are absolutely no limits.
4. Because it has several contaminations
The industry has many different contaminations coming from all over the globe. In short, it often happens that an industrial piece is very different from another, but they will all work to recreate its unmistakable ambiance.
5. Because it is found everywhere
Industrial furnishings and typical accessories, both vintage and newly built, are found practically everywhere, and it’s easy to buy them online. Many famous brands have created multiple collections for this scenographic and timeless style. Brands like: GFURN, Froy, Zin Home, Urban Outfitters, and Ikea.
Modern Industrial Style History and Origins
Raw walls, exposed bricks, resins, concrete, possibly all together and inside a loft: these are the critical elements of an industrial-style space. Obviously, this is a trending style in 2020: we have seen it everywhere, but what does industrial furniture really intend?
From celebrity houses to restaurants and hotels, salvaged objects, vintage furniture, pieces of machinery that rest on the ground are the protagonists. The forgotten spaces, as if by magic, become beautiful. To facilitate the entry of industrial style into our imagination, it was also undoubtedly the tendency to save, influenced by the fluctuating economic crisis of the last decades.
And so recycled, reused, and anything old is repaired and called vintage. As if there was a desire to return to something of the past, which speaks to us of authenticity, and our historical heritage: here are the origins of industrial design.
Industrial design was born in the 1950s in New York when the idea of the recovery and reuse of disused spaces began to wonder the minds of creative people, who found that the challenge of creating beauty inside an old closed warehouse was quite exciting.
To strengthen what would become a trend, then came Warhol, who with The Factory, crested his studio in an industrial apartment on the 5th floor of 231 East 47th Street, in Midtown Manhattan, created a strategic meeting point for the artists of that time.
When American films and TV series set in the same spaces appeared, the general public wanted to imitate them, as if they wanted to achieve a dream that was finally much closer and achievable than the Hollywood villas that were seen up to that moment. The industrial style slowly asserted itself in the metropolis and then conquered even the smallest local realities.
Nowadays, the industrial style is often called industrial chic, which is a more “sweetened” and less crude version than the past one. Today, with the tendency to avoid further exploitation of soil and with the consequent recovery of spaces, industrial-style apartments are increasing significantly.
Wanting to make an exact temporal location of the period from which this new style draws inspiration, we could say that it includes elements that go from the beginning of the industrial age, until the end of the Second World War. Even the plastics of the 50s and 60s are somehow included, but only when they represent explicit references to the world of mechanics or industry (such as mechanics’ signs, those of petrol stations, car plates, or old advertisements for industrial products).
Modern Industrial Style Characteristics
Concept, materials and color palette
The elements of the “industrial” style are memory, simplicity, robustness, and regulated disorder. Although the use of new design, accessories, and furnishings is expected, it’s possible to recycle old, more commonly used furniture, without removing the patina that characterizes them. For example, in antique stores or specialized furniture stores, desks and chairs can be found that are suitable for the purpose, which, even if they are not of the right period, will adapt very well to the goal.
Even some “rustic” pieces from the 60s fit perfectly in the industrial style; An alternative is to rejuvenate old lacquered objects, stripping them in the rough and then treating them with a very light coat of transparent varnish. Or in reusing old workshop trolleys, further aging them with a new coating that makes their surface dark, opaque, and worn.
One of the most distinctive characteristics of the industrial style is how space is used. The whole area should appear unfinished. Architectural elements left incomplete, such as cement, old and worn wood, imperfect plaster, exposed metal parts, ceiling systems, should be emphasized rather than covered.
The typical industrial home has exposed brick walls. But often, our walls are made of masonry, and bricks become a more complex and perhaps even excessively expensive choice. The perfect solution is a wallpaper that reproduces the design of the blocks. If you like DIY, apply it on the part of the living room, on a single wall or in a corner area. Even if they are not real bricks, the final effect is precisely that of a perfect industrial style.
Two of the primary materials of the industrial style are iron and wood, which are often found combined together in industrial furniture. A large variety of metals, including steel, exposed bricks, concrete, and copper, also work very well in an industrial environment, enriching the surfaces with dynamism and nuances. These raw materials must be balanced with the warmer ones, such as wood, or resins, and natural fabrics, such as cotton, linen or jute (perhaps recycled).
Metal (steel, iron, and corten) is clearly a great protagonist in the industrial look, so highlighting these elements in your apartment is an excellent way to increase the authenticity of the space. Do you have iron stairs or industrial shelves? Don’t cover them!
If, on the other hand, you don’t have any metal elements, you can introduce them through accessories. Choose minimalist iron bookcases, buy a metal coffee table with a glass top for the living room. Add an old metal locker near your entrance. The possibilities are endless.
Designing an industrial-style house means, first of all, balancing the warm and cold materials that characterize these types of vintage-style environments: balance is essential for the success of the design of the rooms and their furnishing.
Even the architectural elements of the loft or open space, in fact, are enriched with vintage items: the environment welcomes exposed pipes and exposed beams in wood, iron, or steel, while natural light comes from large stained-glass windows. Even the fixtures should have a vintage tone thanks to corten, a material that recalls the color of rust. Equally, the lighting elements will resume design, shapes, materials, and colors typical of industrial furniture: otherwise, the atmosphere created with industrial-style furniture will clash with the characteristics of the building.
Selecting the right color palette is essential to establish the basis of the interior design and is undoubtedly an excellent starting point. From the carpets, the furniture, up to the lighting, all the chosen pieces will be tied to a range of colors, which revolve around the shades of metal and rust, brick and concrete, as well as wood.
If your house includes exposed brick walls (painted or unpainted), concrete floors, or any other wood, then you are already halfway there. The colors of rustic materials tend to shades of brown and beige. The sofa, chairs, and tables maintain the continuity of materials and nuances made of leather and raw wood with colors ranging from orange to brown or rust.
Furnishing your Industrial Home
Lofts and open spaces are the best types of environments to recreate an industrial atmosphere in the house, recalling the vast areas of the New York productive and working environments. Vintage industrial furnishings are imperfect elements, which highlight the welds, the imperfections of the paint, the raw and unworked state of the wood, recalling the idea of prolonged use.
In the open space of the living area, the kitchen is the protagonist: a vintage industrial kitchen should be composed of the warmth of wood, which meets the coldness of metal. The lines should be clean and essential, materials and colors recall those of the furniture that make up the rest of the living area.
Above the kitchen, large station clocks or worn vintage plates can make a beautiful display. Plants are also allowed, because they add a touch of vitality to the environment, provided they are placed in fun and meaningful containers for the style in question.
The living area is often composed of an industrial-style open kitchen with a peninsula, with minimal chairs and accessories, such as appliances, naturally exposed. The table should have a large wood top, the chairs should be stylized and straightforward. The important thing is to create a real mix and match within the space. The skillful composition of all these elements allows you to obtain different interpretations of the kitchen: industrial but elegant and original.
The living room often borders the kitchen, and no walls are dividing the two areas. Usually, to warm up the room, there is a cast-iron stove, or large gray radiators mounted on the walls, next to which lie recovered objects.
The possibilities of choice are between opting for new handcrafted furniture made of raw solid wood, such as fir or oak or for a modern rustic style, restoring old industrial furniture, or essential and straightforward furnishings either prefer modern modular units. Wheels are very welcome, as long as they have a purely vintage design and an iron or rust color.
Even the table and chairs can easily contribute to obtaining an excellent result. A series of folding metal chairs with the seat very similar to that of agricultural machines can complete a pleasant set when combined with a table, equipped with a sturdy square iron frame and finished with a real wood top solid.
The sofa can be in leather, either brown or green. The coffee table can be made with pallets, or you can choose a pure metal or natural wood model. Industrial tables have an iron structure and a wooden top. Be daring with chairs: always in metal, but painted in a bright color, to light up the environment.
Choose vintage furnishing accessories, such as a cuckoo clock with visible gears, lamps with copper lampshade, an antique sideboard. For a more original and daring touch, hang industrial pieces on the wall, such as an old bicycle, or the hood of a vintage car, like the Fiat 500.
With iron being the main protagonist of the furniture of the industrial bedroom, the entire environment should be enriched with softness and become more welcoming with the use of rugs and fabrics in natural colors, soft and warm tones of linen. The bed should be in wrought iron, but can also be in wood or leather, or the structure could also be hidden entirely or manufactured with pallets.
Metal is the leader of industrial bathroom furniture, an environment characterized by the presence of finishes in cement, glass, and vintage tiles. Essential steel and wood structures make up the bathroom furniture and leave room for exposed pipes while the shower disappears and is substituted for old bathtubs.
Rugs, lighting, and decorations
When you are searching for carpets, remember that inserting an element that is too refined, with flashy aesthetic features, whether abstract or concrete, could clash with the industrial environment. For the same reason, chevrons and geometric figures are avoided.
Instead, we can suggest something with faded or dark colors, in shades of gray, crimson red, burnt orange or blue, or a structured rug made of jute fabric.
For cushions and poufs, choose elements in leather or with a fabric texture. We can also dare with colors and give free rein to our creativity: these decorative accents will quickly adapt to the environment since most of the industrial furniture will have neutral undertones.
The lighting of industrial furnishings often comes in two categories: vintage, as in the case of bold lamps inspired by the early 1900s that have decorative details borrowed from the world of mechanics, or modern, with geometric designs and made of brushed or granular steel. Your choice will define, in the first case, an environment with a clearly vintage nostalgic flavor, or a more modern and dynamic mood in the second case. Although ceiling lamps are generally overlooked in most homes, they are a must when it comes to industrial style. You can choose a single element or opt for a series of bulbs.
Accessories are not precisely reduced to the essentials, and not all have a precise function. Traditional plant pots, for example, can be replaced with metal bins with a clean and rigorous line.
Heaters and architectural details should also be in perfect harmony with the linearity of the design style. Radiators, exposed staircases, pipes, electrical outlets, switches, and wires will be highlighted and dark-colored. At the same time, the skirting boards, usually ‘discreet,’ will be deliberately displayed with adequate colors and rustic moldings.
Furnishing an industrial-style house is a rather common trend, especially among millennials. Probably influenced by the fascinating environments of the most famous TV series, they approach this style for its practicality and very urban and modern look. Industrial spaces showcase large windows, exposed pipes, and systems, raw and unfinished materials, typical industrial elements such as natural pillars, metals, bricks, and continuous concrete floors.
This authentic style is difficult to imitate in a contemporary apartment due to the lack of original architectural features. In modern homes and apartments, large windows, exposed systems, metals, heights, and unfinished blocks of cement are missing. Practically, the industrial mood can only be partially recovered by mixing continuous floors and colors tending to gray, with some vintage wooden furniture.
While on the one hand, it is clear the impossibility of faithfully imitating the original look, if not with fake bricks and false beams, on the other hand, this practice has generated a new industrial trend, which we call industrial chic. It may seem simple to furnish an industrial home since it is a style with apparent and distinctive features. In reality, this aspect is what makes the design of such an environment quite insidious.
The choice of colors, materials, and furniture must be taken into account, in this case, more than in others, the characteristics of the property and its coatings, to avoid a chaotic and confusing effect. The industrial-style elements must be balanced with different vintage, modern ones, proper to other styles, harmoniously. Otherwise, the house may appear as a bazaar or a place where oddities are collected rather than a home.
Another detail that people neglect when approaching vintage furniture is the livability of the rooms: fascinated by the style, they forget that they will end up living in that space! The industrial environment you are designing must also be a home, custom-designed for your needs and your habits: the indications for doing this cannot be found in generic guidelines on the styles of furniture that attract you.
To conclude, we can say that the trick to obtaining a genuinely industrial feel lies in knowing how to compose what we have called “regulated disorder.” Doing this without the room getting tacky is not easy, but you can do it with some attention, and following some of these tips.