The Industrial design style is about baring all that lies beneath to achieve an edgy and authentic look. While other design styles seek to conceal, this style chooses to boldly display its history through its structural and mechanical ingenuity.
Born out of transforming old buildings, the Industrial style has a “warehouse look” which consists of stripped-back architectural details. Elements that are uniquely industrial are bare bricks, metals, wood, iron, distressed leather, as well as upcycled materials to create a raw yet refined look.
With no signs of slowing down any time soon, this style is used in modern homes, loft apartments, and commercial spaces around the world.
To understand more about this interior design style, let’s first start with a quick history of the Industrial Style
You might be wondering why the “unfinished” look of industrial style, with exposed pipes or structures, would be considered as a good design choice. To have a better understanding of how this style developed and its philosophies, let’s dive into a brief history of the Industrial Style.
This style emerged between the 1700s and mid-1800s, during the Industrial Revolution. The period was marked by a shift to an economy dominated by industry and machinery. As Europe started mass-producing goods and rapidly expanding to bigger and sturdier buildings and railways, more people started to admire and replicate this new Machine Era in art and design.
After the end of the second Industrial Revolution, the trend towards globalization became more apparent. This led to factories shutting down, leaving scores of vacant industrial buildings and high-quality materials to make use of.
At the same time, cities have become more populated by the early ’90s, resulting in a shortage of residential buildings. In order to maximize vacant industrial areas, they were transformed into residential neighborhoods or workspaces.
In the efforts to restore the former beauty of these spaces, some elements of the buildings were kept intact to showcase the structural integrity and untouched beauty of the industrial era. Since then, this has been an ongoing trend that celebrates the bare walls, architectural details, and mechanisms of the building’s origins.
Photo source: Dwell | Photo of a converted London warehouse
What is the Industrial Interior Style?
In essence, the Industrial style is about giving utilitarian and raw building materials a second life. It seeks to celebrate the man-made beauty of humble materials and functional furnishings that have been a central point of buildings built during the Industrial period.
Where other interior design movements hide the building’s skeleton and paint over imperfections, the industrial style reveals them for everyone to see. In fact, it is the rugged and unfinished appearance that is crucial to achieving this unique style. Likewise, the same element that makes it still attractive today.
It is clean, functional, and aesthetically pleasing. Think warehouse-turned loft with a large open space, high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, and exposed metal piping, brick walls, and support beams. The more stripped-back elements are used, the better. The more it brings forth the design of the old, Industrial age, the better.
Since it is a popular design choice to transform old warehouses, this style has been used to create different looks. Some would prefer the more contemporary chic look that is rooted in clean lines and white spaces. Others opt for a more rustic look focusing on the wood, natural light, and greenery.
Another take on this design style would be the steampunk design, defined as the combination of both machinery and elegance or a mix of industrial and gothic elements.
Giving it a slight twist, the steampunk style showcases more the inner workings of technology. This brings more eccentricity and elaborate details to an otherwise conventional room.
As seen in the photo below, the metallic pipes are used well with a modern kitchen to add more charm and character to the space.
Photo source: Carla Bast
Through these different interpretations of the Industrial style, one can see that there are many ways to emulate this look into your home. Moreover, its versatility and sophistication make it a great choice to beautifully transform any space.
How to incorporate it into your home
Bring the simple yet edgy vibes of the Industrial style into your home with our tips. Whether you’re living in a classic home or renovating an old factory, there’s a lot that you can take from this crisp and clean style.
Check them out below to jumpstart your design journey!
1. Exposed everything
Leaving the raw structural elements in your industrial space is key to locking in that factory vibe. By showing your building’s skeleton through exposed brick, steel beams, pipes, ducts, and more, you can achieve a beautifully unfinished look.
Not only that but revealing these also does a good job of showing the history of the building you are living in. After all, Industrial style is all about embracing these hardworking materials for their form and function.
For other spaces that were not converted from industrial buildings, you can also tear out the ceilings. Extend low ceilings and expose some of the industrial details in your space.
If you’re looking for a simpler way to create this look without having to make such a bold change, you can also maximize go-to materials to recreate the ‘exposed’ look. Use steel or painted pipes for your open bookshelves or black grid frame windows that are reminiscent of warehouse windows.
Adding these industrial elements can instantly add more character to any room.
Photo source: HAO Design
Look for pieces that show off the bare materials like stone countertops, metal doors, wooden tables, or steel stools for a stripped-back and minimalist finish.
At the same time, antique pieces can also bring warmth into your industrial-inspired space. A key combination for any industrial-style home is wood and metal furniture.
This duo mixes the clean and modern look that black brings and the rustic quality of the wooden furniture. A good example is the use of the smooth table surface with its wooden body, as well as the updated kitchen bar stools like in the photo below.
Photo source: bculinarylab
Pro tip: Strip back to just the necessities and leave walls and floors as exposed as possible to maximize the open space and to allow the statement decor and fixtures to take center stage.
2. Create an open layout
Since this style was inspired by warehouses and factories with an open layout, it also follows that an open plan is an important element in any industrial-inspired home. That said, expansive spaces and high ceilings are best to complete this look.
However, if you have limited space, you can still recreate this by maximizing your space and making it look more spacious than it actually is. You can do this by decluttering your home and opting for multi-functional furniture that creates extra storage. Additionally, allowing more natural light and horizontal furniture will create more space in any home.
Most importantly, maintaining an open space as much as possible can also draw attention more towards the industrial furniture, fixtures, and other decor elements.
Photo source: Home Decor Bliss
3. Get creative with dividers
With an open layout, it can sometimes be challenging to decorate or ‘fill up’ the space – making it seem too empty. There are a few ways to help you define spaces in your home while still maintaining the cohesive, industrial style.
One, rearrange your industrial-style furniture. Couches, sectionals or low console tables make great space dividers that are both functional and beautiful. And since these are the main furniture pieces at home, you can easily choose one that follows the industrial look and color.
Two, use area rugs to define different spaces. These are perfect for creating unobtrusive, and subtle zones for homes with an open layout. Further, they also bring more life and color to your space and may even soften that hard brick and metal industrial theme you’re surrounded with.
Photo source: Hovey Design
Third, just because you’ve got this old, warehouse look going on doesn’t mean you’re limited to those decor and touches. Apart from the natural element of wood, go for indoor plants too! They make a lovely addition to any space and will even elevate that bare, raw feel at home. Plus, with your bright, open space, there are many lush indoor plants that will make great space dividers and definitions.
Fourth, another way to break up your space would be to use transparent grid dividers. This way, the areas are separated but you can still see through – maintaining the perception of space by allowing light to flow from one space to another. This particular approach is very suitable for small or tiny spaces.
Fifth, to create more privacy when you need it, sliding doors are also a great idea. Not only are these attractive, but they are also functional. At the same time, you can use materials that add to the industrial feel of your home like this metal or cement-look divider.
Photo source: Homishome
4. Play with your color combinations
The Industrial style is known for its crisp white and neutral color palette which consists of gray, black, and white. These colors match well with the simple aesthetic and complement the metal finishes of the space. Warmer neutrals like browns and tans soften the darker tones and create a more inviting and layered look.
To get you started, you can also try combining these colors for your furniture and decor to create a dynamic space that has a modern touch. Here are some options for you to select from:
- Matte Black: the most common color in industrial-inspired homes. It easily complements the style’s main materials – concrete, wood, white walls, and exposed brick. It also helps create a minimalist look that brings the space together. A good choice for this would be your wide windows, furniture, picture frames, staircases, stools, and more for a cohesive look.
Photo source: Impressive Interior Design
- Copper or Brass: an easy-to-find choice. These classic industrial materials are perfect for adding a splash of brightness to the otherwise dark, rugged, and typically more masculine industrial look. It’s a great color for accents on your decor, fixtures, or furniture for a sleek finish.
- Pewter: a playful, elegant twist to your industrial interiors. This dark grey metal creates a sophisticated look that is versatile for any space. Through its more subtle touch, it helps to bring forth an authentic vintage feel.
These lighter-colored metals are also great to use for lighting fixtures in the bathroom, kitchen, or hallways for that added visual texture to your space. On the other hand, use steel or stainless steel for a look that’s more contemporary. This would be good for large tables in the kitchen or living room.
Photo source: Apartment Therapy
Aside from these neutral tones, the industrial style also leaves space for a more vibrant color palette to complement the metal-heavy interiors.
Play around with pastels and bright retro colors that one wouldn’t normally see in most industrial designs. By using these brighter color palettes, you can highlight the building’s skeleton such as the exposed bars and pipes in the photo below. Not only will it draw attention to the building’s history, but it also brings a personal touch that will set your space apart from the rest.
Photo source: The Design Files | Photo of the 150-year-old Kings Arms Hotel in North Melbourne transformed into a three-bedroom home
Have more colors in your space by choosing to embrace small imperfections. Rust, paint stains, rough bricks, and yellowed plastic are desirable features that show off the history of your space.
Another way you can add vibrant colors to your home would be through graphic wall art. With its crisp lines, solid colors, and pop culture references, it would suit any industrial space.
Photo source: Mary Patton Design via MyDomaine
5. Stay in the theme with quirky Industrial lighting
Industrial style fixtures can surely add a lot of character and ambiance to your space. By using pendant lights, lamps, and low-hanging lighting with wide shades — all of which are reminiscent of the Industrial period, you are able to take the “warehouse” look home.
Choose quirky industrial lighting with sharp edges or a metallic finish. Handcrafted metals can add a feel of a rough finish that would go well with sleek and refined loft spaces. Simultaneously, using stripped-down lighting like a bare Edison bulb or cage pendant lighting would also complete the ‘unfinished’ look you are going for.
If you’re looking to create more visual impact in your space, use track lighting to highlight artworks or your coffee station. Just like a warehouse, this type of fixture is ideal for large open spaces. If you are going for a more minimalist look, try using fixtures with matte black finishes.
Photo source: Home Designing
Get creative and experiment with your lighting by reclaiming old accessories from the Industrial period and transforming them into snazzy lighting pieces. Not only will it be a great way to add light to your space, but it can also serve as a unique piece of art that will surely draw a lot of attention.
When it comes to choosing lighting fixtures for your personal spaces, use a plethora of task lighting rather than going for one big chandelier or wall light. Scattering your lighting will create ambient and warm spaces that would soften the rough interiors.
6. Functional and upcycled furniture
The Industrial style embraces simplicity in form, function, and material. Therefore, furniture in an industrial space is often clean and sleek, without frills, ornamentation, or embellishment. Durable furniture pieces made of wood, iron, steel, copper, or brass, work really well in this aesthetic.
Furniture that looks like it came straight from an old warehouse or school building will fit right in. Think wire baskets, open wood shelving, rolling chairs, metal stools, salvaged sewing machines, large work tables, lockers and repurposed workbenches. The more signs of use (and history), the better. Not only are these materials durable, but they also add an authentic vintage feel to your interiors.
Pro tip: For a more modern take on old furniture, repaint or refurbish them to blend well with a minimalist aesthetic. Using neutrals is always a good way to go for a clean and refined look.
Photo source: HAO Design
Dark toned materials, such as woods and leather also pair well with industrial metal features. Additionally, using leather seats on wooden or steel furniture makes it less cold and more comfortable. While using metal legs for wooden furniture makes it more durable and adds more texture to your pieces.
Pro tip: To make your space even more comfortable, choose plush upholstered chairs or couches for a lived-in appeal.
In Industrial design, vintage furniture, antiques, and thrift finds are very suitable elements to create a space full of character and imperfection – the hallmarks of this style. That’s why finding pieces with untidy finishes can give your space that ruggedness and wonderful simplicity you are looking for.
That said, you can repurpose old furniture and rediscover other functional ways for it. Similarly, use upcycled furniture to give items that were once cast aside, new life. After all, finding inventive ways to work with materials that we have is essential to industrial design.
Photo source: Decor Outdoor
7. Accessorize, then add a personal touch
Elevate your space by decorating with salvaged factory parts and machinery like old fixtures, simple hardware, and distressed leather finds. By adding these elements, you can make your space feel and look like a nod to the industrial period. Doing so will make your space even more unique and eye-catching.
Don’t stop there. Seek to embrace your individuality as well by choosing accessories that highlight your character. Choose quirky pieces that speak to you. You can even reuse some of your grandparent’s antiques to decorate your space.
Photo source: Modsy Blog