The United States saw some of its greatest growth during the Industrial Revolution. During this time innovation took place in factories often based in urban areas. Long before Industrial was a style, it was a way of life and an economic opportunity. The Information Age brought a close to the industry’s dominance. Since that time, the utilitarian traits of that era have become major components in today’s style landscape. The key traits often found in industrial style are stripped-back architecture that exposes surfaces that people normally try to conceal such as pipes and ducts. Integrating metal throughout the space also pays homage to what was once used out of pure practical necessity.
“Industrial style is an aesthetic inspired by true workaday life,” said Kerrie Kelly, who runs the Kerrie Kelly Design Lab in Sacramento, Calif. “Somewhere along the way, the look’s lack of pretension and appreciation for utilitarian surfaces, exposed architecture and salvaged objects became en vogue. Today the style has exploded into multi-million dollar homes and midtown loft spaces alike.”
It’s ironic that when the Industrial Revolution was in full-swing, almost nobody’s home integrated those characteristics. But as industrial jobs began to fade from the urban landscape, the factories and warehouses fell into disuse and dis-repair. They were often abandoned for many years.
Enter gentrification: Urban planner Benjamin Grant pinpoints the start in the 1970s. A younger, educated generation saw the potential and character of these old factory buildings. They wanted to live downtown, and the price was right. Soon, these buildings were being converted to condos and lofts. Some of the Industrial Style was already built in, with exposed brick, pipe and concrete floors. Industrial Style helped complement these features and a new style was born. Industrial elements then expanded outside the urban atmosphere as it became a core look for many homes.
“The hardworking quality of industrial chic’s design elements resonates with many as it celebrates humble materials, historic details and affordability,” Kelly said.
Bret Rossman, a Minneapolis-based style expert, decorates his colonial-style home in what he calls a modern-industrial aesthetic. He sees his choice of tonal colors for the walls as a nod to the modern with an emphasis on industrial.
“The industrial aspect, I think comes in metal for me. In our dining room at home the walls are simple and all gray, while the light fixture is the statement,” Rossman said. “There’s literally nothing else on the wall in there. It’s a wrought iron fixture and the lamps that come down are from the top of electric poles. ”
Re-used pieces and materials are a hallmark of industrial style. Items that have history and character or are inspired vintage are key traits of this era. You might also see exposed brick, metal pipes and ducts in a typical industrialized space. These elements aren’t added for style purposes initially but instead serve a more practical purpose. The key to accomplishing industrial style is to use the existing structural bones of a space to expose and accentuate the industrial aspects, such as the natural brick hidden behind drywall.
You don’t have to sit on metal and concrete to maintain the industrial style. Comfort should still be a key design element. Softer touches provide a sharp contrast to the rustic lines found elsewhere. You can add weathered wood cabinets and dining room tables and chairs, or try metal seating or metal-framed pieces that evoke thoughts of an earlier, grittier time, but still provide a place of comfort.
Urban edge with utilitarian design typifies this aesthetic. Lighting is the perfect place to add warmth in an industrial interior, often with aged woods and warm texture. Keep in mind that using metals that have taken on a patina from age and exposure is a common characteristic that should be incorporated in this style.
A good option is to insert a metal light fixture that has a patina finish into nearly any room. Over at BobVilla.com, they suggest that “a pair of teardrop glass wall sconces with black iron back plates will bring an industrial sense to any space. The clear glass shade accentuates the vintage-style Edison bulb. The lamp makes for an excellent modern industrial pairing.”
Industrial style is often categorized by its pallet of neutral, earth inspired colors. As Rossman said, grey and white work well with the materials often used in industrial style (metal, brick, concrete and wood). The color palette for industrial is often seen as fairly narrow, but it does allow for some playful, more saturated colors. Adding little accents will make the space stand out all the more when surrounded by industrial elements.
Concrete, brick, corrugated metal and rust, yes rust, really bring the industrial style to the forefront. If you could find it in a factory in the early 1900s, you can find it in this style. Utilitarian surfaces, stripped-back architecture and salvaged pieces provide a simple yet very livable atmosphere. And you can soften the look with monochromatic but soft furniture with simple upholstery.
One simple way to incorporate the industrial style into your home is to add elements of leather or hide to enrich the space. You can accomplish this through carpets, furniture or throw pillows. If leather isn’t your style, contemplate taking salvaged finds and using it for an entirely different purpose than it’s original intent, such as turning it into furniture or layering an old window frame that has chipped paint among a grouping of picture frames.
Weathered wood and the varying fibers that get exposed from wood are a big part of industrial style. Reclaimed barn wood, shipping crates, railroad ties and exposed beams add color and texture to walls, ceilings, furniture and more.
There’s a certain masculine appeal to industrial style, with it’s simple natural colors and refurbished materials. Create the perfect man cave with a few industrial inspired elements such as an old beat-up leather chair and a rustic light fixture.
A simple way to add an industrial spin to a room is to swap out a traditional light bulb with an Edison bulb. These bulbs come in all shapes and sizes, however, one thing to not is that these bulbs are not known for being energy efficient, so try one or two out in an old shadeless lamp for a fun ambiance switch, but don’t swap out all your regular bulbs.
Traditional industrial architecture is the design and creation of buildings to be used by the industrial industry. However, as industrial jobs continue to fade, industrial buildings such as warehouses and vacant factories continue to transform into something else entirely. Modern day architects and developers buy up these properties and transform them into condos or apartments, while maintaining their original industrial architecture. You can see this happening in nearly every city in the nation.
When it comes down to it, industry is about making things, so it makes sense that Industrial Style has made a few new styles of its own. Here are a few products from the Industrial Style factory.
Many people find Industrial Style a bit too masculine for their tastes. However, they still appreciate many of the principles involving the relationship between form and function with the use of humble materials. These people turn to Industrial Chic to add a more playful and yet sophisticated style to their spaces. This style is still about the use of strong, clean lines without excess but what it amplifies is the use of both salvaged and new materials.
Rustic style incorporates materials and equipment that might be more commonly found in a rural setting. Rustic emphasizes natural materials and the art of re-purposing. The style works with unrefined, natural elements that are free-form shapes. Incorporating rustic elements with the harder elements of industrial style makes for a unique and charming aesthetic.
Shabby or weathered pieces paired with clean lines and more formal pieces can give your space a casual elegance which is the key to the industrial farmhouse look. Think little touches of vintage among the larger concept of industrial. An excellent example of the style can be seen in many of Chip and Joanna Gaines’ designs in their hit HGTV show ‘Fixer Upper.’