While contemporary industrial interior design is essentially a 20th century movement, its roots can be traced back to factory buildings of the 18th and 19th centuries. The style draws inspiration from unfinished, utilitarian factory spaces, highlighting the beauty of raw wood, concrete, brick, and exposed pipes.
With mainstream popularity, industrial interior design furniture and accessories are available at retailers like Restoration Hardware, IKEA, and Anthropologie.
“With the growth of online shopping and design, it’s easier for the everyday consumer to not be intimidated by the style that we once only saw in Tribeca and Soho,” notes Maria J. DePasquale, a top real estate agent in Princeton, NJ, who works with 65% more single-family homes than her peers.
Today, you don’t need to live in a converted warehouse to embrace the industrial aesthetic. We’ve rounded up 11 tips to help you nail the look with help from DePasquale and Philadelphia-based designer and salvage expert, Chris Stock.
Source: (Clay Banks / Unsplash)1. Design with a neutral color palette
Industrial interior design embraces a largely neutral color palette. The warmth of raw wood and copper balance cool grays and stark whites. When designing your space, focus on balancing warm and cool colors. If you lean too cool, your space may feel cold and uninviting. Lean too warm, and the style may stray into farmhouse interior design territory.
Start by painting your walls white or a light to medium shade of gray like Gravity by Valspar or Stonington Gray by Benjamin Moore. These shades perfectly complement an exposed brick wall or fireplace. And if your home isn’t blessed with these features, don’t stress — you can instantly add warmth with a shiplap accent wall.
2. Combine old and new decor
The mixture of new materials with vintage elements is one of the cornerstones of industrial interior design. Incorporate old books, photographs, lamps, and furniture for a rustic touch. You can also add character to newer furniture by swapping in vintage door handles, drawer pulls, and other hardware.
Chris Stock, contractor and owner of Philadelphia Salvage, advises homeowners to keep an eye out for small businesses like his that strive to create one-of-a-kind pieces. Stock transforms old materials into industrial-style tables, shelves, and decor for his clients.
3. Incorporate concrete
Industrial interior design spaces incorporate concrete elements that harken back to the walls and floors of factory spaces. Since concrete is durable and develops a warm patina over time, it’s also an excellent material for kitchen countertops and islands. If you’re not ready to commit to that level of permanence, incorporate concrete with a small accent piece like this side table. You can also experiment with paint that mimics the look of concrete on an accent wall or fireplace surround.
4. Show off pipes and ductwork
Exposed pipes, ductwork, and beams are all staples of industrial design. Designers are opting to show off the bones of older buildings and converted spaces instead of covering them up. If you don’t have these features in your home, use furniture to reflect those structural elements.
Pieces like this industrial wood and pipe shelving unit project the rugged, utilitarian style that is the hallmark of industrial interior design. In the bathroom, you can show off some pipes with this marble and chrome double vanity, or this antique brass rainfall showerhead — both of which reflect the function and beauty of industrial design.
source: (The Creative Exchange / Unsplash)5. Warm up the room with leather seating
The leather couch was first widely available to the general public in the 19th century when industrialization made it easier and faster to produce furniture. Since that time, the leather couch has remained a staple in many design styles, including industrial.
Leather armchairs, couches, and sectionals are both comfortable and durable. If you have kids and pets at home, opt for distressed leather that hides imperfections like scratches.
Leather furniture is a smart investment that can last you up to 25 years or more. But if you prefer to go sans animal hide, this vegan sectional sofa from Albany Park is a gorgeous option. It’s easy to assemble and comes with a lifetime warranty.
6. Get the loft-look with exposed brick
While exposed brick walls are having a moment right now, brick has always been a coveted feature in industrial interior design. Bricks are just as practical today as they were in the warehouses and factories of centuries past.
Brick is one of the more eco-friendly building materials available. Since brick is made of natural base materials, it does not react with other substances or release harmful chemicals into the environment. Because it retains heat to keep spaces warm during the colder months and cooler in hotter temps, brick is energy-efficient as well.
Attach faux brick panels to walls or use a brick stencil and paint to mimic the look of gritty, aged exposed brick in newer spaces. Removable wallpaper is a temporary option for dorm rooms and rental spaces. You can also line bureaus, bookshelves, and vanities with brick peel-and-stick wallpaper to add texture and charm to off-the-shelf furniture.
7. Turn lighting fixtures into focal points with retro light bulbs
No industrial interior is complete without Edison light bulbs. Exposed filaments, squiggly illuminated ribbons, and that warm glow are the signature qualities of the Edison light bulb. Edison light bulbs do not typically use shades and covers because their beauty is in their form.
Source: (Chris Stock, Philadelphia Salvage)
Today’s Edison bulbs mimic the original design but are more energy-efficient and have a longer lifespan, lasting up to 15,000 life hours. Make a statement with an industrial chandelier, or add a twinkle to outdoor spaces with strewn solar LED Edison string lights.
8. Search for one-of-a-kind reclaimed wood and metal pieces
Wood adds an organic feel to stark industrial spaces. Reclaimed wood in particular offers charm and beauty to any room. Search online for shops and dealers offering reclaimed lumber, wood, or timber or reclaimed wood furniture near you.
“One of the easiest ways is to use reclaimed wood in shelving,” notes Stock. “Floating shelves are very popular right now. We offer both the reclaimed wood raw or finished and can weld custom floating shelf brackets and offer new and reclaimed shelf brackets.”
Source: (Chris Stock, Philadelphia Salvage)
“‘Adapt and reuse’ is finally catching on. People don’t want to throw it away, but they don’t know what to do with it — that’s where we come in and divert it from the landfill. We save the builder and homeowner dump fees, and it’s just good for the environment.”
If you don’t have time to search for reclaimed furniture, look for new pieces that pair distressed wood with metal. West Elm’s open walnut coffee table captures the essence of the industrial aesthetic.
9. Splurge on factory windows
Original factory windows made of steel and aluminum were large to provide light for those working inside. The signature grid pattern of factory windows comes from the metal dividers, or muntins, that connect individual panes of glass to form larger windows.
According to Stock, metal factory windows are trending right now. Black metal framed multi-pane windows pair well with exposed brick and concrete for a chic, urban look. Buyers can find original steel windows in salvage shops and online. Today, manufacturers recreate the look of factory windows with scratch-resistant vinyl and energy-efficient glass.
And factory windows are not just for a home’s exterior. Stock has noticed more residential and commercial designers using black-framed windows as dividers inside of the home: “Factory window walls are great ways to separate spaces but still allow light through.”
Source: (Chris Stock, Philadelphia Salvage)10. Embrace a sustainable design ethic
Industrial interior design incorporates the use of repurposed furnishings and sustainable building materials like wood and concrete. That is good news for the owner or renter who values eco-friendly design.
Stock has always had a passion for salvaged treasures, so he’s happy to see a growing movement of people looking for quality over quantity. “After all, we are spending more time home than ever and that’s led to a newfound desire to make our living spaces reflect our lifestyle and our values,” he comments.
He adds his clients are also taking more care to learn about retailers’ supply chains and business practices. “Fair labor, safe work environment, and supporting local people is more important now than ever with the pandemic.” Giving new life to reclaimed building materials, fixtures, and furniture reduces waste and adds a sense of charm and history to modern interiors.
11. Soften spaces with rugs, throws, and upholstered benches
With concrete surfaces and exposed pipes, the industrial aesthetic can feel sterile if you don’t balance your design with softer elements. Style the room with plush area rugs, cozy throws, and throw pillows in ivories, grays, and chocolate browns. Upholstered ottomans, cushioned benches, and handmade poufs also offset the clean lines and hard surfaces of industrial spaces (they add extra seating, too!).
Header Image Source: (L_Interiors / Shutterstock)