Industrial Interior Design - Explained

Decoration and Design
Additions and Remodels
By Contractors.com Team August 09, 2021

Industrial design is pretty unique as far as design styles go. Rather than being something that has grown from hundreds of years of cultural influences, it is instead a fairly recent development born of socio-economic changes that have taken place over the past few decades. It is also one of the only design styles that were directly inspired by the workplaces of the past. In a sense, the industrial style was born of necessity, but it flourished to become one of the most iconic styles of contemporary interior design. 

Some may not like its stark greyness and its harsh features, but the industrial style has many compelling qualities that can appeal to nearly any demographic. It’s safe to say that it’s a very versatile interior design style that can be adapted to almost any house regardless of where it is in the world. Contrary to what you might think, “industrial” doesn’t have to mean cold and uninviting. Indeed, an industrial-style interior can be made quite inviting for guests and residents alike.      

Roots of Industrial Design

There was once a time when all of Western Europe was dotted with all sorts of factories of

All the Factories

These hulking structures of steel, glass, and bare concrete were veritable hives of activity, filled with thousands of workers, machines of all kinds, and lots of noise. But by the latter half of the 20th century, many of these factories had gone. These factories either moved to modern automated facilities or relocated to cheaper labor markets in Asia, leaving scores of industrial warehouses and facilities abandoned throughout Europe.

How the Industrial Interior Design Style Came to Be

How the Industrial Interior Design Style Came to Be

An Expensive Dilemma 

Almost overnight, European cities began to face an expensive dilemma: lots of land with old factories on it. Tearing all this industrial architecture down would be prohibitively expensive, and so some cities began to search for alternative ways to repurpose this abandoned land. Urban areas in Europe were still growing, and the rising demand for housing soon yielded the answer to the problem of post-industrial wasteland: new residential areas. And so, many post-industrial districts were transformed into business and residential areas. Instead of being razed to the ground, many of the old industrial buildings were kept intact and were simply adapted to their new purposes. 

An Epic Transition of Bringing the Workplace to the Home

An Epic Transition of Bringing the Workplace to the Home

A New Beginning

To save money, many of the historic aesthetic touches from old factories were retained in these new businesses and residential buildings, creating an entirely new aesthetic. And just like that, some of the dirtiest, smokiest, greasiest, and noisiest buildings morphed into beautiful new living spaces with a new and unique look. The industrial style has continued to evolve, and it has since been adopted by homes and businesses far away from any post-industrial centers. The industrial style has become a highly desirable aesthetic thanks to its simple rustic nature and adaptability. 

How to Recognize Industrial Design

Some stark, tell-tale signs make it easy to figure out if a space was designed in the industrial style. 

Modernity and Steampunk

Industrial interior design is all about merging the old with the new, therefore transforming something obsolete into something very trendy. It is for this reason that many industrial-style designs will feature lots of vintage stuff, including vintage lamps, clocks, furniture, tables, or even disused piping from a former factory. However, all this ‘stuff’ will be right alongside more modern touches such as LED lighting, open-concept layouts, neutral color palettes, and clutter-free, sleek spaces. 

Tell-tale Giveaways of An Industrial Interior

Tell-tale Giveaways of An Industrial Interior

Big Open Spaces 

This distinctive feature of the industrial design style is yet another quality born of necessity. Industrial spaces of course tend to be large open areas, so it made sense to preserve this layout. Why go through the unnecessary expense of making space feel less airy? As we know today, the open concept living space has become quite desirable, and so it is no surprise that this aspect of industrial interior design has been preserved. 

The typical industrial living room is a large open space that can contain a kitchen, mudroom, and even a bedroom all in one area. 

Large Open Spaces of the Industrial Loft Setup

Large Open Spaces of the Industrial Loft Setup

Furniture and fixtures are typically used to define these areas instead of walls. For instance, a TV stand might be used to separate the bedroom from the living room. Large windows are another typical feature of industrial interior design, as they allow for plenty of light to fill the large open space.   

The Used Look

A big part of the look and feel of an industrial-style space is the “lived in'' look, whereby everything looks and feels worn and distressed. This doesn’t mean that everything is low quality, or on the verge of falling apart, however. Instead, the worn look of the industrial style is meant to apply to sturdy high-quality materials such as steel, wood, leather, and glass. The worn look is therefore more of an aesthetic quality that is meant to impart a personal character to space. Furniture, wood flooring, metal surfaces, countertops, and brass trimming should all show signs of use so that all parts of the house tell the story of a house that is lived in and used every day.   

The Worn Look that Imparts Character to a Space without Compromising Quality

The Worn Look that Imparts Character to a Space without Compromising Quality

Exposed Details 

The industrial style is not about embellishing things. Instead, the stark beauty of this design comes from not covering up the rougher stuff. What that translates to is a lot of exposed piping, steel or wooden beams, brick walls, no plaster on walls, and no tiling on floors. This makes for a rough “unfinished” look that is the trademark of the rustic industrial aesthetic. This is part of what makes an industrial space more open and is a huge component of its simple, homey charm. 

An Industrial Style Interior Is Incomplete Without Some Exposed Details

An Industrial Style Interior Is Incomplete Without Some Exposed Details

How to Give Your House an Industrial Interior Design

The first thing to remember about industrial interior design is that it doesn’t have to be limited to any one area. If your house doesn’t happen to be in a gritty post-industrial neighborhood full of hipster cafes and SOHO vegan restaurants, that doesn’t mean you can’t have an industrial-style home. Even your average three-story Victorian in the heart of suburbia can get in on the industrial trend. If anything, this will be an even cooler thing to do; it will make your house unique, and turn it into a physical antithesis of the cookie-cutter neighborhoods that dominate so much of our urban landscape.  

Open Things Up

This is fairly easy to do, provided you’re ok with doing some decluttering and getting rid of some of your furniture. Decluttering can be a challenge, but in general, you should aim to get rid of anything and everything that you don’t use regularly. Anything that sits in your house for weeks on end without being used should either be tossed, sold, or donated unless it is essential. The same goes for any of your furniture. A more involved way to construct an open concept living space is to remove some walls. This can be difficult, especially if you have to take down some load-bearing walls. However, it’s an important step to take if you’re serious about giving your home a full open-concept interior.

How to Open Up Your Spaces for Open Concept Living

How to Open Up Your Spaces for Open Concept Living

Industrial Decor

For the decor of your industrial home interior, the simple touches will have the biggest impact. In addition to having a worn look, you want the furniture you buy to be made from a combination of steel, wood, iron, and glass. These heavy materials will jive well with the general appearance of an industrial interior and while also being usable and long-lasting. If you can, try to find decommissioned institutional fixtures such as school lockers and antique furniture as these items will already have the worn look and will be made of the required materials. 

Chic and Tasteful Decor for An Industrial Studio Apartment

Chic and Tasteful Decor for An Industrial Studio Apartment

Think Exposed+Monochrome

If you want to fully capture the industrial design style in your home, you need to make things a bit grittier. In other words, remove any embellishments, and design things so that they are more exposed. If your home has brick walls, expose these rather than covering them with plaster. For flooring, consider replacing your existing floors with hardwood or concrete. It’s recommended that you use a color scheme that is dominated by neutral colors. This helps to accentuate the exposed aesthetic of the space, and will also allow you to use a few bright colors for accent colors. Accenting can also be done with wood, brass pieces, exposed brickwork, and even with plants.   

The Epitome of Luxurious Industrial Design - Monochrome Yet Cozy

The Epitome of Luxurious Industrial Design - Monochrome Yet Cozy

Written by
Contractors.com Team

Written by Contractors.com Team