Ideas for the Industrial Chic Look

Think of modern industrial design as a Westernized version of the tidying up craze. It is by definition utilitarian, and clutter is replaced with overtly functional, mechanical, or sublimely purposeful items as focal points.


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Photo by Ramona D'Viola; Architect: Matt Hollis Architects, space: Stonehouse Cellars

In search of space to create and live, it was artists and bohemians who wrested their homes from the warehouses abandoned by industry in the late 20th century. These cavernous, unfinished spaces — with their exposed beams and walls of brick and glass — captured imagination. Blame it on Flashdance.

Taking their cues from the early warehouse dwellers, East Bay developers are creating — or repurposing — industrial spaces like Hive Oakland and Lampwork Lofts. These once industrial manufacturing hubs have metamorphosed as convivial, somewhat communal, living spaces, where nothing of the structure’s origins is left to conjecture.

Think of modern industrial design as a Westernized version of the tidying up craze. It is by definition utilitarian, and clutter is replaced with overtly functional, mechanical, or sublimely purposeful items as focal points, awash in natural light.

If you’re already a lucky loft dweller, you’ve got the perfect palette. Now, try to resist the urge to fill the void. Instead, use your spatial flexibility to create flow and define space by function — cooking and dining, lounging, sleeping, working — or creating, where architecture becomes element.

At the vanguard of the reclamation and recycling renaissance, modern industrial design is the “repurposeful” reuse of unlikely objects. Think tractor seats as bar stools, cable spool coffee tables, or retractable garage doors as room dividers. And modern industrial is inherently green. Most likely if your home is a loft, it’s enjoying its second act, too.

The challenge of creating a comfortable home from interiors designed for heavy industry provides an opportunity to introduce “human-ness” in the form of organic elements like wood, live greenery, and texture to homes dominated by steel, brick, and concrete.

Repurposed wood is right at home within the aesthetic. Textured and weathered, its patina and history are part of the appeal. Use it liberally to create sliding barn door portals, cabinet fronts, or stair risers. Or clad entire walls to set the backdrop or mood of any modern industrial dwelling

Complete your space with soft furnishings, plush couches, deep rugs, and comfy lounges to absorb sound and define functional spaces. Overstuffed puffs, low-slung ottomans, and throw pillows add a bohemian vibe. Go uber modern with minimalist furnishings and polished steel finishes. Or break the rules.

When it comes to interior greenscapes, utilize plants that fit the scale of your space — the bigger the better. Introducing nature into your manmade environment takes the concrete out of the concrete jungle (or at least lessens its influence). For homes boasting high ceilings and lots of natural light, tropical palms or bamboos add drama, define space, or provide privacy.

Modern industrial design is perhaps at its most playful and ingenious when it comes to lighting. Even with all that sunshine, illuminating cavernous rooms can prove difficult. Never fear: From rustic DIY to rustic manufactured, a HOUZZ search for “modern industrial lighting” yields a mind boggling variety of options, ranging from chandeliers made entirely of electrical conduit to vintage replicas of large scale industrial lamps. The resurgence in popularity of the “Edison” bulb, with its classic shape and exposed filaments, adds vintage authenticity in efficient LED varieties.

For the painters and artists living in the first wave of warehouse spaces, walls of glass provided unparalleled natural light along with very little privacy. Lessen the fishbowl effect with electronically controlled “smart” window treatments that provide programmable time-of-day functionality to keep your space cool, warm, or simply private.

Canvas drop cloths in sizes up to 30-feet square can be hung from plumber’s pipe “curtain” rods for finished looking window treatments straight from the modern industrial design style books and entirely in keeping with the ethos.

While industrial design has few defining tenets, there is one overarching descriptor: bold bordering on bodacious.

Be fearless.

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