If you find yourself attracted to the unsightly, behind-the-scenes working aspects of interior design, you probably have a bit of industrial style preferences. Industrial decor has a raw, utilitarian aesthetic that, rather than appear harsh and run-down, can exude sophistication and warmth.
In this article, we’ll look at various pieces of industrial décor (you should know, of course, that the decorating possibilities of industrial décor are limitless) and why they work.
This is a fast-growing trend, as people discover the liberating aspect of revealing perfect imperfections (or imperfect perfection). In fact, today you’re likely to see industrial décor in houses of every style, neighborhood, age, and size.
Exposed Functional Aspects.
In the past, “decorating” involved hiding away those parts of a space that reminded inhabitants that the space was actually constructed of something, and that different building materials were necessary in order to make the space function, such as the wiring for wall sconces or ceiling light fixtures. Industrial décor goes against that by adding (or allowing to exist) a raw, unfinished aesthetic. In fact, many design enthusiasts now specifically seek out this ‘unfinished’ look.
Going along with the exposed functional aspects of industrial décor is the emphasis on utilitarian objects within the design itself. These sliding metal legs, for example, reflect drafting tables and scientific apparatuses of old.
Function = Style.
Industrial décor relishes the fact that hard-working, functional pieces don’t have to be relegated to the inner guts of a place; instead, those components, exposed for all the world to see, ARE the style. This includes exposed pipes and ductwork as well as the hard-working “bones” of furniture.
The visible emphasis on these metal sheeting joints is completely effective in creating a cool, retro industrially decorated space.
There is a decided lack of pretension among industrial interior design, and the industrial décor that accompanies such a space follows suit when it embodies nature-inspired neutrality. We’re not talking deliciously cool aquas of a mountain lake, though. Not really. We’re looking at the most fundamental of earth-toned neutrals – browns, greys, blacks.
And, although the colors themselves can be harsh, the industrial space can actually feel softened with warmer, lighter versions of those colors.
I’m hard-pressed to think of a piece of industrial décor furniture that could not be enhanced with the addition of casters. Used traditionally as purely functional tools to maximize working efficiency, casters are now added to a variety of industrial flavored pieces with not a functional purpose to be seen.
This coffee table showcases how casters, even in various sizes, can infuse a piece with industrial appeal but serve a questionable amount of genuine usefulness. (But really, who cares if it looks great?)
Wood pieces reflect a design’s ability to scale things back to the basics. The high profile use of the humble material that is wood comes to the forefront in industrial décor, where it seems that the more worn, battered, and/or mismatched the wood, the more celebrated the piece. The effect is an earthy, organic look…that, when paired with other elements of industrial décor (such as metal), becomes modern as well.
Accessories paired with raw wood pieces help to mold the “style” that the wood pieces themselves take on. This weathered chunky table, for example, could become even more industrial with a bit of metal around, although the raw-edged linen chairs helps to bring out that unpretentious, unfinished industrial vibe.
There are several ways to use the characteristic of exposed metal on your industrial décor furniture. The metal can be a variety of colors, types, shapes, and sheens, really. But whenever it’s exposed and part of the core of the piece, its steely and compact characteristics make a profound, hard-working statement.
A bare-bones square metal base rockets this gorgeous chair into a world of industrialism…and class.
Along with the prominence of weathered woods and marked metals in industrial design should be included industrial-style lighting fixtures. These include most fixtures antique, metallic, exposed-bulb, lantern, and more. They add a historical, charmingly battered aesthetic to even the most contemporary of spaces.
Similar to the caged lighting tendencies of industrial décor lighting fixtures are any bulbous or metal-heavy lighting units that look like they belong in a warehouse…in the best, most complimentary of ways.
Wood + Metal Pieces.
True industrial décor will likely involve plenty of mixed material pieces featuring both raw wood and worn metal furnishings. This makes sense when one considers the transition into an industrial age, where wood lay the foundation and heavy metal objects came along to maximize efficiency and accuracy (and longevity) within the working processes. Metal brackets, tubes, and wires mix seamlessly and beautifully with worn, pocketed, or otherwise natural-appearing wood.
Another strategy for achieving the mixed wood-and-metal aesthetic is to group wood objects with metal ones, as was done in this industrial-style dining area. The effect, when they are paired together, is the same.
Metal Gadgets & Gizmos.
Salvaged objects are those objects who are either revived to serve their original purpose or reused in another way to serve a different, yet still functional, purpose. It should come as no surprise that industrial décor features the aesthetic of utility, whether authentic or contrived. A red iron wheel centered on your dining table’s base? Absolutely chic, unassuming, and comfortable.
Bolt heads surround the perimeter of this round dining table in a no-frills, no-apologies table. Notice how the casters make it easily functional for dining, serving, or entertaining in a variety of spaces.
We really can’t discuss industrial décor without mentioning the material that, in and of itself, illustrates the essence of industrial style – concrete. Whether used on floors, walls, furniture, countertops, accessories, or wherever, concrete is as straightforward industrial as it comes. After all, very few warehouses or commercial sites would have had floors if it weren’t for concrete.
Concrete flooring plus an exposed brick wall is like an industrial décor match made in heaven.
Taking the visible architecture and utilitarian components idea a step further, some industrial décor highlights the functional by contrasting them against a differently-toned surface. The effect is a sharp contrast and crisp industrial vibe.
Pipes and/or faucets coming directly from the wall is a subtle variation on the exposed or contrasted pipes trait in industrial décor. Aesthetically, this setup is entirely functional, with no fanfare or pomp, just the way industrial interior design would want it.
Along with the use of metal on furniture or in the piping/ductwork of industrial interior designed spaces, industrial décor can also include adding metal onto doors and walls or as the defining element of a lighting fixture. This serves to increase the rough and tough sentiment.
Similarly, details of smaller pieces that are indicative of metalwork also display excellent industrial décor. The bent-metal-lip of these planters, for example, is a subtle nod to industrialism without being overt or all-encompassing.
While neutral tones are a key element within industrial interior design, grey is probably the heavy hitter when it comes to color palette backbones. As the natural color of concrete and many metals (think: steel, iron), grey looks both weathered and cool. It also is reminiscent of metallic, which makes it an ideal best-of-both-worlds kind of hue for industrial décor.
It must be noted that industrial décor doesn’t have to include huge, chunky slabs of grey concrete. It can be slender and visually light as well. A grey wire plant pot, like this one with a semi-exposed root ball, gives off an industrial vibe effortlessly.
Vintage/Recycled Industrial Decor
Whether a space has true vintage pieces or merely vintage-inspired ones, the effect is largely the same. It’s something of a hard-life-lived-but-still-going-strong mentality that is effusive in industrial décor. Old factory, laboratory, farm, and warehouse pieces (or replicas) are great vintage items that lend a solid industrial vibe.
Notice how this traditional lamp is given an industrial-type edginess with its perforated metal lampshade top.
A chain-link fence certainly isn’t something that many would look at and think, “Wow, that would look perfect next to my wood dining table.” But as a refreshing piece of industrial décor, it completes the weathered and repurposed aura of this mismatched wood dining setup.
This characteristic of industrial décor can be applicable to a variety of design styles, but that doesn’t make it any less pertinent to an industrial space. Think: salvaged pieces, quirky content, and/or black and white photos to continue the space’s crisp, functional appeal.
What’s your favorite part of industrial décor?