How to introduce 'industrial chic' in to your house or flat
The industrial style – often referred to as ‘industrial chic’ - is becoming ever more popular. Inspired by centuries gone by, elements of this contemporary style are finding their way into an increasing number of houses and flats throughout the UK and beyond. Read on for the lowdown on the industrial style, plus some tips and advice on bringing it into your home…
The industrial style – where did it all begin?
Part of the attraction of the style is that it has historical influences – it’s inspired by architectural and interior design approaches of centuries past. Of course, in the late 18th century, when the first industrial buildings were constructed, aesthetics were far from the main consideration, and it’s ironic that for an interior style that’s nowadays cultivated and carefully considered, at the time aesthetics bore no importance whatsoever.
Functionality was the primary aim of these buildings – they were constructed, often in haste, to house workers and facilitate industry, as the industrial revolution was in full swing. There were no frills in terms of décor, as indeed there didn’t need to be.
As well as being spaces where production efficiency could be maximised and expenditure minimised, the stripped-back, minimalist nature of industrial buildings was also driven by the need for factories to become safer. A building with no frills was much less likely to catch fire – a key consideration at the time.
By the early 20th century, concrete and steel were beginning to be widely used in the construction of commercial buildings, and consequently these elements have been carried through to modern-day, industrial-styled interiors.
By the mid-to-late 20th century many industrial buildings, usually within cities, were no longer required for their original purpose, with many falling in to a state of disrepair. Thankfully, many began to be repurposed for other uses, including housing, and the industrial style that we know and love today was born. As urban regeneration continued into the 21st century, ‘industrial chic’ became increasingly popular, and nowadays influences the interiors of homes and commercial buildings throughout the UK and beyond.
5 reasons why the industrial style is so appealing
1) It’s utilitarian to its heart
As noted above, industrial derives from practicality rather than any consideration for what is aesthetically pleasing, and it’s this very point that actually makes it so attractive to many. It’s uncomplicated and it’s not trying to be something else - it’s raw and authentic.
2) It’s versatile
As it’s such a minimalist style it coordinates extremely well with a variety of other elements of décor, and is also equally suited to a rural house or an urban flat. It’s certainly not a style that’s constrained to certain rooms, and is highly suitable for kitchens, bedrooms, dining and living areas.
It’s also a style that can be easily tailored depending on ‘how industrial’ you want to go - a few cushions and other decorative items can easily soften things if you don’t want the look to be too stern.
3) It’s androgynous
It’s an interior design style that appeals to both men and women – there’s a degree of masculinity but, at the same time, usually also a softer aspect to it.
4) It’s eco-friendly
Industrial furniture in particular has environmentally friendly aspects to it, as the wood and metal used to make it is often reclaimed. Furthermore, by virtue of its rugged nature, it’s built to last and so, unlike less robust furniture, it’s less likely to be on a landfill in 10 years’ time.
5) It doesn’t matter if you spill something
Finally, there’s a very pragmatic benefit, in that by nature it is already distressed. Therefore, if items such as furniture receive the occasional knock or scratch, as invariably they will, it will add to the character of the piece, rather than detract from it.
Decide how authentic you want to go
Industrial doesn’t have to mean cold and stark, unless of course you want it to. You’ll need to decide on whether you’re trying to go all-out industrial or opt for a softer style.
Indeed, ‘industrial-light’ is becoming increasingly popular, with homes featuring one or two softer, industrial-inspired touches – for example, a relatively standard kitchen, but with an industrial style dining table and benches.
Additionally, whilst all-out industrial in one room and not at all in others is unlikely to work, it is feasible that you could, for example, have a ‘light industrial’ kitchen and more neutral interior styles in other areas of your house or flat.
Remember some core principles of the style
There are no strict rules – that’s part of the attraction of the style. However, the following is a checklist of some key elements to consider:
- It’s an eclectic style – embrace this, express yourself and be confident about combining a variety of elements within a room.
- Try to maintain a neutral colour pallet - beige, taupe, ivory, black, grey and shades of white for walls, floors and ceilings.
- Strike a considered balance between metal and wood.
- Rustic / reclaimed wood works best.
- In terms of metals, cast or wrought iron, brushed nickel and copper are ideal.
- It’s a rugged style, and so raw, unfinished materials, fixtures and fittings are fine.
- To achieve the more orthodox interpretation of the style, exposed brickwork or ceiling beams are always a winner.
- Use warm accent colours on items such as rugs and cushions, if you’re looking for a lighter industrial look.
- An even amount of ‘distressing’ to items is recommended – a mixture usually doesn’t work.
Be a hunter gatherer
A particularly enjoyable aspect of creating an industrial style in your home is sourcing all of the particular items that will come together to create the look. As the style is becoming more popular it is now possible to source industrial-themed items from major high street retailers, but the industrial ethos really isn’t about conforming with the masses.
Ever been to a salvage yard or vintage fair? If not, now’s your opportunity. Finding pieces either locally or online can be tremendous fun – providing happy memories and interesting talking points with future house guests. Taking time to source items will prove incredibly rewarding, and will bring a unique quality to your home.
As with many interior design styles, lighting is a key element. Natural light is always highly desirable wherever possible – after all, industrial buildings originally had large windows to allow in as much light as possible, as this was simply the best way to light the building during the working day.
In terms of electric illumination, both overhead and floor lighting can be used in combination. Think metal finishes, plus try to source items which have a vintage appeal to them, such as exposed, Edison-style pendant bulbs. It’s a little paradoxical, as of course much of the industrial era had passed before the lightbulb was even invented, but vintage style lighting will suit perfectly, and will add tremendous character and distinction to a room.
The style is flexible and non-prescriptive in terms of flooring, and an array of types will work well, including:
- Natural-coloured tiles - the larger the better
- Wooden boards – reclaimed / distressed are particularly suited
- Parquet or herringbone flooring
- Concrete – either polished, for a high gloss finish, or in a more raw, matt state.
As ever, Pinterest can provide a great deal of inspiration.
As with most elements of industrial chic, any industrial furniture pieces don’t necessarily need to match, and variations in the woods and metals can often work really well. For example, in traditional interiors the dining table and chairs would be a ‘set’, but that doesn’t necessarily need to be the case when it comes to industrial. In fact, you could even plausibly have an eclectic mix of dining chair styles surrounding a dining table.
As long as the furniture is of a similar, industrial nature, then it’s likely to coordinate.
Providing a striking aesthetic with an organic feel, it’s easy to see why industrial is becoming increasingly popular as an interior design style choice for kitchens, living areas and bedrooms. You can opt for full-on, raw industrial, or at the other end of the spectrum simply introduce one or two subtle nods to it within a room of your choice.
An authentic and hard-wearing décor choice that’s evolved over the past couple of decades, pleasingly it looks set to stay. Time for an industrial revolution in your home?