A Beginners Guide to Industrial Design

July 27, 2017

A Beginners Guide to Industrial Design

Industrial design is a young style, relative to the big names of neoclassical and art nouveau, it grew popular in the late ‘90s. However, its fundamentals are based in the 18th century.
Like many of its peers, industrial design was originally born of necessity. As  populations increased, housing options grew scarce. So, developers began to explore options for expansion.
Many utilitarian buildings, that used to be considered outskirts of cities, were repurposed for residential purposes and welcomed into the community. Initially, factories in Lower Manhattan and New England were converted. Other large US cities soon emulated this idea.
Loft apartment interior - industrial style
The original conversion spaces were mostly built before 1900. These long-standing factories, warehouses, barns and churches are the models for today’s industrial style. Since electricity was not invented yet, they were blessed with huge windows, allowing daylight to flood the factory floor. 
While planning these utilitarian spaces, owners were not interested in losing profits for cosmetic appeal. This meant pipes remained exposed, walls and floors uncovered, and ceilings left open.
These neglected surfaces, left bare by frugal factory developers, would become the vital foundation of industrial style. Common building materials of the time such as brick, steel, wood, wrought iron, and stone, would all become distinctive elements of industrial style as well.
Concrete wall - industrial design
Ideal industrial design convinces the visitor they’re in an actual converted building. Finishes and material choices are imperative. Walls should have neutral coverings, or ideally be clad in brick or concrete. Striking feature walls are highlighted with directional lights and eye-catching artwork. Drywall should be transformed with metal sheets, thin brick cladding, or added stone accents.
Characteristic flooring choices, like sealed concrete or weathered hardwoods, can be adorned with cozy area rugs to add warmth and charm. The color palette should stay neutral, or muted, allowing the textures of the distinct materials used in this style to be the focus. High ceilings with exposed beams and unique lighting are also key. Industrial lighting fixtures generally have a visible filament and metal or wooden frames. Homeowners can add instant industrial vibe to any space by installing a fixture featuring an exposed bulb and wireframe form.
Another distinguishing element of industrial design is unassuming furnishings, preferable repurposed. Some notable examples include things like: old lockers as storage, salvaged wooden chests as coffee tables, or reclaimed wood as flooring.

Industrial locker - industrial design

Industrial floor plans are typically open, due to the inherently large, undeveloped spaces of factory floors which left room for large machinery or workstations. These large, undefended spaces can be unnerving to some.

A change in flooring material, or even an area rug, helps delineate separate spaces like reading nooks. Vertical dividers create visual privacy for studio bedrooms or home offices. This is another great use for reclaimed old lockers! Well-placed furnishings also define smaller spaces within an expansive great room. A kitchen island with bar seating eases the transition between kitchen and living room. Sectional sofas define media entertainment areas, while armchairs angled toward each other encourage conversation.

Above all, industrial design favors raw material and textures. As a style, it tends to draw focus toward architectural elements and material choices instead of color palettes or flowing forms.
The raw, basic building elements are left exposed, and the character of industrial spaces is largely based on that. Minimal floor plans and unique furniture pieces complete the look in these converted factories and warehouses.

Ready to add the finishing touches to your industrial inspired space?

Shop our collection of lamps and edison light bulbs. 

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