Leveraging natural materials, raw detailing and a laid-back vibe, industrial design can work for everyone.
Industrial interior design has emerged as a popular trend in recent years, and with good reason. This unique style combines elements of modern design with raw materials, resulting in an effortlessly cool and stoic look when executed correctly, regardless of if you rent or buy.
Drawing inspiration from the blank canvases of rundown or even abandoned factories, warehouses and manufacturing plants, industrial interior design is a reaction to the mass exodus of large-scale American manufacturing operations and the massive properties they constructed and then ultimately left behind.
In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about industrial interior design, provide you with the best ideas to incorporate this style into your home or apartment and, above all, finally answer the question, what is industrial interior design?
What is industrial interior design?
Industrial interior design takes inspiration from industrial buildings and elements like exposed pipes, metal, brick and unfinished concrete. This design style embraces the rawness and imperfections of these materials, creating a unique and authentic home atmosphere.
Spaces with industrial interior design typically feature open floor plans with abundant windows, allowing for ample natural light. The color palette used in industrial design is usually darker, with shades of white, black and gray prevailing.
By using materials in their rawest and roughest forms, industrial interior design captures a minimalist aesthetic that celebrates the movement of natural materials, often incorporating dark metals to tie the look together.
The characteristics of industrial interior design
To better understand industrial interior design, let’s explore some of its defining characteristics.
Visible structural elements
One of the key features of the industrial design style is the celebration of visible structural elements. Exposed brick walls, beams and open ductwork are common in industrial-style homes. These elements add a sense of authenticity and industrial charm to the space.
Rough wood or concrete floors
Industrial interiors often feature rough wood or raw concrete floors. These materials not only add to the industrial aesthetic but also provide durability and a sense of realness. Concrete floors can also be polished to achieve a more refined look, while rough wood floors contribute to the rustic appeal of industrial design.
Neutral color palette
Industrial interiors typically employ a neutral color palette, with an emphasis on darker tones like blacks, grays and off-whites. These colors create a sense of depth and contrast, allowing other design elements to stand out.
Raw and reclaimed materials
Industrial design embraces the use of raw and reclaimed materials. Leather and wood are frequently used in furniture and decor, showcasing the natural beauty and texture of these materials. Reclaimed wood, in particular, is a quick way to add a touch of history, character and warmth to industrial spaces.
Emphasis on steel and dark metal
Steel and dark metals play a significant role in industrial interior design. These materials are used structurally in beams and columns, as well as in decorative elements, furniture, fixtures and artwork. The use of dark metals adds sophistication to any room and complements the overall industrial aesthetic.
High ceilings and large windows
Industrial spaces often feature high ceilings and massive windows. This architectural design allows for ample natural light, creating a bright and airy atmosphere in open spaces. The combination of high ceilings and sizable windows also contributes to the sense of openness and spaciousness in industrial interiors.
Industrial design embraces a minimalist spirit, with a focus on simplicity and functionality. Excessive ornamentation and detailing are not commonly found in industrial spaces. Instead, the emphasis is on clean lines and the beauty of raw materials.
Origins and history of industrial interior design
The origins of industrial interior design can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution in the 19th and 20th centuries. The rise of mass production led to the construction of factories and warehouses built with harsh materials like steel and concrete. These industrial buildings featured large windows, open floor plans, high ceilings and exposed architectural elements like brick walls and metal pipes.
In the 1960s and 70s, the industrial interior design style gained popularity alongside the rise of loft-style living in large cities. Old warehouses and factories were repurposed into residential spaces, offering unique and spacious living environments.
This trend continues to evolve, and today industrial design is not only limited to loft apartments but has become a sought-after style for a spectrum of residential and commercial projects.
The differences between industrial style interior design and modern industrial interior design
Industrial interior design and modern industrial interior design are both popular styles, but they have distinct characteristics and elements that set them apart.
Industrial style interior design
Origins: This style originated from the industrial era where old factories, warehouses and industrial spaces were converted into living spaces. It often incorporates elements from these original industrial settings.
Materials: Common materials include exposed brick, metal, concrete and reclaimed wood. The use of raw, unfinished materials is a hallmark of this style.
Color palette: The color scheme tends to be neutral and earthy, with a focus on gray, black and white tones, often complemented by the natural colors of the materials used.
Decorative elements: Decor is minimal in traditional industrial design. It may include vintage or antique items, industrial lighting fixtures like pendant lights and functional furniture pieces.
Space: Open floor plans are common, with high ceilings and large windows. The layout often emphasizes spaciousness and a sense of openness, as you’ll see in the photo of the coffee/wine bar below.
Modern industrial interior design
Evolution: This style is a contemporary adaptation of the traditional industrial style interiors. It blends elements of modern design with industrial features.
Materials: While it also uses materials like metal, concrete and wood, modern industrial design often incorporates more refined finishes and may include modern materials like glass and stainless steel.
Color palette: The modern industrial palette may be broader, including the neutral tones of traditional industrial design but also allowing for more pops of color and contrast.
Decorative elements: There is often a mix of old and new decor. Modern industrial design style might include things like contemporary art, modern furniture designs and sleek lighting fixtures alongside more traditional industrial decor.
Space: Like traditional industrial design, modern industrial spaces often have open layouts, but they might be more structured with defined areas for different purposes and a balance between open space and coziness.
While both styles share a love for raw, unfinished materials and an open concept, traditional industrial design stays true to its roots with a focus on vintage and rugged elements. In contrast, modern industrial design mixes these elements with more contemporary, refined and colorful finishes.
How to incorporate industrial interior design in your place
Now that we have explored the fundamentals of industrial interior design, let’s delve into some of the best ideas to incorporate this style into your own space. With ideas for renters and buyers, there’s no excuse to miss out on this aesthetic.
1. Put your place in neutral
Embrace a soft color palette of neutral shades and tints to create an industrial ambiance. Blacks, grays and browns form the foundation of industrial design, providing an earthy and grounded feel. Use brown and tan for a soothing touch or black for a more suave look.
2. Mix modern and rustic
One of the advantages of industrial design is the freedom to mix modern and rustic elements. Blend contemporary pieces with rustic settings to achieve a balanced and visually appealing aesthetic. This combination creates a dynamic and eclectic atmosphere.
3. Open your mind and your floorplan
Open floorplans are a hallmark of modern industrial design. Embrace the spaciousness and flexibility of an open-plan layout, connecting the kitchen, dining area and living room seamlessly. This design choice allows for easy movement and promotes a sense of togetherness.
4. Light it up
Lighting plays a crucial role in industrial design. Embrace statement lighting pieces like Edison bulbs to add warmth and character to your space. Exposed wiring and industrial-style fixtures contribute to the overall industrial aesthetic.
5. Throw caution out the window
Crittall windows, with their metal grids, are synonymous with industrial interior design. These large windows not only let in abundant natural light but also create a connection between the interior and the outdoors. Their sleek and minimalist design adds a touch of elegance to industrial spaces.
6. Embrace au naturel
Bring the outdoors inside by incorporating plants and greenery into your industrial space. Indoor plants add life, color and a sense of freshness to the raw and industrial atmosphere. The combination of natural greenery and ample natural light creates a harmonious and inviting environment.
7. Go heavy metal
Metal is a key element in industrial design. From brass and copper to chrome and iron, metal accents add visual interest and texture to the space. Polished metal creates a sleek and modern look, while brushed or beaten metal adds a vintage charm. Experiment with different metal finishes to find the perfect balance for your industrial interior.
8. Expose the bones
Embrace exposed architectural elements, like concrete and brick, to showcase the raw beauty of the building’s structure. Exposed concrete walls, poured concrete floors and exposed brick walls add character and authenticity to industrial spaces. The imperfections and weathering of these materials contribute to the overall charm of industrial design.
9. Fake it to make it
If you’re not working with a historical building, you can still create a sense of industrial authenticity by incorporating faux architectural elements. Faux beams, columns and mock lofts can be used to mimic the look of an industrial space. These elements add visual interest and contribute to the overall industrial character of the design.
10. Showcase the vents and ducts
Make a design statement out of typically overlooked industrial elements like vents and ducts. These functional industrial elements can be painted in bold colors to create a striking contrast or left in their natural metal finish. Matte black or steel vents are popular choices that add a touch of industrial elegance.
11. Personalize your space
Complete your industrial interior with carefully chosen accessories and decor items. Artworks, lamps, decorative pieces and cushions can enhance the industrial vibe and add a personal touch to the space. Look for distressed leather cushions, natural linen textiles and steampunk-inspired accessories to complement the industrial style.
12. Focus on the floors
Give special attention to the flooring in your industrial space. Poured concrete floors with their raw and textured finish are a classic choice that perfectly captures the industrial look. If you prefer a different material, consider using raw-looking stone or reclaimed wood flooring. The key is to select a flooring material that is naturally robust and resilient, adding to the overall industrial vibe.
13. Woo with wood
Reclaimed wood is an excellent choice for achieving an industrial look. Its raw texture, knots and rings add character and warmth to the space. Repurposed wood furniture and accent pieces create a sense of history and sustainability. Consider using reclaimed wood for tables, shelves or even wall paneling to add a rustic touch to your industrial interior.
14. Store more
Make your interior designer happy and keep your industrial interior organized and clutter-free by incorporating efficient storage solutions. Industrial style interior design staples like floating shelves, metal cabinets and exposed storage systems (think repurposed lockers or vintage postal sorting cabinets) are not only functional but also add to the overall industrial aesthetic. Find unique storage ideas that combine recycled materials and good lighting to create a visually appealing and practical space.
Industrial style interior design basics by room
In a kitchen, bedroom and living room designed in pure industrial interior style, you can expect certain key features and elements that are characteristic of this design theme. Here’s a breakdown of the most common tricks industrial interior designers use and what you might typically find in each of the following rooms.
In all these rooms, the industrial interior design emphasizes utility, simplicity and raw, unfinished materials, creating a unique blend of ruggedness, coziness and hominess.
Materials: Exposed brick walls, concrete or stainless steel countertops, rustic materials and open metal shelving. Pipes and ductwork are often left exposed for an added industrial feel.
Appliances and fixtures: Commercial-grade appliances, often stainless steel and large, simple sinks with industrial-style faucets.
Lighting: Pendant lights with metal finishes or Edison bulbs. Track lighting might also be used.
Furniture: A large, sturdy wooden table with metal legs, paired with metal or industrial-style chairs. Bar stools made of metal or with a metal base and leather seats are common near the kitchen island.
Decorative elements: Minimal decorations, with a focus on functionality. You might find vintage industrial items or tools repurposed as decorative elements.
Materials: Exposed brick or concrete walls. The flooring might be concrete, distressed wood or have a raw metal finish.
Bed: A simple, robust bed frame, often made of metal or reclaimed wood. The bedding is typically neutral in color, focusing on texture rather than patterns.
Lighting: Simple, functional lighting like metal pendant lights or floor lamps with an industrial design.
Furniture: Minimalist furniture with a focus on utility and a raw, unfinished look. A metal or wooden wardrobe and a simple, sturdy dresser are common.
Decorative elements: Decorations are sparse, with possible additions of vintage industrial or rustic pieces, like old signs, black and white photos or reclaimed industrial gear.
Industrial living room
Materials: Exposed beams, brick walls and concrete or wooden floors. In an ideal situation, the room will feature large, factory-style windows.
Seating: Comfortable, spacious sofas, often in neutral colors or leather and paired with metal or wooden coffee tables with a raw, unfinished look.
Lighting: Industrial-style floor lamps, track lighting or sizable, metal pendant lights.
Furniture: A mix of old and new, with pieces that have clean lines but a rugged, utilitarian feel. A statement piece like a vintage industrial cart or metal shelving is common.
Decorative elements: Again, decorations are minimal but might include vintage industrial objects, metal artworks or simple, abstract pieces.
Is industrial interior design right for you?
Industrial interior design offers a unique and captivating aesthetic that celebrates the rawness and authenticity of the industrial interior design style. By embracing visible structural elements, rugged materials and a minimalist spirit, you can create a stylish and inviting industrial interior.
Incorporate these industrial interior design ideas into your own space to achieve the perfect blend of modern and rustic in the industrial interior design in your own place, whether you’re renting a home or looking to buy a house.