Not so long ago disused warehouses and urban factories found in the less salubrious parts of towns and cities across Britain were the preserve of squatters and struggling artists. These days, they are an aspirational living space for all, offering the kind of wide open spaces, high ceilings, exposed brickwork, rustic wooden beams and industrial gloss of Britain’s once booming manufacturing trade that most of us can only dream of for our home.
The industrial look, inspired by the glut of high-end warehouse and factory conversions of recent years, is one of the biggest trends of 2012, characterised by raw metals, concrete, reclaimed wood, unfinished surfaces and exposed fittings, as well as vintage and factory-style furniture and home accessories. The good news is that it can be incorporated into all types of home.
“From 18 century country cottages and Victorian town houses to modern beach front homes and inner city apartment blocks, the industrial finish is such an easy scheme to incorporate in your home simply because it works so well in a blank modernist setting,” says Richard Morris, managing director of O SC ARS Interiors, an interior design service and online shop specialising in Victorian campaign furniture. “Previously an industrial cast iron cheese press would have been side-lined for the scrap yard. Now, these pieces of industrial machinery can be seen taking centre stage in the modern day home, not as an item compacting cheese but instead acting as a beautiful kitchen shelving unit or perhaps a book case with a twist.”
“Industrial styling has a rawness that resonates with today’s homeowners,” says Peter Bowles, managing director of Davey Lighting, where original designs from its 19th century past as a supplier to the shipbuilding industry can now be bought for use in the home. “Where and how products are made or sourced has become a talking point. There’s a move away from assembly line production towards thing that are made in factories. The focus is on craftsmanship, purpose and tradition and lighting is a particularly easy way to dip into the industrial look. From traditional school lights to factory and ship’s lights, 19 century lighting has a simple, refined elegance that is stripped back, simple and unpretentious. There’s a reason these designs have lasted.”
While lighting may be a good place to start, there are plenty other ways to bring an industrial look into the average home. Mark Holloway of classic and contemporary fixtures and fittings site Holloways of Ludlow suggests incorporating hand-polished, cast-iron radiators (reclaimed or reproduction) to provide “an impressive, steely backdrop” or adding little details such as jelly mould light switches. Contemporary slate wall tiles are another good option, says Sheila Elliott, creative director at British Ceramic Tile.“Ledgestone offers a very modern take on natural stone and can instantly update a kitchen in need of some urban influence,” she explains. “The tiles themselves have a rugged, textured feel and have been designed to mimic the effect of a real brick wall with the contours of the tiles jutting in and out for a dramatic, edgy effect.”
Meanwhile, there’s a lot of fun to be had browsing second hand shops, vintage markets, car boot sales and online stores such as eBay or Etsy, where scratched metal tables from industrial kitchens, scrubbed wooden tables from dairies or old lift-up-lid school desks can be turned into kitchen tables; retro seating, salvaged from factory canteens or school rooms, transformed into dining chairs; or galvanised steel trolleys used as coffee tables.
“Full of provenance and an honest approach to design” these type of products “have broad appeal and work in homes that are happy to embrace a mix of styles,” says Philippa Prinsloo, senior designer at John Lewis Home. “Just beware when using these pieces in non-industrial properties that the look may need to be softened with colour and styled with solid wood pieces and textile accessories.” Otherwise, it’s a trend to be embraced and enjoyed by all – even if you don’t own an edgy East End warehouse.
Emily Jenkinson is interiors writer for the mydeco marketplace, an online shopping experience where you can search hundreds of home furnishings and accessories all in one place.