Industrial Design

Industrial interior design – it’s stark, harsh and it makes a bold statement. Saved from being minimalist and cold by furniture and art with visible welds, exposed rivets and distressed metal, industrial design is out of the Soho loft interior and coming soon to a home near you.

But industrial style isn’t for the faint of heart, it’s an ‘in your face’ interior design style that needs just the right blend of materials to make it work. This house in New Zealand by Kerr Ritchie uses just the right balance of institutional materials – concrete, stainless steel and tile – with modern wood cabinetry and furnishings to give what can be a cold interior an unexpected warm livability.

But how do you get this look and what’s the trend in industrial interior design? Well, the jet-setters tend to hire the hottest industrial interior designers and purchase one-of-a-kind pieces of industrial art furnishings, like those designed by Susan Woods, who uses an experimental approach to her blend of functional art and interior design.

But industrial interior design sure doesn’t have its roots in the high styles of the rich and famous, so to understand the trends and get a glimpse of the future, take a look at the past. The roots of industrial design are in U.S. factories at their worst in the industrial era of the 1930’s. In the 1930’s industry was booming in the United States and smoke-belching factories were the typical workplace of many city-dwellers.

Think about how those factories looked inside – hard concrete flooring, iron machinery, steel surfaces, beat up wood tables, pendant lighting, neutral colors and corrugated metal were the norm. It was the Art Deco style of the 1920’s crashing into the Industrial Age of the 1930’s, so sharp angles and straight lines reined supreme.

While the style was distinctly American, international forces came into play in the early days, particularly with the Bauhaus influence. Bauhaus, a German school of design, aimed to produce designs for mass production with a mix of the manufacturing process and the new materials of the machine and industrial age. The Bauhaus Dessau Foundation has a great website devoted to the Bauhaus past, present and future and its century long quest to unite art and technology.

When the Bauhaus school was closed in the 1930’s by the Nazi’s, their cutting edge combination of industry and art didn’t enter the home until the Mid-Century Modern designs of the 1950’s and 60’s. The cutting edge, one of a kind, iconic Bauhaus pieces slid into mass produced pieces by Knolls, Bertoia and Eames. For some good, classic Mid Century Modern pieces of art and furniture, check out:

  • Tom Gibbs Studio
  • Modern Furniture OKC
  • Peter Roberts Vintage Furniture

So what are the current trends in industrial design? It’s trending towards a blend of past, present and future. It’s taking vintage 1930’s era factory work tables, mixing in the 1950’s Mid-Century Modern pieces and adding some futuristic twists.

One red hot trend in industrial style – repurposing the old to make a new masterpiece. Take an old stainless steel surface, for instance. No legs, no problem – add a set of Cohda table legs to bring it back to life – Presto – the future of industrial style!

Along the lines of repurpose and reusing for a more environmentally friendly design, industrial style is trotting out one of a kind works of art in furniture made from industrial waste. Scrap Lab is a group of designers based out of Bangkok’s Kasetsart University’s Architecture program that creates funky, innovative furniture from various discarded industrial scraps. The group makes an eclectic variety of furniture, from a shaggy lamp to a lounge chair with a quilt-block pattern — all masterfully re-purposing materials that were once considered waste –

The heavyweight hitter of industrial style furniture is definitely Sculptor Bob Campbell, owner of Industrial Art Furniture. Campbell creates some ultra-cool and ultra-heavy tables and chairs, by using reclaimed metal parts from the area of England in which he lives, which was once a huge steel production and manufacturing center. Campbell, who also goes by the name Stig, welds massive steel pieces like hooks, chains, tools, and wheels to produce his pieces. He sees them not only as industrial works of art, but a chronicle of a more prosperous time in his home of South Yorkshire. Check out his designs at

If the thought of reclaimed metal furniture is weighing heavily on your mind, take it to the streets with Michael Mller’s line of manhole cover furniture, art and flooring. With designs based on nearly a century’s worth of actual American manhole covers, you can create a funky, industrial look in your home that’s both functional and cutting edge. Miller recreates every detail of real manhole covers from different cities within the United States, with some designs dating back to the 1890’s.

Miller includes blemishes, pitting and other characteristics of the real covers in his creations, along with old metal, pipe-like, bases and stools so the covers could also be incorporated into furniture. He also offers lighter pieces for wall art. Miller’s pieces are hot, in part because of their reasonable price tags of $300 – $1,500. Find his work on

One of the most popular trends of industrial style interior design may just be popping up in a McMansion near you, and that’s the pendant light. Reproductions of the 1930’s era factory pendant lights were popularized by Restoration Hardware and – gasp – Pottery Barn. The style is also creeping into bathrooms with these companies’ popular lines of reproduction cabinets taken straight from style of an early 20th Century doctor’s office.

Looking to get a pure form of industrial era interior style? Then go right to the source with a trip to an antiques auction. Kamelot Auctions usually offers a fine selection of 1930’s era industrial furnishings, including corrugated steel side tables, distressed wood and metal partners’ desks and industrial shelving that can offer form and function in any area of the home. It’s the ultimate in recycling and these pieces have proved to be some of their most popular offerings.

But even the purists of the industrial style aren’t complaining about the masses horning in on their style. It’s bringing a newfound popularity to this enduring style that plans on sticking around for years to come. It’s popularity like this that has people more and more interested in going to design schoollooking for industrial design training.