Interior trends: what is the industrial decor style?
For most of us, when we picture industrial decor style, we think New York loft living. Exposed brick, exposed beams, exposed air vents, and some enormous crittall windows for good measure. It’s raw, it’s urban, and it’s cool without trying too hard.
Cities like Berlin, once described by its mayor as “poor but sexy” (a reference to its reputation as an artistic hub), epitomize industrial chic; whilst the development of Battersea Power Station - one of south London’s most iconic buildings - into residential units is a £9 billion example of how the trend has become aspirational.
It’s everywhere—and not limited to city life. That’s why we’re exploring what the industrial decor style actually is, delving into the history behind it, its defining characteristics, and how you can get the look in your home.
What is the industrial decor style?
Industrial decor consists of stripped-back architectural details. Wood, metal, and stone (or brick) are the holy trinity of this decor style—use them together, and your work is almost done. Salvaged or recycled materials are another big part of it. Think form and function and pieces that had a previous life, repurposed for a domestic setting. It tends to be open plan, as the trend originated from converted factories, but it doesn’t have to be. There are some gorgeous examples of converted mills that embrace their past, whilst converted barns provide a great setting for the style.
The history behind the industrial decor style
During the boom of the industrial revolution, factories were popping up the length and breadth of the country. However, towards the end of the 20th-century, as the world became more globalised, many factories were forced to shutter up and move their business elsewhere. This left behind an abundance of cavernous, derelict buildings just waiting to be transformed.
Combined with continued urbanisation and more people opting for apartment-style living, these buildings were converted into homes for young, working professionals. Instead of concealing their origins, architects and homeowners celebrated their rugged beauty by embracing bare walls, open plan living, and making a feature of key architectural details.
Industrial decor characteristic: a neutral and earthy color palette
Not got wall-to-wall exposed brick? No problem. You can get the industrial decor style with earthy beiges, charcoal greys, or even whites. We think Palette 04: Timeless Neutrals by Kelly Hoppen is the perfect paint palette for an industrial look. It’s classic yet modern, rugged yet sophisticated—just like the trend.
Before you get your paint brushes out, understand the different neutral color palettes or find out how to style the Timeless Neutrals paint colors in your home. And when it comes to furnishings, opt for simple designs with textured rather than brightly colored or patterned upholstery—contrast materials like reclaimed wood or metal with the soft curve of a bouclé sofa.
Key characteristics of the industrial decor style
Industrial decor characteristic: exposed brick walls
One of the most striking and coveted characteristics of the industrial decor style is exposed brick walls. It might sound unhomely to some, but those terracotta tones are instantly warming, whilst their rough appearance adds a textured backdrop. If your home is wall-to-wall exposed brick, you can’t go wrong. If it isn’t, don’t worry, you can still achieve that industrial look. One option is to expose the brick yourself by removing the top layer of plaster from your walls (we’d recommend getting a professional in to do this) or, much more straightforward, achieve the look with paint.
Industrial decor characteristic: open-plan living
Probably the second most recognisable factor of industrial style living (but not a deal-breaker) is open-plan living—again, owing to the former lives of the original industrial homes. Multiple homes were carved out of one enormous factory space. Now, more recently, as our homes have become even more multi-functional, they’re being transformed into broken-plan living spaces. The key is using large pieces of furniture, like a big L-shaped sofa, kitchen island, or long dining room table, to break up the room. Take a look at our guide on how to decorate an open plan kitchen or how to design an open plan living space for some ideas.