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Design & Inspiration

Industrial Style: History and Inspiration

By Ted Ryan

Industrial Style: History and Inspiration

Soaring loft spaces, urban reclamation projects, and utilitarian sensibilities are all part of the design movement known as industrial style. Learn more about this no-frills look as we take you through the principles, the history, and our favorite projects of industrial style.

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What is Industrial Style?

Industrial style is the preservation or incorporation of industrial elements in a residential or commercial space. Open plan living spaces, exposed bricks, exposed pipes, and air ducts, reclaimed metals and wood, concrete flooring, industrial lighting fixtures, and neutral color palettes are all examples of the industrial design style.

Cafe Gaia columbia plateau

Brick Shown: Columbia Plateau // Design: Sarah Sherman Samuel // Image: John Stoffer

Industrial style interiors also utilize industrial decor including vintage workbenches, tables, drafting desks, factory carts, chests, stools, and task chairs. A combination of reclaimed wood and wrought iron or stainless steel is a hallmark of industrial furniture design.

Industrial style is all about the patina and designers don’t shy away from things like rust, oxidization, distressed leather, or visible layers of paint. Signs of age and imperfection are part of the charm and legacy of industrial America.

History of Industrial Style

Industrial style in America is a story of economics. Transitioning from a manufacturing economy to a service economy, factories and warehouses shut down during the rise of globalization were converted into housing and retail spaces.

Tile Shown: Morning Thaw in 3 x 12 // Design: Swift Studios x Studio Den Den // Image: Swift Studios

Instead of fully renovating these industrial properties, their aesthetics were preserved. Industrial interior design grew in popularity through the latter part of the 20th century that today, many new construction projects are created with an industrial feel.

Our Favorite Industrial Design Projects

Rough-hewn textures and exposed sprinklers and plumbing and wide plank wood floors and a concrete island, this kitchen was calling for a brick backsplash to complement the historic industrial motif.

Monuke Design Scandi Kitchen

Brick Shown: White Mountain // Design: Mokume Design Studio // Image: Christopher Stark

With exposed beams, reclaimed wood, and iron details, this modern kitchen recalls the spirit of industrial style rather than restores it.

Great Smokey Industrial-Inspired Lakeside Retreat

Brick Shown: Great Smoky // Design: Design Harmony // Image: Holland Photography

Exposed pipes, industrial and concrete decor, and a cool neutral color palette, this bathroom hits all the notes of a modern industrial space yet feels refreshingly new.

3x12 Morning Thaw Public Bathroom Floor

Tile Shown: Morning Thaw in 3 x 12 // Design: Swift Studios x Studio Den Den // Image: Swift Studios

When Myrial took over this historic Saint Paul, MN restaurant space, designer Madelynn Furlong embraced the exposed brick and industrial characteristics by choosing refinishes that fit in with the old soul space like this herringbone 3x12 tile inaptly named Antique.

Antique Herringbone Floor at Myrial Restaurant

Tile Shown: Antique in 3 x 12 // Design + Image: Madelynn Furlong

Pulling inspiration from the rafters of this legendary Grand Rapids, MI vegetarian restaurant, Sarah Sherman Samuel designed this counter bar with industrial Glazed Thin Brick in rich Columbia Plateau. Bonus points for the exposed air ducts worked into the unpretentious design.

Brick Shown: Columbia Plateau // Design: Sarah Sherman Samuel // Image: John Stoffer

Opened as a lumber complex in 1903, Albuquerque’s Sawmill Market is a quintessential example of the evolution of industrial style. Revitalized with a variety of shops and eateries, the Market, including Paxton’s taproom that champions the history of the space with industrial elements like i-beams, unfinished lumber, exposed ceilings, a garage door of black steel framed windows, and Fireclay Glazed Thin Brick.

Paxton's Taproom Blue Ridge Brick

Brick Shown: Blue Ridge // Design: ISLYN STUDIO // Image: Read Mckendree

A brand new apartment building in Savannah, GA’s historic district, the Baxley is a pet-friendly building that opted for an industrial look to match the neighborhood but also meet the demands of their four-legged residents. Concrete floors and durable tile walls in their lounge space make sense from an aesthetic perspective but also a practical one for a living area that gets plenty of unpredictable use. Large industrial pendant lights are a perfect touch to complete the look.

The Baxly Apartment 6x6 Sea Glass

Tile Shown: Sea Glass in 6 x 6 // Design: LS3P // Image: Christine Webb Photography

Another new construction that draws industrial inspiration, David Baker Architects created this San Francisco Apartment Building with a new era of industrial sensibilities in mind. Glazed Thin Brick sheaths the unusual curved exterior accented with metal screen sunshades apply 20th-century industrial home design to 21st-century imagination.

Apartment Building Goes Brick

Brick Shown: Bitterroot Norman // Design: David Baker Architects // Image: Patricia Chang

A vast open space, concrete floors, and columns, and an artistic installation that draws the eye upwards to the exposed ceiling, this office kitchen isn’t trying to hide its industrial identity. A favorite of collaborative open-concept offices, industrial style gives employees plenty of space to gather and share ideas and, in the case of this tiled kitchen, a quick bite between projects.

Revive Healthcare Office Kitchen

Tile Shown: Huckleberry in 3 x 9, Frost in Scalene Triangle // Design + Image: Smith Gee Studio

Brick Shown: San Gabriel // Design + Image: Project M Plus // Installer: The Salted Pig, Boswell Construction

Does industrial describe your aesthetic? Sample our Industrial Style sample favorites for the easiest way to capture the palette and perspective of industrial style in your home with Fireclay Tile.

Industrial Design Tile Colors

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