What classes as Industrial Design?

We imagine abandoned warehouses revived into New York loft apartments; but can we create the style in new, purpose-built concepts? The answer is yes. It’s all about creating a vibe and we’re here to tell you how.

Imagine yourself walking through the buildings that influence this style, forgotten mills and abandoned manufacturing plants: You are encased by exposed or whitewashed brick with bare wooden floorboards or concrete beneath your feet. Exposed piping runs along the walls with beams painted black above your head. The machinery still in situ, the knurled metal and unturned cogs exhibited as a piece of the past.

The infectious ambience of The Stage with its contrast of concrete, red exposed
brick and metallic accents is comparable to the likes of downtown Manhattan

Lesley Lawson

Head of Design, Galliard Homes

We see a mixture of textures present, all in a natural palette of organic stripped back materials. Whilst the style is more minimal, it still holds maximum impact. But it’s been around for years you say, isn’t this trend on its way out? Far from it: Recently we’ve seen a surge in re-connectivity – to the outdoors, to our past, to craftsmanship over inbuilt obsolescence, to steer away from ubiquitous technology of the everyday.

Roll these inspirations together and the main factors involved are organic materials in more minimal design – precisely the ethos of Industrial design.

Industrial design in Hospitality

Like many macro trends and design styles with longevity, we see many of these in hotels; with homeowners wishing to mimic an aspiration hotel bathroom design to their own bathrooms and outdoor spaces at home. The urban look is very much the vogue for the international and independent hotel groups such as Rove by Emaar, Zabeel House by Jumeriah, Indigo by Intercontinental and Moxy by Marriott. These world-renowned hotel brands all offer a no-frills experience, with a strong local flavour and the best technology available for the connected community. The surge of inspiration for the urban design concept and industrial design styles arguably came from the redevelopment of East London; especially around the neighbourhoods of Clerkenwell, Shoreditch and Hoxton, which itself gave the name to the iconic hotel chain with outposts in Paris, Amsterdam, New York Chicago and L.A.

We now see this look across a wide range of product sectors and working its way into our lives through bars and restaurants, gyms and important public spaces like Coal Drop’s Yard in London. The concept is also being adopted by developers if important urban regeneration projects such as The Stage in Shoreditch – a mixed-use development from Galliards with a fascinating Shakespearean heritage.

Industrial design with tiles

Many Italian tile producers now include urban and industrial styles in their collections; as seen at Cersaie, Salone del Mobile, Mosbuild and Tile Expo. A popular focus is a concrete effect tile, thanks to the raw yet organic feel offering a timeless solution. This style is particularly effective when contrasted against patterned, small format flooring. Or likewise, concrete style floors with subway tiles on the walls is a classic choice when designing an industrial bathroom or kitchen.

Subway tiles are part of the small format library that complements both terrazzo and concrete by juxtaposing colours, textures and details for added depth in a design. Whilst subway tiles offer a brick size – from the classic 10 x 20cm to a more contemporary size of  7.5 x 30 cm – a brick stone effect tile adds an incredible tactility with an authentic edge, thanks to its typical use in mills during the industrial revolution and contemporary use in chic loft style apartments. A warming brick effect tile contrasted with Matt Black hardware creates a contemporary, masculine yet timeless style.

The eponymous New York line of tiles by CIR focuses on distressed finishes to communicate the charm of the post-industrial period, bringing a retro feel to modern buildings. The New York collection also includes corners for pillars and kerbs for steps to create the desired rustic appearance but with the attention to detail clients demand for a high-end finish.

Another popular effect, with increasing focus across all products from fabrics to tiles, is Terrazzo. Originally terrazzo flooring was born from Venetian workers in the 16th century recycling fragments of marble, granite, quartz and glass by tossing marble chips into the cement floor, which was then ground and polished.

Terrazzo tiles can be found in an array of sizes and colour ways with Del Conca; who modernise the style by adding elegant colour touches. Whereas I-Cocci uses a mixture of concrete and terrazzo with oversized fragments. This ultimate rustic influence features warming tones to add ambience in a room whether it be a terrazzo living room floor, terrazzo tiled walls in a bathroom or feature tiles in an outdoor kitchen.

Industrial Materials

The recent growth of alternative finishes for hardware and bathroom fittings has helped develop the ‘Industrial Chic’ look in becoming more appealing to both designers and the retail market.

Hard knurled designs became more attractive when mixed with the softer metal finishes like brushed nickel and the unique brushed brass Zanzibar finish from Bagnodesign. The Revolution brassware range combines these alternative finishes with elegant knurled detailing to create an authentic design ethic, for a unique on-trend feel. These taps and showers are complimented by Revolution industrial style sanitaryware, stretching from chic Matt White bathtubs to Matt Black fluted farmhouse-style sink. The baths and basins follow the shape of old tin baths and buckets in a beautifully blended stone, to bring a luxurious contemporary twist to the industrial sanitaryware designs.

The Revolution range also includes a cast-iron basin stand featuring rustic cogs to emulate machinery of a by-gone era. The washstand is made from old sewing machine stands with the addition of an original cut slab of chestnut to add an organic tactility.

Industrial Styling

The Dutch urban brand JEE-O have one of the most on trend industrial programmes designed by upcoming Dutch designers Grand & Johnson. The Soho range is named after the vibrant neighbourhood in cosmopolitan New York, known for homing an abundance of industrial style loft apartments. The austere environment is an evident influence as seen with the ‘less is more’ design approach – yet the Soho range still demands attention and delivers maximal impact thanks to the oversized form, featuring a cleverly designed handle reminiscent of a joystick. The Soho range is so well loved in the design industry, the range won the Red Dot award and a German Design Award – we love the hammer coated black finish for indoors for black-on-black drama, and the raw brushed steel finish for pool side schemes.

01 Bagnodesign Harlem and Zephyr

Industrialism with wood

A complementing range equally influenced by American Industrialism is Harlem. The American Oak finish adds warmth, creating a new dynamic in a design by adding natural materials such as wood. The sleek Matt Black handle of the vanity unit is in keeping with the growing trend of mixing materials, whilst the nifty open unit offers storage for aesthetic accents from towels to candles. Pairing with either a Matt White or Matt Black wash basin adds to the tactile design.

We can also flip the design to feature wood on the walls by using wood effect tiles. This creates a comforting cocoon for a more biophilic feel yet when contrasted by the impact of black, the design hosts a masculine industrial vibe.

Industrialism with metals

The use of Matt Black accents is particularly relevant with industrial design and we see its use from mixers to shower fittings. The Harlem shower panel and Belleze Open shower wall offer crittall style designs, whilst the Belleze Society features a fluted glass effect. A fluted effect is versatile across many design styles and popular amongst interior designers for its textured appearance, ability to diffuse light and when paired with matt black emitting an undeniable New York vibe.

Another option for finishing linked with both Industrial and Biophilia trends, is Brushed Copper. This metallic finish for brassware and accessories has a strong link with the industrial look through its connection to the historical use of copper pipes in exposed plumbing. We’ve seen a trend using the copper finish throughout interiors over the last few years, first with refined products in polished copper, and in more recent times, reverting to emulate rustic design styles with a brushed finish. Using Brushed Copper with other organic materials such as wood and terrazzo brings the outdoors in, helping to develop a design that is more connected to nature yet still offers a soft industrial edge.

Industrialism in ceramic

In ceramic, the resurgence of old-style cleaning sinks into kitchens and public washrooms has returned in an exaggerated way. The Revolution sink features a fantastic fluted feature for an evolution in design. This sink style is often combined with subways tiles and taps in impactful alternative finishes such as Brushed Copper, Brushed Nickel, Bronze and Zanzibar.

A perfectly coordinating tap for any industrial style kitchen is the Firehouse sink mixer. Combining both form and function, the knurled edging and chunky pipe-style body in rustic finishes evoke an authentic industrial look; yet modern technology from a pull-out hand shower makes mundane tasks a pleasure to perform.

Authentic Industrial Lighting

The Davey collection by Original BTC offers truly original industrial lighting. The Davey lighting range evokes an authentic gritty feel whilst beaming the highest quality light and meeting the latest applicable standards.

From polished metallic pendants to pleated pillar wall lights the Davey collection is the epitome of endearing engineering for lighting. Using this range in a design will result in adding a hint of rustic charm to existing contemporary designs or equally accentuate an industrial concept.

Yet the offering is not limited to one range; Ship ceiling and wall lights from Original BTC also offer incredible character. The Box ranges encased Edison bulb and sleek lines of the casing also create a refined factory-inspired fixture. 

Using original processes dating back to the East India Docks of London in the 1880s, the designs reference authentic styles found in schools and libraries of the 1920s, cabins of the 1930s and lighthouses or marine ships of eras gone by. The finish options of Weathered brass, Polished Brass and Gunmetal all result in a charming aged effect. 

Contrary to popular opinion, industrial lighting is effective not only in restaurants and bars, but equally in domestic settings. For kitchens, bathrooms and outdoor spaces industrial lighting works well with wooden textures, as contrasting metallic accents against wood adds a vital gritty depth to any industrial design. Bright pendants work beautifully in an industrial kitchen design; whereas glazed glass options, such as with the Box range, will create a softer light for more relaxing spaces such as a walkway or dining room. 

With many lighting lines IP65 rated, they can also be safely used outdoors as well as in bathroom spaces. Consider lanterns for adding ambience to unwind in a relaxing bath; and in the garden, the lighthouse lanterns are modular to allow customisable illumination for lighting without limitation.

Industrial Outdoor Design

With the indoor/outdoor concept growth year on year we also see urban and industrial influences present with outdoor living. New products to market focus on mixing textures such as teak wood and matt black. Teak has a fantastic resilience to stark weather conditions and remains a firm favourite, yet the juxtaposition of metal and glass create a charming urban vibe. Another popular material is aluminium thanks to its robust nature, however we now see the introduction of painted aluminium with tactile materials to create a more welcoming, refined effect. Sticking to neutral shades of materials will help create an industrial outdoor space, but for the bold designers the Copenhagen dining chairs from Cane-line are available in a muted colour palette reminiscent of the mid-century with Olive Green and Midnight Blue. The 1950s is known as a key manufacturing period due to a technical boom, hence industrial design can be equally drawn from this era. The addition of colour in industrial design also twists the styling to introduce a playful, contemporary air.

The Copenhagen chairs work wonderfully with the Cane-Line Endless table: a contemporary pallet-effect wooden table thanks to teak planks in a linear format. The use of wood creates a warmer biophilic feel to industrial designs, whilst the addition of metal helps to balance the soft wooden material with a robust industrial metal. 

Where is the Industrial design trend headed?

The industrial design trend appears to be gathering pace as the world urbanises and regenerates its old industrial heartlands. In the meantime, inspirational hotels and restaurants are taking the concept to a new level by adding colour, texture and connecting this with biophilic trend for a communicative, comforting space.

To summarise, we can create industrial designs easily with the following principles:

  • Focus on textures by mixing rustic tactile wood & knurled or alternative finished metals.
  • Concrete effect patios with natural effect tiles or subway tiles are the top tile styles.
  • Use simplistic lighting with historical influences to illuminate your space and add ambience.
01 Bagnodesign Revolution, Timeline Tile