Design Speak Industrial: Brick and Mortar Exposed, Oh My!

Now that we’re all comfortable with what makes contemporary, modern, transitional, and farmhouse styling work, I think it would be remiss to exclude the trending design style of “Industrial.” But before we get to what I consider the mainstream version of this style group, let’s look at the core of rugged industrial styling.

The way it looks & feels

True industrial spaces can take a lot of different forms, from very utilitarian, like this space:

Metal clad commercial windows that double as a wall, galvanized conduit that frames the ceiling and wrought iron grids in a sink window can only belong to the distinct styling known as Industrial. Embracing the concept “as is” is the real draw to these urban spaces, and sheetrocking all that brick and mortar would be viewed as a huge mistake!
Anderson Nikolich Design Initiative / Jean Allsopp Photography

Or this kitchen:

Marchi Cucine

To a slightly softer approach:

And a space that even dips into Transitional style:

I love how this kitchen shows how a simple layout of cabinetry fits right into an otherwise atypical shell.

Medallion_Get the Look_Industrial

Brick wall dreamingAnd how does it feel? It’s a bit difficult to put into words, but to me, Industrial style is a bit like a classic car…amazingly well-structured and just breathtaking to look at and touch! It’s an overstuffed overworn leather chair. It’s a feeling of being embraced by architecture. It definitely is not soft and feminine. It is rigid and masculine – and can be cool and striking or warm and inviting. And can I say, this style is my most favorite :)? I envision the day I get to kick back and stare at my 14-foot tall time-worn imperfect brick wall glowing with filament bulbs…ahhh a girl can dream!

Industrial style gets its name from the urban, industrial spaces that embody the look—these designs are either remodeled factories and warehouses or attempts to copy the look of a remodeled factory/warehouse. The style became popular in the late 2000s, and continues to gain ground, especially with the emerging trend of building with shipping containers!

In essence, industrial kitchens are what come to mind when we think of a chic warehouse loft in the big city. This style is edgy, and sometimes very stark and cold—in its purest form, it appeals to a very small subset of consumers. As a result, most of the time when we see designs with “industrial” things they are elements cherry-picked from designs like these.

Pick your industrial piece

You may have noticed that there are quite a few things that these rooms have in common.

  • Exposed Architecture
    • Brick, beams, steel tracks, skylights, huge glass walls or windows in dark, thin frames, cement flooring, etc.
    • The original skeleton of the space is left on full display as a design element, and the kitchen is built around what’s already there.
  • Utilitarian or commercial industrial elements
    • Metal counters or even metal cabinets, often aged and/or imperfect, with borders of rivets or rounded screw heads to mimic the look.
    • Reclaimed, recycled, upcycled, and repurposed. I think this is the most earth-friendly style on the planet–it’s all about making use of structures and materials that already exist.
  • Exposed wiring, plumbing, ductwork, etc.
    • Bare-bulb light fixtures (especially with Edison bulbs) are very on trend, as I’m sure you’ve noticed!
    • Fixtures crafted from just about any metal or wire, such as galvanized pipe structures that “grow” out of the ceiling.
  • Eclectic décor: almost anything goes, as long as it’s kept to a minimum. Free-standing utility cabinets in bold accent colors are an example of décor used in this style.
  • Embracing imperfections: rusted/galvanized metals, weather-worn wood, worn brick, odd layouts…this is the style of making do.

This is where Light Industrial comes in. Light industrial is what you get when you take a transitional or contemporary space and impart some industrial elements, like Edison bulbs, exposed brick, or reclaimed pieces.

Medallion Light Industrial Styles

Decor featured above: Mini-pendant cage light in satin nickel by Design Classics Lighting – find it here. Stainless steel handle by TopKnobs – find it here

On their own, these elements are surprisingly versatile. Adding a touch of industrial style through those utilitarian décor and design elements gives an edge to your design. These pieces add some weight through their heaviness and chunkiness and can help balance designs that would otherwise be blah or washed out. In another example, let’s look at how a Transitional Farmhouse style has co-opted a few industrial elements for a more unique look:

Medallion Gold_Earl Grey_Buckskin Appaloosa_numbers

  1. Industrial lighting
  2. Weathered wood
  3. Dark metals (lighting, hood, refrigerator and seating)

Comparing a Farmhouse kitchen and a true Industrial kitchen, it’s clear that these styles are NOT the same overall, but some of the items within both designs may be very similar, even identical.

Farmhouse isn’t the only style category that uses light industrial elements. More Contemporary-leaning Transitional designs often feature industrial lighting as a focal point, like in this kitchen:

Medallion PLATINUM: Middleton cherry Smoke Ebony Glaze and Highlight and maple Chai Latte Classic; Amesbury maple Chai Latte Classic

Transitional kitchens will also make use of other softened industrial pieces. Some characteristics illustrated below include an open design, multi-textured finishes, and unique mix of elements. The lighting, decorative hardware, appliances, accent doors, and seating all fit comfortably within the Industrial style category, but the overall space remains softer and more transitional than a true Industrial kitchen.

Medallion Sips & Tips

Similar to Farmhouse style, Industrial style can range from extreme – true to the original imperfections –  to simply adding a few accents. For cabinetry, the key is to select simple styles, in slab or flat/reverse raised panel doors with little to no detail. Here’s a quick reference of door options within Medallion that can be used to give a touch of Industrial style to your design.

Medallion Light Industrial Styles Warm and Rustic1
Industrial Black Cube light pendant from Houzz. Mercer collection tab pulls from Top Knobs. Dark Brown Cracked reconstituted leather panel from EcoDomo.
Medallion Light Industrial Styles Cool1
Wrought Iron Cage light pendant from Houzz. Brittania collection pull & knob from Top Knobs. Dark Brown Cracked reconstituted leather panel from EcoDomo.

Medallion Light Industrial Styles 3
Pulls shown above: Top Knobs Lydia collection in Brushed Satin Nickel. 
Medallion Light Industrial Styles 2
Pulls shown above: Top Knobs Aspen collection in Silicon Bronze Light.
Medallion Light Industrial Styles 4
Pulls shown above: Top Knobs Edgewater collection in Brushed Satin Nickel. 
Medallion Light Industrial Styles 5
Pulls shown above: Top Knobs Linear Pull and Arched Knob in German Bronze
Medallion Light Industrial Styles 6
Shown above: Platinum series (inset) cabinet styles. Top Knobs Channing collection in Ash Gray and Flat Black. 


CupAs indicated in the Houzz Kitchen Trend Study for 2018, the Industrial style category has gained popularity year-over-year. I believe the majority who are seeking this look in their kitchen or bath design are actually referencing a transitional or contemporary design that includes light industrial elements. It invokes the character of a true urban form of Industrial style, without having to ask a contractor to build and sandblast a wall of brick or a row of 40-foot beams!  And, as you can see, Industrial is a surprisingly prevalent style that sneaks into a number of other popular designs as well. Seems there’s a common denominator in all of our aforementioned styles: character, slightly unexpected and unique features and overall simplicity. It’s the look of “come on in any time,” and yet carries a well-thought-out balance of materials, textures, and function for maximum appeal!


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