The industrial decor trend first came to prominence when homeowners moved into loft apartments in former factories, warehouses and schools in city centers during the 1990s and early 2000s. In those cavernous spaces, institutional kitchen appliances and massive rough hewed tables worked beautifully with the concrete floors, exposed ductwork and the oversize scale of lofts.
“People really got so into this industrial chic look at that point," said interior designer Robert White of Reiner | White Design Studio, though he added that tastes have shifted. "I really think times have changed a little bit. People are moving back toward the softer side of things, but they still want that industrial edge.”
Eventually, features of loft living such as stainless steel countertops, exposed beams, corrugated metal, salvaged industrial furniture, commercial-grade sinks and exposed brick walls trickled down to non-loft owners who wanted to inject some attitude and character into their own homes. In industrial decor’s new phase, hard-edged details are cropping up in suburban Atlanta homes, where they often add character and attitude to shabby chic or keep a traditional home from reading as bland or too formal.
Interior designer Caryn Grossman, of CG Creative Interiors, has lived in a loft in the Old Fourth Ward’s Telephone Factory for the past five years with Chris Buxbaum, special events coordinator for A Cappella Books. Grossman has seen a definite movement of the industrial decor trend to traditional spaces in Atlanta’s suburbs.
“We’re seeing a lot of younger couples who might have lived in lofts 10 years ago and are starting families out in the suburbs. And they want to maintain some of those characteristics in their new homes,” Grossman said. “Everybody seems to have the passion for [lofts], even if they don’t feel they can live in one large room.”
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Grossman recently designed a refinished basement in a traditional, Craftsman-style Alpharetta home that illustrates the suburban migration of the industrial loft aesthetic. Grossman acid-stained the basement room’s concrete floors to give an industrial look that mixes well with more refined details such as coffered ceilings.
“Six or seven different colors have come out from the concrete, and it’s this beautiful, warm coppery patina,” Grossman said.
In the modern incarnation of industrial, it is all about the mix. “If you have all industrial, it can be quite cold, so when you add anything natural like wicker or wood to concrete or to metal, it gives it the warmth or coziness,” said Milk and Honey Home interior designer Julie Holloway. Industrial also can help keep a home from seeming ostentatious. In an overly grand home in Alpharetta, Holloway is mixing in reclaimed wood-framed mirrors to tone down the formality and bring in a rustic element.
Part of industrial chic’s appeal for many interior designers and homeowners is the chance to treasure-hunt for authentic items at salvage lots, antique stores, from family members or in the commercial realm.
“People are looking for conversation pieces that have a story behind them, but not necessarily something they went out to Restoration Hardware and bought,” White said.
“You really have to dig in these gritty salvage places to find these things that are really cool and unique and useful," White said, "but you’re going to save a lot of money and you’re going to get something no one else has."
Industrial chic for your home
Metro Atlanta interior designers reveal their favorite sources and tips for making industrial chic work in any home.
Make your own barn doors
Regular doors, with the help of a skilled carpenter, can be adapted to become sliding doors with hardware from www.barndoorhardware.com to give any room a raw, stablelike attitude. -- Rachel Greathouse, Greathouse Design, Milton
Add a brick wall
To add an edgy, loft-evocative look, www.generalshale.com offers thin brick veneer applied like tile and grouted to an interior wall. -- Rachel Greathouse, Greathouse Design, Milton
Use an item from one industry in a fresh way. A steel truck toolbox found at www.4truck-accessories.com can do double duty as a coffee table with lots of room for storage. For a movie buff client, old metal movie reels he had inherited from his father were spray-painted different colors and then used as a piece of art on the wall. -- Rachel Greathouse, Greathouse Design, Milton
Avoid mass-market industrial
Instead of hitting up mall shops, visit the Westside company I.D. Lab (www.inherentdesignlab.com), which features beautifully refurbished antique industrial furniture, architectural elements and industrial-inspired custom furniture all housed in an old train depot. -- Robert White, Reiner | White Design Studio, Westside
Rather than plopping stand-alone industrial elements such as shelving or vintage metal bins into your space, incorporate these items into your new kitchen, entertainment center or bathroom ahead of time. Have your designer or contractor make space for them as built-ins, or use industrial elements as supports or the foundation for a newer piece. -- Robert White, Reiner | White Design Studio, Westside
Try concrete counters
Kitchens and baths are great sites for incorporating industrial elements such as stainless steel or concrete countertops and can be sourced at J. Aaron (www.jaaroncaststone.com) in Scottdale. -- Caryn Grossman, CG Creative Interiors, Atlanta
Embrace barn chic
Milk paint, exposed beams and metal stools have signaled a larger American trend for simplicity and wholesome, all-American elements. “People are into farming, eating locally, and so maybe there’s an appeal with chickens and barns.” -- Julie Holloway, Milk and Honey Home, Roswell
Atlanta designer/artist Kemp Hickey works out of an old airplane hangar and can repurpose your industrial materials into one-of-a-kind objects. Hickey also sells his own creations such as old architectural columns and surveyor's tripods fashioned into lamps and industrial flange transformed into mirrors. -- Julie Holloway, Milk and Honey Home, Roswell
South of Market
Interior designer Kay Douglass’ shop in Peachtree Hills (www.southofmarket.biz) imports industrial elements from France and Italy. “Her objects are amazing.” -- Julie Holloway, Milk and Honey Home, Roswell