The Chic Secrets to Styling an Industrial-Style Home

Ginny Bartolone
Written by Ginny Bartolone
Updated April 4, 2022
A stylish modern kitchen area with an island
Photo: 4595886 / Adobe Stock


  • Industrial interior design showcases the natural materials of a home in a minimalist style.

  • Metal, wood, and brick are often balanced with simple upholstery and linens.

  • Stick to simple color palettes with one or two accents colors throughout the room.

  • You do not need to live in an industrial-style building to add the look to your home.

  • The style does best in open floor plans where it can highlight the expansive use of space.

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Exposed wooden rafters, bright red brick, and sleek metal surfaces that scream factory-chic—who would have ever predicted the rise of industrial interior design? Over the past 30-odd years, designers have transformed abandoned industrial workspaces into sleek galleries, offices, and coffee shops. And nowadays, you'll find this trendy decor style throughout homes as well, in everything from exposed brick walls to workshop-styled kitchens.

Key Elements of Industrial Design

So what is the industrial design style, and do you really need to live in a renovated Brooklyn loft to pull it off? The aesthetic took off at the tail end of the 20th century, often in loft spaces built about 100 years prior. And as the style grew in popularity, interior designers adapted the look to fit with nearly any home style. Here are the main ways to spot industrial chic.

1. Exposed Materials

The industrial design style doesn't try to hide the inner workings of a building. Whenever possible, the room may feature:

  • Exposed (often painted) pipes

  • Wooden ceiling rafters and beams

  • Distressed hardwood or polished concrete floors

  • Exposed ductwork

  • Walls of exposed brick

These "bones" of a room provide a template for the materials used throughout the rest of the space as well as inform the ideal color palette.

2. Original Finishes

Simplicity is key in an industry-style home, and going overboard with decor is a common interior design mistake. Natural, often unfinished materials sit at the heart of this look. Furniture such as tables, stools, and dining may feature stainless steel, cast-iron, iron, or aluminum. Plush items like beds, couches, and chairs will balance out the solidity of the rest of the room with wooden and upholstered accents.

Larger installations such as kitchen countertops or cabinets may incorporate the same materials from the ceiling, rafters, or floors.

3. Natural and Neutral Colors

The color palette plays a significant role in industrial interior design as well. Borrow hues from the materials we mentioned above—soft grays, black, brown, beige, and white. To keep the room from looking too stark, the space will include a handpicked collection of accent colors to pop against the neutral base.

4. Bold Contrast

Contrast is one of the main reasons industrial interior design makes such a large impact. Soft items balance out the harder surfaces and muted finishes sit beside something highly reflective. Designers may showcase a colorful or energetic work of art in the center of an industrial space to help it stand out. Lush plants will seem more vibrant against a concrete or wood-paneled wall. Think: minimalist home design with a bit more drama.

5. Clutter-Free

As much as industrial-chic design celebrates boldness, the decor is kept relatively simple. Surfaces should be left open and devoid of too much decoration, walls celebrate open space, and even the floor plan encourages open movement. In other words, you keep the original workshop energy while adding select pieces that make it more welcoming.

How to Incorporate Industrial Design Into Your Home

A modern home office decor
Photo: FollowTheFlow / Adobe Stock

At its core, industrial design is about showcasing the unique character of your home's structure and finding items that will complement it. Whether you work with an interior decorator or an interior designer—depending on how much you need to alter your space—a professional can help you show off the unique features of your home.

1. Showcase Second-Hand

Get playful with the style of furniture and decor in your industrial room. Peruse second-hand stores to look for furnishing of all eras and designs that show off metal, wood, and other base natural materials. And since exposed, distressed materials fill the rest of the room, your thrift-store finds can have an air of ruggedness as well.

2. Play With Space and Light

Light and layout have a strong effect in any room, but particularly in an industrial-style home with minimal fanfare. Whenever possible, opt for an open floor plan where you can easily transition from the kitchen to the dining and living area with just a jaunt across the room. Create spaciousness by encouraging natural light—either with sheer curtains or reflective surfaces. 

For the evening, keep lightning fixtures within the theme of the rest of the decor and furniture. Metallic or wood lamps, chandeliers, and sconces do best. You can even designate separate areas of your open floor plan with task lighting. 

3. Choose an Accent Color

As we mentioned above, color will have a large impact on your design. Once you have the base palette such as grays, browns, or white and black, for example, choose one or two complementary accent colors. Stick to earth tones like green, blue, or yellow to keep the room looking fresh. If you opt for bold artwork, choose the piece first and base additional accents in the room off of the painting. 

4. Reveal Original Elements

Go back to basics by exploring your building's original perks. For example, interior masonry design may include exposing a brick wall, stone mantelpieces, or stone floors. Always be sure to work with a local masonry contractor familiar with the material before making major changes on your own. You can also add industrial exposed materials to a room such as the kitchen or bathroom counters, tiles, or backsplashes.

5. Keep It Flexible

Transforming an open workspace meant that loft dwellers had the room to live and create. Choose furniture that is easy to move and apart for guests—such as stools at a kitchen island or living room seating that focuses on the hearth. 

And with such a sparse color palette, you will have more space to make small alterations to your decor as the seasons change.

At the end of the day, it's important to remember that industry interior design is not cold, harsh, and bare. The contrasting textures, colors, and patterns you add as accents make a bold statement against a natural foundation. 

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