Classic interior design styles and how to light them – 3. Industrial style

Image: Jessica Cox


The Industrial interior design style is about taking the functional and making it beautiful.

Continuing our series on the great interior décor trends and how you can use them for inspiration in your own home (with a special emphasis on lighting), here’s how to incorporate some industry chic without actually turning your home into a factory...

See also: Classic interior design styles and how to light them – 1. Mid-Century Modern Classic interior design styles and how to light them – 2. English Country House style Who would have predicted that England’s ‘dark, satanic mills’ would one day become highly prized and sought-after homes? And not just mills: a whole range of disused buildings, from factories and warehouses to docks and military and naval bases, became redundant in the second half of the 20th century. In some cases, it was the impact of Harold Wilson’s ‘white heat of technology’; in others, it was the increasing availability of cheap textiles, clothing and goods from other countries, together with changes in global transport systems and a reduction in the numbers of armed forces personnel. Some of these ageing buildings were left to rot and became derelict; a few, such as Coldharbour Mill at Uffculme in Devon, continued in production but, in Coldharbour Mill’s case, with the added attraction of an on-site museum and shop. The massive Salts Mill near Bradford in West Yorkshire has been transformed into an art, shopping and dining centre. Like Coldharbour Mill it is now a tourist destination.

Salts Mill, West Yorkshire

In the USA and the UK, artists, designers and artisans were attracted to the empty open spaces of former industrial buildings; the Meatpacking District in New York, London’s East End and Docklands were prime examples. Large windows allowing maximum light, plenty of space, and, initially at least, cheap rents made for ideal live/work spaces. Property developers soon saw the potential to transform disused factories and dockland warehouses into stylish urban loft apartments that offered all the comforts of late 20th century living, but with a distinctive industrial edge. Here in the UK, the trend rapidly spread beyond the capital and many of the old industrial, waterfront and canalside areas of cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, Hull, Bristol and Plymouth have been transformed. Loft living became – and remains – enormously popular with young professionals and entrepreneurs but it also appeals to many older people who are downsizing, perhaps from a rural area, and want a comfortable, efficient, easy-to-run home, with easy access to all that city life offers, from reliable public transport to a rich cultural life.

Loft apartment


What is industrial style interior design?

A new type of living space demanded a new approach to interior design and the answer was close at hand – on the walls and floors, and in the hallways and windows of these once productive buildings. Pioneers of industrial style took their lead from features like exposed brickwork, pipes and ducts; weathered wood and beams; concrete floors; building systems; steel girders and joists; metal window frames, and industrial lighting. The corresponding colour palette was natural, with greys, neutrals and rustic colours predominating. Wood and metal were often used together: a plain, unvarnished light wood table teamed with metal-framed chairs was typical of the approach.


Bringing industrial style to your home

When it comes to furniture and accessories, it is a case of function as well as form. A large space can take large furniture, so long as it does not detract from the overall sense of space. So, an expansive, deeply comfortable sofa is fine; you’ll have room to stretch out, just don’t clutter up living or access areas with unnecessary pieces. There’s more than a hint of minimalism about industrial style. Vintage furniture that shows its history can work well; weathered leather seating will look good against that weathered woodwork or terracotta brick walls. Reclaimed and salvaged items can often be upcycled or repurposed and given a new lease of life. One of the surprising aspects of industrial style is that, with an open mind and a good eye, it can be made to work in every living area, from kitchen and bathroom to dining and living areas, even bedrooms. If you’re a fan of TV cookery programmes, check just how many take place in an industrial style setting. Look out for wall-to-wall white tiling, galvanised zinc worktops and overhead lighting, with metal lampshades. Kitchen islands, either metal or built from reclaimed timber make frequent appearances too.

Image: Alex Gardner

Image: Alex Gardner

It’s definitely a stripped down look so, if you’re a bit of a hoarder, it might not be for you; otherwise keep stuff out of sight with clever, vintage storage, such as metal cabinets – the kind once used in factories and hospitals. Hospital style fixtures and fittings can also work well in bathrooms…

The great thing about industrial style is that you can have fun, rummaging around reclamation and salvage yards, vintage fairs and recycling centres looking for unwanted and unloved items. They might be just what you are looking for, especially with an additional touch of 21st century TLC. Need some light pulls? Vintage wooden bobbins from textile factories are the very thing.

Image: Lucy Williams

If you’re not too keen at the prospect of staring at extensive areas of exposed brickwork, think about large, framed vintage posters, especially any that illustrate the industrial past or early public transport systems. Good quality posters are scarcer than they used to be, and more expensive, but there are still occasional gems to be found, from time to time, at local auctions and online auction sites, vintage fairs and junk shops. Quad Royal’s blog is a great source of information on British vintage posters and regularly carries features on some of the UK’s leading graphic designers of the 20th century. Vintage enamel trade signs can liven up a wall too, either singly or in a themed group. If you can find any that carry a link to your home’s original industrial purpose, so much the better.

Image: InterestinOldUnusual

One area that can present a challenge for industrial style is the bedroom, where the aim is to keep things simple, welcoming and relaxing ambience and avoiding harshness. This bunk room by interior designer Lucinda Griffith, with its white floorboards and right-angles galore is a brilliantly original take on industrial for a bedroom area...

Image: Lucinda Griffith


Lighting your industrial style home

The right lighting can make all the difference to an industrial style interior. If you are living in a converted former industrial space, you may be lucky enough to have inherited some or all of the original light fittings. But if that isn’t the case or if you’ve opted for industrial style décor in, say, a modern home, you’ll find just what you need here at Pooky. Focus on overhead lighting, such as pendant lights, wall lighting and floor lamps. Here are some of our industrial style favourites…

Image: Lucinda Griffith


Industrial style pendant lights

These are ideal in kitchens and dining areas or anywhere that needs a good source of overhead light. Our advice is to opt for plain shades and stick to metal or glass. Dexter, with its brass fitting, is a great choice, and the range includes copper, glass, and ash black shades.

Dexter in copper

Browse Pooky’s industrial style pendant lights here. Industrial style wall lights Start with an appropriate fitting, with a hint of the industrial, like Pooky’s Mumford in antique brass, or our double jointed wall fitting (available in antiqued silver or brass) for maximum lighting flexibility. Clear glass shades like Dahlia (seen here with Mumford), teamed with an elbow jointed brass fitting, would look good against exposed brickwork and bring out its rich terracotta hues.

Double jointed wall light fitting

Browse Pooky’s industrial style wall lights here..

Industrial style floor lamps

A metal floor lamp in a strategic spot, beside a reading chair or low table, is what you need. Take a look at the big, bold industrial style taps on Pooky’s Astaire. It also provides perfect atmospheric lighting for hoofing your way across those wide expanses of reclaimed wooden floors. Just bring your own tap shoes…


Pooky’s contemporary range includes other metal floor lamps, such as Mo, that would work equally well in an industrial style setting. And browse our full range of beautiful, affordable designer lighting here.