The Industrial Revolution

One trend that has been around for some time now and will undoubtedly continue into 2012 is the industrial look (and I’m not talking about diamond encrusted Stella McCartney boiler suits, Jimmy Choo working boots and Philip Treacy hard hats) – the UK was the first country to ‘industrialise’ during the 18th Century and, in doing so, it created a no nonsense and practical design approach for industrial environments that used simple, cheap and robust materials – an approach that has endured and continues to be applied today. This style applied to the home takes many different forms, including; polished plaster bathrooms (which look absolutely stunning as well as being incredibly resilient), resin floors (which work really well throughout the home and are again incredibly durable), concrete kitchens (don’t cringe – they look amazing and are a perfect material for use in the kitchen) or just furniture and lighting with a real industrial feel (metal, stone, plastics – just straightforward basic materials put together in a straightforward and basic way). ‘Industrial’ is definitely a mega trend that will continue to be pervasive in the design world during 2012…

Whilst we aren’t all lucky enough to live in an old converted warehouse that is overflowing with authentic industrial features, there are relatively straightforward ways to create a distinctly industrial or urban feel within a space in the home. One of the easiest ways to achieve the industrial look at home is simply to use industrial materials (and to combine them in the right way within a scheme) – and, as mentioned above, concrete, plaster and resin are fairly obvious choices (it’s not a coincidence in recent months that we have witnessed a huge rise in the use of all three in interior design). Many designers, including myself, are now using them in even more unexpected and unusual ways and combining them very effectively with ‘industrial feel’ furniture and lighting to achieve the overall look.

Resin Floors - Resin floors are becoming extremely popular as part of both new industrial/commercial developments and the refurbishment of existing buildings. However, there is a growing trend for using resin as an attractive, dramatic and durable floor in domestic settings. They create supremely functional and hard wearing floors and make spectacular statements.

(Image from Gaile Guevara) 

(Image from Gaile Guevara) 

Concrete Kitchens – Kitchens have not escaped the industrial revolution – the latest emerging trend is the concrete kitchen. This involves a combination of practical and tactile concrete, from polished concrete flooring to worktops. Concrete is a wonderful practical solution for kitchens as it withstands heat, resists scratching and is easy to clean, all of which rather surprisingly makes it an ideal work surface on which to prepare food.

(Image from Steininger)

Polished Plaster – Bathrooms have also embraced the industrial look with polished plaster being used as a great alternative to tiles and stone – it provides a sharp and modern finish that complements modern sanitaryware perfectly. Interestingly, concrete has also found its way into the bathroom in the form of bathtubs (so we can probably add ‘non permeable’ to the list of characteristics of this material…).

(Image from Modulnova)

(Image from Modulnova)
Furniture & Lighting – Industrial style products are easy to work with and won’t date as quickly as other more quirky trends. Something from an old factory or warehouse that can be reclaimed is in itself a piece of history that looks original and effortlessly stylish in a home. Industrial is not overly fussy - the design is practical, simple and striking. It’s their functionality that actually makes them genuinely interesting. To get things started just look for over sized metal lighting or metal tables and chairs.

(Image from Rom 1-2-3)

(Image from Lotta Agaton by Petra Bindel)

Unfortunately the UK is not the great industrial and manufacturing nation that it once was, but the trend towards industrial design means that the essence of our manufacturing heritage is being revived within the home. We can however take some comfort from the fact that we still own one of the coolest manufacturing brands on the planet - Aston Martin… and if you look at the plans for the redevelopment of their Works facility in Newport Pagnell, there does appear to be plenty of polished plaster, concrete and resin, all blended effortlessly and effectively into a sleek and modern industrial design that complements the brand perfectly…

This blog is also available on Interiors UK. As official blogger for the event I thought I would also share the digital game that they have developed ahead of the launch this Sunday...

Do You Know Your Design? The game asks all knowledgeable interiors industry professionals to test their design know-how and match the names of famous British designers with the images of their creations. Sir Terence Conran, Robin Day, Eileen Gray and Charles Rennie Mackintosh are among the designers included in the game. INTERIORS UK also rewards all its players with Design Museum tickets and gives a chance to the two lucky players to scoop fantastic designs from renowned British brands...


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