Vintage industrial style draws its influence from a variety of sources – factories, mills, schools, science labs, garages, hospitals and theatres. It shouldn’t be thought of as just suitable for loft apartments or factory conversions – the look can be brought into all kinds of domestic, retail and restaurant spaces. It’s been a very strong interior style over recent years and we think it’s definitely here to stay. Items incorporated into a scheme can be original vintage or modern with an industrial twist. Individual pieces also sit very well in an eclectic mix of old and new which has a timeless quality in terms of interior style.
If you like the idea of bringing a vintage industrial feel into your home, here are a few of the ways you can make it happen.
Factory pendant light-shades are very much in vogue. Some people like theirs in the classic old industrial green enamel, a bit worn with a few chips. Others like the style and shape, but prefer them shiny and clean in bold, fresh colours. It’s a perfect example of how the look can be achieved through original vintage pieces or modern interpretations.
This tripod light from Furniture Village is a another great example. Taking its design from old theatre or TV studio lighting, it’s a striking sculptural piece. It has lots of presence in a room even when switched off… and looks very dramatic when lit at night.
Vintage workbench & lathe lights have a strong industrial look. They have flexible arms and tilting heads which make them very practical – perfect for bedside, reading area or office. Brands such as Mek-Elek and Newton are the most sought after.
We also like hanging task lights which have a metal cage protecting the bulb within. These often originate from old car factories or garages. They look fabulous suspended from the ceiling on a long cable.
Even bare bulbs can look amazing – modern bulbs with the old style filaments are now widely available; as is the woven fabric flex in various colours which completes the vintage industrial look.
Most spaces need seating so there’s lots of opportunity to bring in a bit of industrial chic here. Machinists chairs, lab stools and tractor seats have the classic look that’s sought after… and again, there are both vintage and contemporary on the market.
Chair frames in distressed metal and layers of worn paint have real character. Rows of cinema seats, refectory and canteen benches can also give the desired look.
If you’re good at DIY, you can up-cycle inexpensive wooden pallets to build shelves. Pinterest is awash with brilliant ideas for both inside and out. You could also employ pre-used wooden scaffolding boards and poles to make all manner of furniture and fittings. Old workshop and hospital trolleys with tiered shelving can also be utilised – as can stacks of old fruit or bottle crates.
Again, there’s a great deal of scope here. Filing cabinets immediately spring to mind. Old examples with worn, patinated finish in wood or metal are sought after… and if a piece looks a bit too tatty, but you like the style then it’s perhaps the ideal piece for restoration. Wood can be stripped and re-stained, metal can be shot-blasted and then polished – or resprayed in a colour of choice.
Many workshops have huge banks of small drawers to accommodate tools, screws, nuts & bolts. These can be put to a myriad of uses – from ingredients in the kitchen to stationary in the home office.
Pigeon holes from factories, schools and sorting offices can be used in a similar way – ideal for displaying items too with their open fronts.
School & gym lockers were built to withstand daily use and abuse by pupils. They’re sturdy and robust and are perfect for use in kitchens and bathrooms to store items such as brooms, mops, vacuum cleaners, ironing boards and other items that are best hidden away.
Work benches, sorting stations, trestles and sewing machine tables are all ideal to consider as re-purposed work surfaces.
They can function as dining tables, coffee tables, work desks and media consoles – in fact any surface you can think of. They tend to have a rough hewn or used appearance, giving bundles of character and charm.
Wheels and castors can add further flexibility with the ease of movement and re-positioning options.
Vintage industrial accessories complete look. The following items all work very well to bring a scheme together.
Factory & station clocks; enamel advertising signs; vintage school charts and maps; wire racks/baskets; tailors’ mannequins; old bobbins & reels; bus blinds; ladders & steps; letter stencils… whatever you think works!
Consider distinctive, quirky details too – add vintage castors to table legs, use science lab glass as vases, hang clip boards for shopping lists. Be creative – you’ll have hours of fun sourcing items putting your own unique look together!
So where can you pick up vintage industrial pieces? There’s lots of it out there if you search. Scour car boot sales, architectural salvage yards, internet stores and of course, eBay. Be patient if you’re looking for a key statement piece – it will turn up eventually! Having said that, if you find something that’s ‘almost right’, it’s probably best to snap it up – then if absolute perfection turns up, you can sell the first piece and replace with the new. A really good thing about antique & vintage pieces is that they hold their value very well – sometimes even increasing in price.
We live in an area where historically there were many industries present including textile mills, dye works, iron and brick works, mines and quarries. Many of these businesses haven’t survived but the buildings that once housed them have; local auctions regularly sell their now defunct contents. Pieces should be readily available in most areas however, as dealers will travel the country looking for pieces that fit in with sought after styles.
Further vintage industrial inspiration can be found in the books below…