Sunday, June 27, 2010

Relics Of The Industrial Age Come Home To Roost

Photo by Roy Inman, Styling by Steve Rogers

You can’t open a catalog today and not find some influence of the industrial age filling the pages. Last week alone, I received catalogs from a half dozen retailers that featured these items front and center. Consumers are snapping up these stylish objects for home décor and taking home a piece of the past.

The Industrial Revolution spanned the 18th and 19th centuries and was a turning point for how goods were made, marketed and consumed. Out of this evolved the machinery and innovation that spurred a major growth period for production of textiles, transportation and other materials used to produce durable goods.

I particularly enjoy and appreciate how these relics have been cleverly turned into home decor because they have history and provide such visual impact. Industrial interiors look especially chic when mixed with multiple styles of furniture and periods of design influence. Traditional, modern, rustic and country interiors are all good candidates for a little punch from hip factory castoffs. Many hotels and restaurants have also incorporated the look into their designs. You can make it work at home without feeling like you’re living in your dad’s workshop.

Among my favorite industrial implements are antique wood foundry molds that were used for casting parts. Alone, they are sculptures and look great when mounted on an iron base. But they’re even better when grouped together as a collection. These molds range in size, and I’ve put the larger versions to use by lining the backs with mirrors for big impact.
Another favorite are bins that were designed to hold parts on assembly lines. Often made of metal or galvanized steel, these bins take on a great patina as they age. I use them at home to organize books, as storage for blankets and as a catchall for electronic cords and chargers.

Industrial furniture is actually quite functional, built with durability in mind and with good looks to boot. Many industrial pieces were designed with a mix of metal and hard woods so they could take a beating. They were often set on casters so they could be easily moved across warehouse floors.

They are all the rage as coffee tables but shouldn’t be overlooked for other home uses. I recently installed a set of factory pallets into a platform-style bed and paired a collection of iron swivel stools with a primitive farm table for a client in a Crossroads loft. The items would look equally at home in the Kansas City suburbs.

Factory lighting might just be the hottest design implement today. A recent search on turned up more than 200 one-of-a-kind industrial lights, many available in multiples, that make great lighting over an island or kitchen table. Holophane and wire-cage fixtures are handsome when using ferrowatt reproduction bulbs, which add moodiness to a room’s atmosphere and make both dinner and the diner look great when cast from overhead. Gooseneck lamps, trouble lights and vintage schoolhouse fixtures also are nods to the industrial interior.

For a dose of influence and to fully immerse yourself in industrial interiors, check out Ace Hotel next time you are in New York City (

Kansas City Star contributing writer: Steve Rogers, Prize Antiques

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Friday, June 18, 2010

All Aboard!

Enameled antique subway sign from London c.1900 (available at Prize)

Our girl's have been talking about their week long visit in June to their grandparent's in Oklahoma (like, since March). The train heads south tomorrow....all aboard!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Grab your bags - its on!

I love campaigns - especially those that grab your emotions and excite you. I don't think Southwest Airlines could have said it any better..."Grab your bags - its on!" Happy weekend.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Great Outdoors!

So with the days getting a bit warmer and the sun out a little longer, I’ve started the process of laying out plans for my garden and outdoor entertaining space. Just as I pay attention to how I style the inside of my home, it’s just as important that the outside have the same level of care and appeal to my family. Working for my dad’s landscaping business when I was growing up gave me ingrained love for a manicured lawn. Then as I traveled to Europe over the years, I’ve developed a fondness for how people live in their outdoor spaces. These are my perennial favorites, pun intended.

I should point out I don’t have an expansive plot of land to plant and harvest. Since space is a premium, I’ve had to get creative on how to grow a practical, yet beautiful garden. I’m also keen on the idea of including my kids in gardening because they love the moments of seeing the flowers first bloom and picking fresh tomatoes off the vine. Even at their young ages, they have their own plots to manage and water.Container gardening is also a technique I love because it doesn’t demand much space. I use them for flowers, vine plants and for herbs, such as mint, that have intrusive root systems. In larger containers I like to mix annuals and vegetable plants since the textures make an interesting presentation, besides being practical.I also use urns and old terra cotta planters to create varying heights and visual interest. I even use them for seasonal planting like tulips in the spring, mums in the fall and fill them with evergreen branches and winter berries during the cold months. I’m especially happy when they are overflowing with a mix of vines, vivid flowers and sprigs of fern during the summertime. You will always find a pair of old cast iron urns flanking the entry to our home because they seem to say ‘welcome, we’re so glad you’re here!’

Another element that I always use in my garden is a multi-tiered, antique English wire plant stand. These date back to the mid-1800s and have truly stood the test of time. As they rust and peel, they look even better. There are some great reproductions available on the market today that almost look like the real deal. These are great because they’re portable and hold a number of pots and have a trellis backing that allow for flowering vines to crawl and bloom. I use mine to hold herbs and little starting pots. These are also great because they keep little critters from getting to the harvest before you do

There are a lot of really bad, tacky garden ornaments that should never be parked in the yard. They should only be used to create visual impact, and used sparingly to prevent becoming an ornamental cement garden. I tend to opt for weathered finials, zinc-coated architectural fragments and antique Italian puttos or cherubs. They look best as they begin to age and distress and even better when they have moss and lichens. There are even techniques to expedite the aging process by applying dairy products, like buttermilk, right to the statuary.

Summertime on my block brings out the masses. Our backyard becomes a hub of activity and impromptu gatherings where more furniture is needed than a few tables and chairs. I like to use small vintage benches and old French café chairs to accommodate guests. These store nicely and can take the outdoor elements. Just as you would opt for the most comfortable furniture inside, don’t sell yourself short outdoors. Toss in some cushions and pillows. And on cool evenings, a cotton throw can do the trick.

Happy summer time!