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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