Industrial interior design style loft
Exposed concrete, bare architecture in cool neutral shades and funky furniture define this design style. Image Credit: Shutterstock

It’s like living in a warehouse, but make it Uber chic.

Imagine the trendiest urban, hip spot in town, an arts and culture hub of sorts – and chances are you’re thinking of somewhere with unfinished concrete walls or floors, spare bulb lighting and repurposed material furniture for the creatives and cultural provocateurs.

In the UAE, Alserkal Avenue, Warehouse 421, Boxpark, parts of Dubai Design District and Last Exit are a few stunning examples. This is the Industrial design style, and we’re going to show you how you can bring it home too!

It’s a lot more raw, kind of down-to-the-concrete style. A main characteristic is exposed ceilings, including a lot of the pipework – water pipes, electrical pipes and columns, and an unfinished look. In terms of furniture and design elements, it is very much a recycled, restored and renovated look.

- Tanya Ivin Karam, founder and interior designer at design studio, Interior Takeover

Tanya Ivin Karam, founder and interior design at design studio, Interior Takeover, explains, “It’s a lot more raw, kind of down-to-the-concrete style. A main characteristic is exposed ceilings, including a lot of the pipework – water pipes, electrical pipes and columns, and an unfinished look. In terms of furniture and design elements, it is very much a recycled, restored and renovated look.”

The style came post-Industrial revolution, when old and abandoned factory spaces began to be repurposed for housing and studio spaces in the 20th century. Especially in places like Manhattan in New York, USA, whose lofts are well known worldwide. Karam says, “Old warehouses were being converted into residential lofts – they renovated and left raw columns, exposed bricks and piping. Historical buildings also have a lot of restrictions in what needs to be done to preserve the building.”

It became fashionable among celebrities and artists – Andy Warhol, American artist, director and producer, famously had a once Industrial-style studio ‘The Factory’ for New York high society of the time.

Industrial chic in UAE

Stock Box park Meraas
Box park's shipping containers house a chic urban space. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

In the UAE, Boxpark is known for its chic repurposed shipping containers, while Alserkal Avenue’s elegant warehouses are well-loved among art enthusiasts.

Karam breaks down a few of UAE’s Industrial spaces: “Alserkal Avenue is a great hub for industrial interior design. There is a similar trend where everything is kind of exposed – the ceilings are exposed, they just add the finishing touches to make it a shop, but all the raw materials and rawness of the warehouse remains.

“La Mer has also done a fantastic job… the playground looks like its recycled, they’ve kept a lot of exposed elements, like pipes – they have these two huge pipes that have Arabic calligraphy so that it looks like a piece of art rather than pieces that have been designed.”

Making your home an Industrial chic hub

At home, it’s all about a neutral, minimalist space full of unfinished, raw textures of wood, concrete, brick and even steel bathed in stark sunlight. You can also mix styles with Industrial – go more rustic-style with more warm brown and wood, Bohemian with more plants and prints, or modern glam with sleek chrome finishes, for example.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to bringing that cool, loft-style classic Industrial interiors home in the UAE:

1. Begin with exposed concrete or wood floors

Industrial interior design style house room
Conrete, exposed floors channel the warehouse look perfectly. Image Credit: Unsplash/Frankie

Bare concrete floors are an ideal first step. Karam says, “People loved this so much that they brought it into high-end interior design.

“Another way to achieve it is a wooden floor with large plank pieces – the biggest you can get. The bigger or wider the wood you get, the more industrial because it gives a recycled look.”

You can also add a carpet. Karam adds, “Nowadays, you’re seeing almost classical rugs like traditional rugs on a concrete floor so it’s almost a shocking contrast.”

2. Bare architecture and cool neutral walls

Industrial interior design style decor room house
Leave an unfinished look on furniture and walls, and cool-toned neutral colours for an Industrial look. Image Credit: Unsplash/Ramona Balaban

Karam recommends leaving your walls bare or unfinished, or with a rough painted or plastered finish. She says, “An exposed brick wall, painted white or kept brown is very much a characteristic in the industrial style.” This can be an accent wall – remember Monica’s kitchen in the iconic Friends New York apartment?

There’s a catch you might face here. Karam says, “Many apartments in the UAE have this cream beige design, so flooding the walls with either white or grey is a great way to achieve the industrial look. Get rid of anything beige.”

Keep away from wallpaper as well, unless you’re looking for textured concrete-like walls – which is available in wallpaper form. Just purchase and stick it on for an instant Industrial shift.

3. Use an earthy monochrome palette with accent colours

Industrial interior design style room house
Warm brown or steel grey are the classic Industrial colours. Image Credit: Unsplash/Aaron Huber

Use a monochrome, earthy colour palette in cool shades of grey and steel, or warm brown from wood. Karam says, “Sometimes, there will be one accent piece of furniture with a bright pop of colour … for example, there’s like a bright, orange chair in the corner, but everything else is monochrome.”

To bring more warmth in, you can add more wood – whether in beams, flooring or furniture.

4. Less is more

Industrial interior design style room house
Clean, spare furniture is everything. Image Credit: Unsplash/Ramona Balaban

“The most important thing is to declutter, because a big characteristic is ‘less is more’,” says Karam.

Prioritise bare open space in your rooms, and choose your furniture carefully for this look.

5. Open-plan living and kitchen islands

Industrial interior design style home kitchen
A classic industrial kitchen island in a loft apartment. Image Credit: Pexels/Max Vakhtbovych

In Industrial-style homes, ceilings are often high and the space designed for open-plan living. Karam says, “It looks like one large room instead of small spaces – there are less dividers, less walls and more of a grand open space.”

A classic example of this is a kitchen ‘island’ – a freestanding kitchen cabinet in a completely open kitchen that seamlessly becomes part of the living room.

6. Bring in modern, recycled or quirky furniture

Industrial interior design style home room
Metal chairs and stools, recycled and raw wood furniture are perfect for a raw Industrial style. Image Credit: Unsplash/Anna Sullivan

Karam recommends using modern furniture and décor in a mix of materials such as wood, glass or a statement raw-finished marble for variety. She says, “Nothing too ornamented or intricate. Nowadays, you’re seeing a lot of curved sofas as well, in a minimalistic way.

But, classic pieces can also be used sparingly. She says, “Sometimes, they take an antique piece of furniture, completely strip it down and modernise it.” Some options are metal chairs and stools, recycled and raw wood furniture. As for finishes – think iron, copper, brass, glass and chrome.

7. Grand, large-scale artwork

Industrial interior design style room house
Image Credit: Unsplash/Nathan Dumlao

“Instead of using a lot of small paintings that would make it look messy - the grand scale of artwork has really developed in industrial interior design,” says Karam. “Invest in some large scale, modern artwork and it doesn’t have to be expensive - now you can find beautiful, large prints that are affordable in many UAE stores.” Abstract artwork and vintage photographs are popular options.

8. For fabrics - leather and linens in less pattern

Industrial interior design style room
Use bare, block colours in fabrics such as linens, cottons and leathers with only a touch of pattern if you'd like. Image Credit: Unsplash/Anna Sullivan

For upholstery, Karam says that fabrics that have no patterns such as linens, cotton and leathers (sometimes distressed) are quite popular.

There are less fabrics and drapery, and curtains are not generally used unless they can be hidden. Karam says, “Curtains that are completely hidden when they’re open – such as black-out blinds or roller blinds that are clean, simple, no design, no pattern. It almost looks like part of the wall when it’s closed.”

Finally, pattern should be added sparingly. She adds, “The less pattern, the more you’re going to achieve Industrial style – it’s about being a blank, canvas finish.”

9. Lots of sunlight, and pendant or cage lighting

Industrial interior design cage lighting room
Let lots of sunlight into the home, and cage or pendant lighting are perfect for the bare, industrial look. Image Credit: Unsplash/Erol Ahmed

“It’s a lot of mood lighting, not overpoweringly bright – maybe an accent pendant light, or a modern chandelier placed somewhere to really make an impact, near the entrance or the dining table, as big as the space allows it to be,” says Karam.

Exposed light bulbs, like the ones used for chilling Morse code above the stairs in the Oscar-winning movie Parasite, are a classic Industrial fixture, as is large windows that let in lots of sunlight.

Your best Industrial lighting options include:

  • Pendant Edison light bulbs, that show coiled, glowing tungsten inside
  • Metal domed pendant lights
  • Sleek floor lamps
  • Cage lighting – which are lights that have metal bars around the lightbulb

Accent with large plants in solid pots

Industrial interior design style home room
Brighten up the bare walls with a beautiful pop of plant green. Image Credit: Unsplash/Croissant

“It’s always nice to add greenery – no matter what your interior space,” says Karam. She recommends plants with large leaves rather than small leaves that could form an accent pop of colour in your space.

Flowers too. Kara, says, “As industrial is generally monochrome, you can add a pop of colour through a rose for example. Instead of many kinds of flowers in a bouquet, use only one flower – for example, a bunch of white roses. It should be very clean.”

This article was first published on November 22, 2022.