The first industrial chic apartments were created before anyone thought industrial could be chic. Like so many trends, it started on the street, or pretty close to it anyway. Impoverished artists moved into the cheapest places they could find to work in large cities, and these were often disused factories. They created style out of poverty. They had to make do with what they could find or what they could afford. Brick walls stayed brick. Rusted steel beams stayed rusted. Timber or concrete floors had a patina of industry. All these materials had a great appeal for many architects and designers. They were, and are, thought of as being ‘honest’. At some point this desire for re-using things spawned shabby chic, boho, maybe even steam punk if you include the recycling of ideas. Then came copies of shabby chic, boho and industrial looking pieces. Some of these copies are very good, but there is definitely an irony in paying good money for something that’s faked to look recycled.
If you want to create an authentic industrial chic look of your own then try replicating the original reasons for the look. No money. If you give yourself a small budget to re-work your place then you will achieve something that holds true to the original causes that created industrial chic. If you have a carpet on a concrete slab then you can throw the carpet out, hire a polisher and run it over the slab, then seal it with Bondcrete. With any luck the slab will have cracks in it, chips and old paint marks. For some reason old concrete looks great and can present virtually any sort of furniture in a whole new way. (It also acts better thermally, but that’s another story).
If you have a seventies brick wall inside, then graffiti is a radical way of giving your place an urban aesthetic. Do it yourself with stencils and cans of spray paint. Be another Banksy for the weekend.
Choice of furniture can be difficult. Cheap timber furniture can always be painted, and bold colours are very popular within this setting. Be careful with old couches, there are some monsters from the nineties around and if they ever become fashionable Western civilisation is finished. If in doubt, go to Ikea.
And take your time. Putting an industrial look together shouldn’t be hurried. Use modern pieces as you need them – lighting, for instance. People have and do make lamp shades out of old tin cans, but this is potentially very dangerous and should be avoided.
The less money you spend the more courageous you’re going to have to be. The guiding principle is deciding what you like and not worrying whether your taste will make your friends laugh. That’s what design courage is.
However, if you have a reasonable budget then choose one or two really exceptional mid-century pieces. A chair by Grant Featherstone or, even better, Clem Meadmore will cost the same as a small car but look special, albeit uncomfortable.
But the most important thing is to have fun.