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Each reclaimed light in our showroom has two stories to tell: its original, industrial use, and the way it was found, salvaged and expertly restored. If you are interested in learning more about the history of the Industrial Design aesthetic you can read more here:

The origins of industrial design warehouse chic

Industrial lighting ideas

What is industrial interior design style?

Industrial style lighting in the kitchens

Colours for urban industrial chic

Task lighting, a history of industrial lighting

Wall styles for industrial interior design

Industrial lighting designers of influence

Floor styles for industrial chic

 




The Origins of Industrial Design Warehouse Chic

The Packard Motor Car Company's factory in Detroit, USA, was one of the earliest buildings created that held many of the design elements we now consider examples of the Industrial Warehouse aesthetic. The building was designed in 1903 by the architectural firm Albert Khan Associates (founded in 1895).

Albert Khan, along with his brother Julius Khan, developed a new style of construction that utilised reinforced concrete and steel in place of wood for floors, roofs and supports.  The advantages included better fire safety and an improvement in the usage of space by allowing for large unobstructed areas.

The factory was a great success and caught the eye of Henry Ford who commissioned Khan to create the plans for the Ford Motor Company’s Highland Park Plant in 1909, a pioneering building that helped Ford perfect the assembly line process.  In 1917 Khan went on to design the huge half a mile long Ford River Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan.  The largest manufacturing complex in the World (at the time) with a peak workforce of 120,000 workers.  These ground breaking constructions went on to influence generations of industrial buildings.

The Industrial Chic interiors that we know today became popular in the 2000’s but an element of its more modern origin can be traced back to the warehouse apartment spaces of New York found in the late 1950’s and 1960’s.  With affordable space at a premium, abandoned urban factories found new potential when developers started to repurpose these old buildings.  Conversion costs were kept to a minimum by keeping the bare brick walls and open plan space, leaving the exposed pipework and hanging lighting in place.  These large interiors bursting with natural light were ideal for artists looking for cheap studio space and a place to live.  

The stripped back utilitarian details came to define the Industrial warehouse aesthetic and was glamorised and promoted by interior designers and magazines as “industrial chic,”.

What is Industrial Interior Design Style?

The Industrial Style goes by many names including, Urban Industrial Style, Warehouse Industrial Style and even Industrial Chic.  It refers to an interior design trend that takes it cues from the old repurposed factory and industrial spaces of New York found in the late 1950’s and 1960’s.  Some of the key elements of the industrial style include exposed bricks and unfinished surfaces such as concrete and stone floors, weathered wood, building systems such as exposed pipes and industrial lighting fixtures, known as task lighting along with large open windows.  A utilitarian design aesthetic combined with worn / aged textures and features.

This aesthetic became widely popular in the late 2000s and continues to maintain its popularity, adapting to new trends as well as mixing with more traditional and vintage styles with ease. 

Colours for Urban Industrial Chic

A natural colour palette is most commonly used, a mix of greys, blacks, whites and beiges along with the earthy tones of distressed woods and exposed brick. These simple colours allow for the use of furniture and other accessories and decorations to help bring contrast and interest to the room. Exposed pipes (galvanised, steel or chrome) can be a good choice for lightly coloured or white rooms as the brightness of the walls and ceiling are a sharp contrast to the metal of the piping. 

Wall styles for Industrial Interior Design

Exposed brick is a mainstay of this style but you could also paint the brickwork to create a slightly more refined effect. Even smooth concrete walls can be effective when paired with other structural design elements like pipework. If a cleaner and more refined look is preferred, smooth plastered walls painted using one of the natural colour pallets discussed also makes a great framework for a room. 

Floor styles for Industrial Chic

Worn and distressed wooden floors can replicate the old factory floors which inspired this style. Unfinished concrete can also be utilised for both flooring and structural work. If a slightly softer appearance is preferred you can try natural stone or porcelain flooring which can be found in a huge variety of styles, some even emulating wooden boards and stone tiles.  

Industrial Lighting Ideas

Floor lamps are a popular means of lighting along with industrial light fixture with metal finishes especially chrome/galvanised/steel/brushed metal (for an example you can check our Moccas range) and cast aluminium bulb cages.  Industrial Task Lighting tends to be utilitarian and designed with a minimal amount of decorative flourishes.  Ribbed glass and clear glass shades or white opaque shades are also popular along with braided electrical cables (for an example you can check our Pixley range).  You could also consider using brushed steel light switches that use toggles rather than more modern flat switch types.  

Industrial style lighting in the kitchen

Kitchen islands work tops can be created from reclaimed wood or alternatively stainless steel. A kitchen island can also help separate a large open room and provide a defined kitchen area. They can be paired with barstools that are made of wood, leather or have metal finishes. Open faced shelving made of wood or metal are also popular along with free standing metal racks which can provide extra storage and can be beneficial in smaller rooms.  Exposed overhead wooden beams and brick also work well in kitchens along with darker cabinets and shelving. Light coloured floors or smooth polished concrete also work well in industrial style kitchens.  Clusters of industrial lighting or evenly spaced lines of pendants can be effective in chrome and brushed steel (such as our Sutton range) along with either clear glass or opaque ceramic shades. 

Task Lighting, a History of Industrial Lighting

People have searched for ways to illuminate their work for millennia, starting with crude wooden torches progressing onto lamps fuelled by animal fat and then candles. An offshoot of the common candlestick was the Lacemakers Globe, which many consider to be the first industrial light source.  By aligning the candle flame behind a rounded glass bottle filled with water the Lacemakers could light up a small area and also create a magnifying and focussing effect (it should be noted that there is some disagreement about how these glass globes may have actually been utilised, some may have simply been containers for oil and wicks). 

The introduction of the Argand oil lamp in 1780, which used a hollow cylindrical wick to aerate the flame and produce light equivalent to up to 6 candles was one of the first significant advances in lighting technology in generations.  Productivity was increased and work was no longer limited by a lack of natural sunlight.

Whale oil, paraffin and Kerosene lamps helped improve task lighting but it wasn’t until Thomas Edison mass produced the first electric lightbulb in the 1880’s that industrial task lighting as we know it began to truly develop. 

1903 saw the introduction of the Cooper Hewitt Mercury vapour arc lamp that was the forerunner to today’s fluorescent tubes. Unlike incandescent lamps that make light by heating a filament until it glows, discharge lamps like Hewitt’s Vapour lamp, make light by passing an electrical current through a gas. The current energises the gas which then emits light.

By 1913 the arc light and the incandescent lamp had become widespread and American and European industry used a plethora of published tables and manuals that outlined many standardised guidelines for factory illumination. These early works created a guide for ambient lighting requirements that helped early industry throughout the First World War.

Tungsten-filament incandescent lamps made in the 1910s provided almost as much energy efficiency as Cooper Hewitt tubes but also gave a much better colour. General Electric bought the Cooper Hewitt Company in 1919, and in 1933 began selling a more convenient mercury lamp, the H-1.

Arthur Compton, who at the time (1934) was a consultant for GE, created a successful experiment with fluorescent lighting at General Electric Co., Ltd. in Great Britain (unrelated to General Electric in the United States). This report inspired a team led by George E. Inman to build an experimental fluorescent lamp at General Electric’s Nela Park (Ohio) engineering lab. General Electric controlled the key patents covering fluorescent lighting including a patent covering an electrode that did not disintegrate at the gas pressures that were employed in fluorescent lamps. 

The Second World War created a tremendous strain on the Worlds industries and on the production and use of fuel.  The adoption of huge quantities of fluorescent lamps which used about one third of the energy of incandescent lamps of the era helped reduce that strain.

The 1960’s saw the widespread installation of metal halide and high pressure sodium lamps which overtook the fluorescent light until the energy crisis of 1973.  The necessity to find more efficient lighting options inspired General Electric to create the curly cued compact fluorescent light (CFL) in 1976 which eventually could use 70% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs.

For industrial task lighting though, CFL still could not compete with modern fluorescent, halogen and LED lamps which were better suited to concentrated light in single areas of work.

Modern LED technology has primarily been geared towards home use, industrial applications tend to have luminous efficacy of fixtures far greater than can be achieved by simply replacing existing bulbs.  Industrial lighting is generally about using the correct light for the job, in addition to how efficient that fixture is at converting electricity into light output.   Thirty years ago, office lighting was actually brighter than what is typically used today. Today’s office space includes large numbers of computers screens, each generating their own light sources thus reducing dependence on brighter ambient lighting. 

Industrial Lighting Designers of Influence

George Carwardine

George Carwardine (born in England, 1887 - 1947) was the Design Chief at the Hortsman Car Company and specialised in vehicle suspension systems. Hortsmann’s got into financial difficulties in 1924, so Carwardine left to start his own business, which he called Cardine Accessories.

He later returned to work with Sydney Hortsmann but in 1929 the Horstman car company went bankrupt. Carwardine took this opportunity to explore his longstanding interest in spring and lever based mechanisms. He established a small workshop at his home in Bath and began work on what we would now know as the classic Anglepoise® Lamp.

The task lighting lamp was unveiled in 1932, a revolutionary design that incorporated the patented constant spring mechanism allowing for an unprecedented freedom of movement and balance. Demand for the lamp outstripped Carwardine’s ability to supply so in February 1934 he licensed the design to the world-class spring maker, Herbert Terry & Sons of Redditch, who already supplied the springs for his lamps. The Anglepoise® name was registered and the 4-spring ‘Model 1208™’ went into production with Herbert Terry & Sons.  The four-spring design was primarily for Task lighting working environments, such as workshops and doctors' and dentists' surgeries.

While the lamp was lauded for its innovative design it was considered too industrial for home use so Carwardine and the designers at Herbert Terry & Sons worked on a three spring version of the lamp (Patented on 10 February 1934, patent number 433,617). This was launched in 1935 under the model number 1227 Anglepoise.

The key feature of the Anglepoise was the spring placement (either three or four) near the base. It was extensively copied by other companies, usually in simplified form, it is considered a design classic and is still in use. 

Reuben Berkley Benjamin

Reuben Berkley Benjamin was born in Fulton, New York (1869). He graduated from Iowa State College with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in1892. After graduation, he joined the Commonwealth Edison Company in Chicago.  He went on to invent the wireless cluster, a device which revolutionized the lighting fixture. In 1901, with his patents, Benjamin and his partners launched a business from his Chicago home’s basement with his wife, Annie Knott Benjamin as his bookkeeper. He continued to invent and manufacture electrical appliances and as the head of the Benjamin Electric Manufacturing Company he expanded from Chicago to New York, San Francisco, Toronto, Canada and London, England.

During the Second World War many Fighters and bombers were equipped with cockpit lighting, landing lights and identification and signalling lamps, designed and supplied by Benjamin.  The Admiralty was also supplied with light fittings for ships, signalling lamps, special handlamps and luminous vitreous enamel for use in submarines.

He was also the inventor of the R.L.M. (Reflector and Lamp Manufacturers), and this patent was sold to the General Electric Company who in turn licensed its use to other manufacturers.  These reflectors varied greatly in shape and size from simple domes to intricate contoured lamps and included many types of finish such as Crysteel vitreous enamel, cellulose spray, stove enamelling, metal plating and aluminium anodising. They became widely used in industrial task lighting. 

Wilhelm Wagenfeld

Wilhelm Wagenfeld was born in Breman, Germany in 1900 and was an important German industrial designer. He was a student of the Bauhaus art school (founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar, Bauhaus "construction house") from 1923 to 1925.  Wagenfeld believed that common household objects should be "cheap enough for the worker and good enough for the rich."

Although Wagenfeld produced many designs, from household objects such as vases, dinnerware and even tea sets, his lights turned out to be his most enduring and iconic works.  Designed in glass and steel; from the Lindner-produced wall light to the instantly recognisable Wagenfeld Table Lamp with its translucent shade and transparent glass stem and base.

The Wagenfeld Table Lamp, which is still available today and is considered a popular classic of 20th century design.

The lamp had a hemispherical glass globe at the top and a circular plate which formed the base. The central support had a plain cylindrical column, fixed to the base plate by two threads and retained by nuts underneath. The shaft was surmounted by a sleeve, the upper half threaded on which rested a three spoked frame supporting the hemispherical glass globe shade.

This lamp was produced in two versions, one with a glass foot and one with a metal foot. The first lamps were produced in the spring of 1924 according to the Bauhaus archives and by the autumn of that year at least eighty had been produced with a metal base and forty five with a glass base. Production of the lamp continued at the Dessau Bauhaus and from 1928 both versions were produced under licence by the Berlin firm of Schwintzer & Graff. In 1930 Bunter & Remmeler in Frankfurt began producing a variant model and in 1931 Wagenfeld adapted his own design and a further version was produced by the firm "Architekturbedarf" in Dresden. 

Thomas Edison

Much has been written about Edison understandably, he was an incredibly influential inventor who held a wide range of patents but it’s interesting that Edison’s name has now become an almost de facto descriptor for the bulb types used in some of the urban industrial styles we now see.  These filament bulbs with intricate spirals and squirrel cage designs have also been modernised with low power LED versions of many of these traditional bulb types, even emulating the golden tinted glow generated by these more traditional filament bulbs.

Thomas Edison began his research into developing a practical incandescent lamp in 1878 and on October 14th he filed his first patent application for "Improvement in electric lights". He continued to test several types of metal filaments to try and improve his original design and by November 4h, 1879, he filed another U.S. patent for an electric lamp using "a carbon filament or strip coiled and connected ... to platina contact wires."

The patent described many ways of creating the carbon filament including "cotton and linen thread, wood splints, papers coiled in various ways," but it was not until several months after the patent was granted that Edison and his team discovered that a carbonized bamboo filament could last over 1200 hours.

This discovery marked the beginning of commercially manufactured light bulbs in 1880.