KANSAS CITY, Mo.
Grunge and heavy metal are the latest looks in home decor.
Sturdy steel tool cabinets are suddenly chic, repurposed as storage spots for fluffy towels and hip shelving for liquor bottles and other bar accoutrements. Bulky metal desks and file cabinets are now fit for dining tables. Distressed foundry molds are the newest frames for mirrors. Gears, cogs, wheels, nuts and bolts are now objets.
Call it the dawn of a new industrial age.
"You're seeing this industrial style across the board," says interior designer Shawn Henderson of New York, design director for eBay. "Antique dealers are selling vintage pieces, wholesalers are selling really good reproductions, and mail-order catalogs are selling new furniture and lighting fixtures that look like they once belonged in a factory or warehouse."
Last year, Henderson started spotting the industrial trend. This year the market shows even more pieces that seemed fresh off the assembly line.
Large retailers Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware are rolling out 20th century industrial hand carts as 21st century coffee tables. A salvaged dolly used to transport sacks of grain was the prototype for Pottery Barn's cart/table, which has massive steel-framed wheels and a riveted pine-plank top. Restoration Hardware's factory cart is actually from an early 1900s factory. A California artisan restored the massive white oak piece, which has cast iron wheels that lock and unlock for height adjustment. Also this season, Restoration Hardware sells a salvaged brick pallet coffee table.
Designers see this industrial revolution as part of the reduce-reuse-recycle movement.
"Reclaimed lumber has been popular for so many years," says interior designer Jaclyn Banash, owner of Urban Dwellings Design in Kansas City. Mo. "Industrial furnishings extend that repurposing to salvaged metal."
Meanwhile, the proliferation of lofts nationwide has spurred the growth of industrial furnishings. Of course loft dwellers want something that fits into their brick-wall and wood-floor warehouse-converted space. But residents in the burbs also are attracted to this gritty, chic urban look.
The more battered the better is the mantra of industrial furnishings, because there's an emotional connection to the scratches, dings and dents. You can almost see Grandpa and Grandma as young adults toiling away on equipment in factories and warehouses.
"Industrial furnishings, although they're made mostly of metal, soften the look of modern-day, clean-line furnishings," Henderson says. "They add a sense of history, which every home needs to feel comfortable. And they add character because they're conversation pieces."
At Prize Antiques in Kansas City, refined French armoires and English chests join stainless steel cabinets and rusted machine cogs under glass bell jars. That mix is the key to decorating with industrial furnishings, owner Steve Rogers says. Too much industrial and you might as well be living in an abandoned factory.
It's that "anything goes" aspect that "really appeals to people in their 20s and 30s," says Rogers, who is 37. "I want to take a crystal chandelier and put it on a pulley system using nautical rope and a rusted vintage gear."
Rogers, who travels the United States and Europe on the hunt for antiques, says vintage pieces are commanding relatively high prices because of their popularity. For example, a small rusty gear can fetch more than $100.
The industrial trend differs from the shabby chic movement of the 1990s, which became synonymous with painting stuff white and distressing it and mixing it with cottage florals. The industrial look is more masculine and versatile, because it can be mixed with modern, traditional, glamorous and rustic furnishings.