For a while now, interior designers have been on a quest to discover what lies beneath.

From the tech lofts of Newtown to the café hot spots of Newfarm, stripped back walls and dangerous-looking light fixtures have been de rigeur for the international inner-city hipster, in a similar manner to the way that chintz chair covers and heavy silken drapes defined the drawing rooms of Edwardian England.

The origins of this trend are manifold and hard to pinpoint, although they likely first gained traction in the New York boroughs of Greenwich Village and Tribeca. It is an interesting facet of interior design that the most sophisticated societies now work hard to make something look distressed or even unfinished, whereas it was once the opposite – incredibly ornate furnishings where a sign of wealth and prestige. Perhaps in our ever more complicated lives, the simple and rustic give us a feeling of comfort and returning to the more fundamental and honest basics. Deconstructing our discombobulated lives as it were.

It also gives interior designers the opportunity to juxtapose raw elements with sleek modernity. For example, a faultlessly and cleverly manufactured stainless steel bench space lit by a row of nude pendant light bulbs that look like they left the workshop half-dressed and in a hurry.


This style – which is often termed industrial interior design – is as much about open concept living as it is about the feel of a room. It often deals with a large open space that would previously have been partitioned or closed off and uses furniture and fittings to shape the room.

Another signature feature is to expose structural and mechanical elements, such as the pipes and beams along the ceiling. A quintessential element of the trend is keeping a building’s history alive, for example by stripping back layers of paint to the original wall finishing. The wall itself can become a conversation piece or a reason for contemplation, as is the case with this beautifully stripped bathroom wall in Bristol, which exposes the original blue of the lead paint from the Victorian era. Such a feature is to be highlighted rather than plastered over and shapes the atmosphere of the room, with the candles flickering in the grate.

Victorian bathroom

As in nature, so much beauty in design is also about contrast. A popular trend in industrial interior design is the juxtaposition of beautiful, grainy wood against hard steel – particularly in kitchens. The sheen of the steel against the wood gives a strange softness to what are both very hardy materials. Aesthetically pleasing yet sturdy and serviceable – it is little wonder that designers the world over have adapted and re-worked this trend over and over again.

What’s next for the industrial interior design trend in 2016? Decor + Design and the Australian International Furniture Fair will feature over 250 exhibitors at the Melbourne Convention Centre from 21 – 24 July. Check out the list of exhibitors here and visit in July to see how Australia’s leading lighting, furniture and soft furnishing compansies will continue to re-interpret the landscape.