Cosentino recently hosted a discussion panel on industrial design, chaired by presenter and author Tom Dyckhoff, talking with creative director of Development Direct Colin Wong, director of HUT Architecture Rachel Davidson, founding director of 5plus Architects Adam Thornton, and Halcyon Interiors showroom and design manager Graham Robinson
Tom Dyckhoff: The industrial style dates back to the 1950s in Manhattan, when the very first factory buildings or lofts were being converted for domestic use. What does the industrial style mean to you?
Graham Robinson: It is about texture. Grey is obviously really popular at the moment and grey and industrial go hand-in-hand. For us, it is more about texture, and people want very minimal interiors. Having a slab of concrete in the middle of it gives the room an edge.
Adam Thornton: Industrial design is the opposite of craftsmanship. A craftsperson would design and carve a piece of wood. Industrial design is the removal of that process for more modern methods of construction – factory lines and repetition and consistency. All good things, but a different set of design elements.
Colin Wong: I think that it comes from open-plan living. Lofts are open-plan and big spaces. There is a link between open-plan living, industrial space and lofts, as that is where it all started. It is a part of architecture and not plonk-in-as-an-afterthought – industrial is part of the fabric of the space.
Colin Wong, creative director, Development Direct
Rachel Davidson: I think it’s all about materials – materials in their natural, raw state.
Tom: How have you seen trends change in the past five years?
Graham: It has gone from very sleek and now it is down to texture. We spend so much time talking about worktops, as people want to touch and feel them. It is a thing that people talk about – they take samples home and live with them. Also, the majority of the kitchens we sell are grey. We don’t talk about the oven.
Adam: Is that a reaction against colour? Because grey is always there year on year and colour is one of those things that cycles and changes. Whereas when you put a kitchen in, you want it to be there in five or 10 years. If you want to put a building in, you want it to last for 60 years and if you are putting colour into that, it’s an incredibly dangerous thing to do because who knows whether those colours are still going to be in.
Tom: Over the past 10 years, the interiors world seems to be resembling the fashion world with the number of product launches. It makes out that our rooms should be changed with the seasons, which is madness. It’s quite interesting why this has been happening. Social media might be fuelling that, as there is that ability to see various different things. Are you seeing an industrial style coming back?
Rachel: As you said, it has been back for quite a while now and I have seen it seeping into different areas of architecture and interiors. I think that there is a softening of the industrial with some of the warmer colours that seem to be coming in, so it is not all industrial. You don’t have to have metal, glass and big steel things – it can be one item like a countertop, but paired with softer things. That is helping it have its resurgence.
Tom: It is not an either/or? It’s a thing that you can add to a design. It’s fascinating for me that we are having an eclecticism within how we are designing interiors compared with, say, the Nineties, when there was wall-to-wall concrete, steel, grey and not that much colour. It was almost like a dictat of ‘This is the style and you must follow it’. But now there is a lot more scope…
Rachel: I think now you can be a lot more playful with it. We try to stick to the building’s heritage, so when someone has a Georgian terrace, but says they want a warehouse aesthetic, there is a possibility to mix and say old is old and new is new. That is more playful and can make a richer palette.
Tom: Why do you think that industrial style has come back?
Rachel: I think there is flexibility of applications – from a kitchen extension to a building façade. So it frees the designer to integrate in many different ways – in application, design and product. I think that it helps to be translated across different systems.
Colin: I think that we get brutal industrialism now and it is obviously going a bit OTT, but there has always been understated industrialism in my opinion. For me, it is disrespectful to call it a trend. It is like the colour white – it is timeless and forever. This subtle industrialism has never really fallen out of style, it has just been in fashion to the mass market.