Industrial style home furnishings have really taken off in the last year or so. This trendy look started with salvaged pieces repurposed for use in converted warehouse lofts and apartments, but has rapidly become more mainstream. Now, industrial inspired tables, chairs, and lighting fixture can be found all the way out in the suburbs, as a way to dress up a traditional cottage or farmhouse decor, or even as a funky accent in a modern space. This surge in popularity means industrial style furniture is easier than ever to get, but prices can vary pretty widely depending on what exactly you’re getting.
Right now, furniture designers are scrambling to keep on top of this trend, and many are rapidly releasing new pieces with a distinctly turn-of-the-century industrial warehouse style. These closely copy antique designs, but are mostly made of new materials with an aged or distressed finish rather than actual reclaimed pieces. Replica industrial furniture is generally quite a bit less expensive than the real thing, and offers a bit more consistency from one piece to another, but won’t have the one-of-a-kind unique charm or added value of an actual antique.
On the other hand, many artisan craftsmen and furniture makers are rising to the occasion as well, hunting down old machine parts, wood planks, and factory furniture and painstakingly refurbishing and revitalizing them. That can mean anything from touching up an existing factory stool to removing the legs of old metalworking machines and using them as table legs. This approach is much more hands on and labor intensive, so the furniture will be proportionally more expensive, but each piece really is a unique piece of history, often with subtle flaws that give them a distinctive antique character.
There are also some designers who fall somewhere in the middle. Specifically, they use a combination of replica and antique parts and pieces to create furniture that has a bit more authenticity and style, but that isn’t quite as expensive as fully refurbished antiques. Usually that means using reclaimed wood for tabletops, stool seats, or chairs, but it can also mean salvaged, recycled, or repurposed metal parts as well. That said, it’s worth noting that the parts used can be salvaged from almost anywhere, not necessarily an old machine shop, so if it’s important to you to know the history of your furniture, it might be worth going for a more authentic piece.
Of course, as with any antiques it’s possible to find and restore authentic pieces on your own, provided you have a good eye, a little patience, and a bit of mechanical know-how. Turn of the century factory furniture was built to last, so even pieces that are pushing a hundred years old will often still be in reasonably good condition, though you’ll probably need to at the very least lightly resurface them. Flea markets and antique shops are a good place to start looking, but if you’re feeling adventurous (and live in or around an old industrial area), it can be worth seeking out buildings that are being renovated and seeing what, if any, old furniture or wood or metal pieces you might be allowed to have or purchase.
The rising popularity of factory style furniture is all about finding a more practical, functional kind of antique – something that fits better with a modern day-to-day life than delicate pieces with ornate wood carvings and expensive, fragile upholstery, but that still has just a touch of old world whimsy. How authentic you want the piece to be is up to you (and how much you want to spend), but if you love the look, there are now more options than ever to get it – regardless of the location or style of your home.