Adding Warmth and Elegance to Industrial Spaces


Layout is key to making a loft effective and functional. (Image: Jessica Lagrange Interiors)

Can a sleek, contemporary home be elegant and cozy? Attaining these contradictory goals was the challenge we faced when we did the interior design of a Chicago loft a few years ago. Despite its rugged brick walls, giant exposed pipes and sprawling floorplate, our client wanted a home that would be sophisticated, warm, comfortable and chic—and highly functional, of course. While many homeowners choose to hide the industrial trappings of these spaces, our client wanted to celebrate them. Though styles come and go, this one—called industrial chic—is having a renaissance. The Zillow Home Trend Forecast called it the interior design trend of the year in 2019 and Elle Décor featured our River North loft in a recent article on industrial style, a sure sign industrial chic is far from a passing fad.


Small-scaled pieces of furniture get lost in large loft spaces. (Image: Jessica Lagrange Interiors)

In fact, industrial chic has been around for decades, and it will only become more widespread thanks to the growing prevalence of adaptive reuse. That may account for the fact that “industrial chic is a style of decorating that keeps getting more popular,” lifestyle site says. But it’s challenging to make industrial spaces chic and cozy at the same time. Like the name indicates, these spaces were built to accommodate big machines and multiple workers. So they differ from residential spaces in everything from their size, scale and fenestration to their building materials, fixtures and finishes. To make them livable, we take the following steps.


A nook under a staircase accommodates a causal dining area that can also be used for work. (Images: Jessica Lagrange Interiors)

Create a functional, elegant layout: First and foremost, we think about how a homeowner will need to use the space. Will it incorporate living and dining areas, a kitchen, a place to consume media, a quiet area for reading or work, sleeping spaces or anything else? Then we create a layout that accommodates all the functions they need. After that, we determine if any of those areas need to be walled off from the open space. Some may, and those that don’t will need to be zoned through the use of furnishings.


A large-scale custom wall unit that incorporates AV equipment, storage space and a fireplace define an entertaining area in this large, open plan loft. (Image: Jessica Lagrange Interiors)

Choose appropriate furnishings: Small-scale pieces get lost in large, open spaces, and they aren’t great at creating the kind of boundaries necessary to craft gigantic loft spaces into intimate activity areas. Large sectional sofas, tall freestanding shelving units, large breakfronts or long benches and daybeds can be instrumental in carving spaces down to size.

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Neutral textiles with nubby or pile finishes and cushy upholstery can be used to add texture and warmth to lofts. Sheetrock walls can cover rough-hewn brick and define the boundaries of private spaces, such as a master bedroom and home office. (Image: Jessica Lagrange Interiors)

Pick the right textiles: Area carpets are a key furnishing because they not only zone spaces but also add decorative warmth. For instance, a large neutral sisal or wool rug can be used to establish a living area, and smaller, bolder area rugs can be layered on top of it to call out specific activity areas and add color and texture. Window treatments are another important furnishing for the oversized windows found in lofts. They shield living spaces from light by day and drafts or just plain cold temperatures 24/7, and can add color, texture and pattern. Sometimes it takes two layers to accomplish all of this—a sheer layer and a heavier layer to maximize function, such as controlling light, privacy and temperature.

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Think big and bold with lighting fixtures; little fixtures get lost in big, high-ceilinged spaces. (Image: Jessica Lagrange Interiors)

Think big and bold with lighting: Little fixtures get lost in big, high-ceilinged spaces, especially pendant fixtures, which need to be bigger and bolder than what you would use in a residential space. Tracks come in hand, but again, they should be more pronounced and powerful rather than subtle to play to the industrial nature of the space as well as accomplish the task at hand, namely lighting the space adequately. The same principles apply to floor and table lamps; they may need to be larger, more graphically bold and powerful than what would work in residential spaces.

24 Feb 2020

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