Industrial Design Decorating Ideas for a Rental

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This post is dedicated to a reader and friend, Anne, who loves industrial decor, but lives in a rental. She dropped me a line and asked for some advice on how to personalize her home without breaking the bank and give it an industrial feel with all the “restrictions” that apply to rentals. So this will be a sweet and short post with a guide on getting it right.

A industrial looking black frame armchair next to a window, a white floor lamp and a black ottoman pouf. Image by Cult Furniture.
Cult Furniture. The Freya faux leather lounge chair.
An openshelf bookcase is always a great addition in an industrial style setting. A few textiles and plants will soften everything up. Image by Dunelm.
Image by Dunelm. An shelf rack bookcase unit is always a great addition in an industrial style setting. A few textiles and plants will soften everything up while creating a contrast with the black metals.

The great thing about this design style is its range from contemporary chic to rugged steampunk – a culture of its own if I may say so. Since a rental home means that we can’t add wall coverings, change the flooring and walls colors (most of the times) or expose any structural elements bare, we need to focus on the decor. Steel, leather, wood and textiles are the main elements we need to add in abundance to build our design with an industrial flair. They will do all the hard work for us.

This gray sofa looks perfect against the accent wall with partially exposed brickwork. Image by DFS Furniture.
Image by DFS Furniture
A industrial styled setting with a round dining table and a Ferm Living Herman chair. Image by Nest. The Herman chair by Ferm Living is noted for its comfort both as a dining chair or a conference meeting chair.

1. Industrial furniture

This is probably the hardest of all, because it can take the longest of time. Why? Simply because the best industrial furniture must be collected over time. That’s right. Don’t rush this. I’ve said it before and I’ll it again. Great homes evolve over time. So, if you’re really a fan of industrial chic then, opt for mass production factory furniture with bold, clean lines that work wonders for industrial styles and are quite affordable staples too.

The Boston 2 seater loveseat in grey faux leather, industrial looking sofa. Image by Cult Furniture.
Cult Furniture. The Boston 2 seater loveseat in grey faux leather.

However, do not exclude mid-century furniture and boho decor additions just to spice things up. Most people would start off with a tanned leather sofa. But real industrial style involves a lot more than that. Think out of the box. For example, add a shelf unit instead of a kitchen island, or old lockers instead of typical frame bookcases (with or without their doors).

A blue iron shelving unit making a great kitchen vignette. Image by Nest. The Punctual Shelving System 1×3

Perhaps, old student desks with some modifications can provide for extra seating. A pair of old skis might also blend in somewhere. Who really knows? Be creative! There are no rules! (For more inspiration and insight).

An industrial looking coat hanger. Image by Cuckooland.
Image by Cuckooland

Best place to buy industrial furniture:

Definitely old flea markets sell a lot of original stuff, “used” but in good condition. That’s the best source and it might take several trips over time to explore and discover some of the best treasures. BUT, there are also various shops that sell “new” stuff, for those who are not into DIY’s or don’t want to get messy with updating/upgrading their buys. However, the prices are sometimes much heftier. Personally, I would also do some online research through Etsy . No one can tell for sure what they’ll find.

A wooden cabinet with industrial legs filled with decor looks great next to a stool. Image by Cuckooland.

2. Industrial decor

Vintage typewriters, mirrors and books are all ideal for filling in the blanks. They are some of my favorite decor staples. Again, the local flea markets or a house clearance are the best sources. You’ll be amazed at the things people get rid of for one reason or another.

A bike hanging from a white wall.
Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash.
An industrial styled shelf rack unit styled with white decor. Image by Cuckooland.

3. Create accents

Although most people think that a brick accent wall is the perfect backdrop for an industrial look, don’t despair. Large artwork in black frames, black and white art photography, or a gallery of vintage signs can very well create those accents and personalize the space to a deeper level. Adding a bicycle as decor (say on a wall) can also create a strong accent while adding more steel components into the design. Furthermore, Venetian blinds instead of traditional curtains will help in creating a more industrial-like backdrop and help any accents to pop up.

An industrial set with a tanned leather sofa that looks good when combined with this statement black metal hurricane floor lamp besides it. Image by Cuckooland.
Image by Cuckooland. Invest in a industrial statement floor lamp.

4. Statement lighting

Opt a statement lighting or make a DIY steampunk one made of mechanical components. Keep in mind that there is an abundance of old factory lights to be found and discovered in flea markets. Combine lots of them closely together and that will become a new central accent. Personally, I like a lot DIY arrangements of Edison bulbs. But let’s not forget floor lamps that also add in impact. There are plenty of choices for any budget, so do your homework.

An industrial style dark wood kitchen with a black countertop and a industrial styled pendant light over it. Image by Nest. Notice the industrial pendant light that compliments perfectly this industrial styled kitchen.

Close up of two rugs with subtle geometric patterns
Image by Trang Nguyen via unsplash

5. Rugs for blending

This last step are the textiles. Believe it or not area rugs are quite important. It’s the one decor that will add a sense of coziness making it homely and enhances the overall look. After all there is no reason for industrial design to feel entirely like a factory setting. It must remain comfortable and soothing. Therefore, here’s one more chance to go creative wild. If you don’t have a leather sofa, but feel that you need that leather touch then a cowhide rug might be the ideal thing for you. On the other hand, if you do have a leather sofa/armchair then why not go for something more traditional and throw people off a little.

An industrial space with exposed dark wood beams has been styled as an industrial bedroom that has a canopy of Edison bulb lights. Image by Cuckooland.

So, there you have it: bold industrial furniture, vintage decor and collectibles, strong focal points using mirrors, oversized artwork or anything creative really, statement lighting, and textiles for added texture and coziness. Remember, perfect is boring! So rock away with it!

Feel free to ask away…xo

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Last update: 10/09/2019

  • Again once again and food for thought but also helps me see house i rent in a different way in how I can make changes as I am renting, the lightning does play a huge role in the house and just adding that makes a great change, also getting a lovely rug that you can add on a permanent fitted carpet just brings light and life to a room, thank you for the tips and ideas. I have also been interested in how to decorate small rooms such as living rooms and bedrooms, if you have any advice or ideas that will be great as the worse thing is creating space in small rooms and also making it look nice and comfy. Thank you again for all the great ideas.

    • I’m glad it got you thinking. No one should give up on a style they love just because he/she is living in a rental! Be true to your style and it will resonate in the long run. I have plenty of ideas to give you when it comes to small spaces. Check your email-box! XO

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