The Industrial Revolution saw the United States experience a boom in production. With increased output came the need to accommodate factory workers en masse. This led architects to design sparse, durable, and low-maintenance facilities that could withstand heavy traffic. While such spaces may have been built for functionality at the time, the austere beauty of industrial spaces has experienced a renaissance in recent years. If you are inspired by industrial style designs, consider the following ideas for your industrial bathroom.
Industrial style focuses on the natural beauty of raw, unfinished materials - especially metal. Exposed sink and shower plumbing, prominent brass or stainless steel fixtures, mirrors with sturdy metal framing, or a walk-in shower door with a strong black metal grille. Whatever the case, be sure that the element looks like it was built to get a job done - not to look pretty.
If minimalism is the goal, a great way to achieve this is by foregoing the vanity cabinet. Vanities have long been used as an excuse to conceal sink plumbing while putting a decorative face on bathroom storage. For these reasons, the traditional vanity does not mesh with an industrial-style design.
Consider this recent customer, who asked our design team to create an industrial look in his Charlotte, NC bathroom.
In place of a traditional vanity, the designers used a trough-style sink made of a durable solid surface that features functional matte black faucets with bar-style handles. To compensate for the missing storage space, wood crates were added to the shelf beneath the sink. These provide an enclosed home for personal items while matching the functional aesthetic and leaving the black steel plumbing exposed (not pictured).
Few people have the time in their busy lives for a daily soak (or - if you are anything like my wife - the idea of soaking in a tub full of the water you just cleaned off in is not a relaxing one). Nonetheless, like a beautiful piece of artwork, the bathtub has become a prominent aesthetic feature in many high-end bathrooms. This is no different in an industrial-style bathroom.
In this case, a large patina copper tub instantly becomes the focal point of the room, adding bright color to the typically muted gray and black of an industrial space, without betraying the style.
Industrial spaces should have the appearance of being able to withstand heavy use. For countertops, choose a heavy-duty material such as concrete, butcher’s block, or even painted brick. Additionally, they can look used and have uneven finishes. All of this adds to the industrial-era factory ambience that you are going for.
The vast majority of bathrooms in the US are 5’x7’ or 5’x8’, so going with a pure industrial motif generally means a walk-in shower with industrial materials on the walls and black metal grille shower door. However, what if you need (or want) to keep the bath, but don’t have room for both separately? Not a problem. Since your industrial bathtub is always going to be some form of a freestanding tub, the question is simply how to contain the water. Here are a few ideas:
1. Wrap a shower curtain around the tub. Most of us are familiar with the idea of a freestanding tub with an oval-shaped shower-curtain rod over it that allows a full 360 curtain to be tucked inside the tub.
2. Build a wetroom. Since the floor is designed to get wet in a wetroom, you don’t need to worry about containing the water. Put your industrial tub in the shower area, install a shower head over it, and voila - let the water run!
3. Wrap your built-in tub in industrial materials. A built in tub can still have a tile, metal, wood, or even concrete facade. Just make sure the material and seams are fully waterproofed. Granted, this one is kind of a cheat, but it also may be the best option for a lot of homeowners who want the industrial look but still require the functionality of a built-in tub.
The minimalist beauty of industrial-inspired designs has gained significant attention in recent years. If you want to incorporate a touch of industrial into your home, consider any of the ideas listed above to capture the desired look in your bathroom.
Matt Lee is the owner of the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the building materials industry. He is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value.