Living Space: Industrial style has heavy-metal edge

Antique signs or graphics can add industrial style to your living space.

Let's say you like rustic decor, but you want something more cool than cabin. Industrial style might be the perfect choice. This style has an edgy look that can be both masculine and feminine, has a time-worn appeal and is budget friendly.

Mix, match

One of the hallmarks of industrial style is the way elements are mixed together. Wood and metal, stone and glass, brick and brass, and any other combination you can think of, can work together. Metal that's tarnished, faded, dented and worn is what's most striking in industrial design - a far cry from the polished chrome and shiny finishes found in most contemporary decorating styles.

In fact, the more abused and time-worn your industrial decor looks, the better. This is especially true of wood. Look for wood furniture that can warm up the room but still retains plenty of character and imperfections. Perhaps most interestingly, this beaten-up patina works well when placed next to a leather sofa or upholstered chair.

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Other wonderful aspects of industrial design are its clean lines and lack of adornment. Don't have a lot of accessories? No problem. A large, metal sign looks better against an exposed brick wall than a table full of knick-knacks, anyway. Less is certainly more in industrial design, so pare down your accessories to a few single objects with impact. Look for items that are simple in function and have some kind of industrial look or function to them.

Wire, wheels

Another common design characteristic of industrial style is the wheel and wire. When placed on a cart, a wheel takes on an informal look and a more industrial feel. The same is true of wire. Instead of wicker or linen baskets, opt for wire ones. Perhaps the best part is that many of these items are recycled.

Look for cool old-school lockers and rusty gym baskets at your area thrift or salvage yard. Sometimes you can even find them online. Nowadays, you can also buy new products that look old and have an antiqued industrial edge, such as Restoration Hardware's industrial tool chest console; it has all the panache of an old piece with the function of a new one (restorationhardware.com).

Putting it together

Whether you have an old loft or a new condo, you can give it an industrial edge quickly and easily. If you have concrete floors, add some rugs. If you have wall-to-wall carpeting and can pull it up and expose the floors, do it. Follow up with some metal tables, carts, or shelves and an upholstered piece.

Look for antique signs or graphics, such as old patent drawings available free online through Google. Search for drawings of things you like, such as computers, cars, engines, farm equipment or furniture. Print, enlarge at your area copy center to a poster size, and voila. You have a great-looking print with industrial feel.

Kathryn Weber is a home and decorating columnist and publishes the Red Lotus Letter feng shui ezine. For more information, contact Weber through her website, redlotusletter.com.