Whether you are actually living in the heart of a major city or simply want to bring the style of an urban loft into your suburban or rural home, this guide is designed to help you achieve the industrial design you are looking for. I will bring together years of experience and research in the design field to help you achieve a clean, industrial vibe in your bathroom.

Many Shapes and Sizes

While the term “many shapes and sizes” can apply to some of the pieces and fixtures you can include in your industrial design, this title is actually referring to the fact that industrial designs themselves come in many varieties. The typical industrial style most people envision when they think about an industrial-style space is the urban industrial loft. Another popular industrial style is vintage industrial. An up and coming style in today’s design world is the steampunk style – one ripe with industrial influences.

There are many aspects of a space which will apply to all three of these design styles. The aspects they share in common are the very core of what it means to be an industrial style. Let’s first take a look at the general industrial style and see how you can incorporate it in to your bathroom, before looking at some specific design elements used in the three subtypes listed above.

High Ceilings

High ceilings are incredibly important to the industrial design style. To understand why high ceilings (and many other key design features) are so important to this style, allow me to walk you through a brief history lesson. The industrial style was born of a trend during the mid-nineteenth century when former industrial buildings were transformed into condominiums. As the technological and service industries grew and the industrial and manufacturing industries shrank, there were many vacant buildings left littering the streets of major urban metropolises. Instead of spending the time and resources to tear these buildings down and construct new residential buildings, urban architects had the ingenious idea of transforming the factories of old into homes.

As word spread about this new approach, people became enthralled with the idea of living in a renovated factory. To keep up with the hoopla around the idea and, undoubtedly, to cut the costs associated with installing ceilings and walls, architects decided to leave out many additional walls and ceilings which would have made the spaces feel more like houses or traditional apartments.

To create this lofty feeling, we suggest the following. If you live in a space with high ceilings, leave them. If you have the ability to knock out your ceiling and raise it higher, do it. If neither of these are options, use any one or two of a variety of interior design techniques to make your space seem larger.

First, you can add tall mirrors to the space to draw the eye upward. You can also add something reflective to the ceiling (such as tin) to give the illusion that it goes higher. You can also paint the walls and ceiling the same color so that there is less of a distinction between them.

Concrete and Brick

As I am sure you have guessed from the description in the section above, the industrial style embraces a lot of what was originally in place in an industrial building. Concrete and brick are two of the major elements often left in place. Instead of covering over concrete floors with wood flooring or carpeting, most industrial designs embrace the natural concrete of the floors. The same can be said for concrete and brick walls. As I am sure you’ve guessed, architects and designers of these spaces were able to save a lot of money by leaving out these finishing touches.

If you live in a place with concrete and brick, leave it as is. Simply cover your floors with ample bathmats and rugs for extra heating. If you live somewhere where these elements exist but have been covered, uncover them. If your space does not have these elements, however, you can add them in by plastering walls, adhering sticky tile-like bricks to walls, and installing slate tile flooring.

Photo credit: decoholic.org

Exposed Beams and Plumbing

Are you starting to notice a theme here? Industrial design is all about celebrating the features of the bare bones of an industrial space. At least, that’s how it was framed. I still think a lot of what prompted this style was related to saving money. Whatever the motivation, the end product is often quite stunning.

Exposing plumbing, heating ducts and beams is yet another way to celebrate this style. You can choose to knock out your ceiling, raise it higher and show the beams which hold it in place. You can also install your heating ducts below your ceiling for even more of an industrial appeal.

Achieving this design element is easy for people who are converting industrial spaces into living spaces, but what about people who are trying convert traditional living spaces into spaces with an industrial flare? Knocking out ceilings can be too expensive and time consuming for people who are trying to achieve this style. An easy way to add this effect into your space is to install false beams below your ceiling.

You can also add piping to your plumbing or expose your plumbing to give your bathroom an industrial feel. For example, many people will turn a bathtub into a bath/shower combo by running piping through the wall and installing a showerhead at the appropriate height. Instead, you can purchase a special water-diverting faucet and run the piping up the face of the wall to a showerhead. You can also install a floating sink with exposed plumbing beneath it instead of a sink whose plumbing is covered by a lower cabinet.

Metal Tones and Earth Tones

Color is important to most interior design styles and the industrial style is no different. Multiple shades of grey are important in creating this style. Think concrete, slate, and mortar as you choose accessories and colors of paint. Many industrial styles also celebrate the natural bronze and steel colors of plumbing. Try to incorporate some pieces in your room which utilize these colors. Actual bronze and other metals will also enhance your industrial space.

To add some comfort to what could be a very cold space, many industrial designers also include some earth tones in their designs. Adding actual potted plants and an assortment of browns and mossy greens into an industrial design helps to make it feel more like home.

Photo credit: uniquevanities.com

Urban Industrial Loft

All of what we have discussed so far is applicable to the urban industrial loft style. In fact, it is this style which serves as the basis for the other styles we will look at in a moment. Of all these styles, the urban industrial loft is the least likely to actually feature a bathtub, though. Since it was originally created for the busy professional, the idea of a quick shower took priority over the idea of a long, relaxing bath.

Therefore, your urban industrial style should incorporate a large shower space. This shower space should be rather open. Usually, it is separated from the rest of the bathroom by only glass walls. Sometimes, it isn’t separated at all; sloped tiled or concrete floors simple stop water from running out into other rooms or areas of the bathroom.

Vintage Industrial

The vintage industrial design maintains the feeling of loftiness with high ceilings. It incorporates the major elements of any industrial design – exposed plumbing and ductwork, concrete, cool colors, metal tones. It also, however, adds some vintage elements such as ornate faucets, porcelain sinks, and cast iron clawfoot bathtubs.


The steampunk style is, with pun fully intended, quickly catching steam. This style maintains all of the elements of the original industrial loft style but adds a new element. This element is difficult to contain in a single word (other than the word steampunk, of course,) so I will have to describe it for you.

The steampunk style takes the industrial idea of exposing the inner workings of something and blows it up as if it were on steroids (please note that we do not condone the use of steroids). Instead of simply exposing the piping of plumbing work, the steampunk style extends that plumbing work and creates shapes and patterns from it which actually serve as art pieces. It takes the industrial style and infuses a bit of turn of the nineteenth century style – celebrating everything from the inner workings of plumbing to steam engines and the gears of a clock.