Industrial design: Melding our past with our future

Industrial design - Monogram partner content

West Elm’s Brooklyn offices boast a Modern Industrial style that preserves the building’s 19th century roots while adding contemporary flair.

AIA partner Monogram demonstrates how Modern Industrial design practices come alive in West Elm’s Brooklyn offices

One design style that has become immensely popular in the past decade is Modern Industrial, a fusion of the past and the future in which architects and designers renovate old, existing structures while keeping many of the distinctive features intact and sometimes showcasing them in the final designs. It’s the style many lofts and urban offices have adopted, and one that restaurants and coffee shops around the US are replicating.

Some of the common elements seen in Modern Industrial include:

  • Open, spacious floor plans and rooms
  • Exposed brick and stone
  • Industrial-inspired, dramatic lighting
  • Sleek metal finishes juxtaposed with rustic wood accents
  • High ceilings with exposed beams and ventilation

This style was inspired by turn-of-the-20th-century factories and industrial warehouses that were converted and modernized into usable office and living spaces. But while it may have been done out of necessity at first, the look caught on, and soon more spaces like this were being saved and renovated instead of razed and destroyed.

One such successful rehab is Empire Stores in the Dumbo area of Brooklyn, New York. It’s one of the many brick storehouses that once formed a fortress along miles of the East River in the mid to late 1800s. The space held the first commercial roasted coffee production business in the area. Today, it’s home to such businesses as the Vinegar Hill House restaurant, the Brooklyn Historical Society museum, a Shinola apparel and watch retail store, and the West Elm retail space and offices.

Michele Mandzy, interior designer and member of the team from VM Architecture and Design, worked on the West Elm space. Because the company wanted to keep a lot of the old architecture from the original 1800s warehouse space, the project took a year of planning and a year of construction to complete.

Williams Sonoma, West Elm’s parent company, wanted to showcase its furniture and housewares designs by keeping the space streamlined and minimal. This carried into the breakrooms, where VM Architecture brought in more light while showcasing existing brick walls and large timbers. Part of the design included Monogram appliances, whose sleek, modern elements fit right into the industrial space. “Monogram was the only brand we looked at [for the space],” says Mandzy.

The appliances, including both refrigerators and dishwashers, featured custom panels that blend seamlessly into the space’s design. The appliances’ superior craftsmanship and high-end style helped elevate the breakrooms while carrying over the look and ambiance of the greater space.

AIA does not sponsor or endorse any enterprise, whether public or private, operated for profit. Further, no AIA officer, director, committee member, or employee, or any of its component organizations in his or her official capacity, is permitted to approve, sponsor, endorse, or do anything that may be deemed or construed to be an approval, sponsorship, or endorsement of any material of construction or any method or manner of handling, using, distributing, or dealing in any material or product.

Image credits

Industrial design - Monogram partner content

VM Architecture and Design

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