Six Simple Ways To Build A Beautiful Industrial Style Bathroom

Industrial style bathrooms have skyrocketed in popularity lately, but this look can be a difficult one to replicate, especially if you don’t happen to live in a converted loft or warehouse building. One of the biggest challenges is finding a way to keep the slightly weather-worn features that are so iconic of the style – like reclaimed wood, exposed brick, and old concrete or steel – from making the space feel grungy. On their own, or used in excess, any one of these features can make a bathroom feel run-down or outright inhospitable, but we’ve got six simple ways to combine industrial elements to get the aesthetic you’re looking for.

Brick (But Not By Itself)

Brick is a classic industrial material, but if you want to keep it looking clean and decoroative rather than run down, you need to incorporate a few more finished materials (by Jane Kim Design)
Brick is a classic industrial material, but if you want to keep it looking clean and decorative rather than run down, you need to incorporate a few more finished materials (by Jane Kim Design)

Brick is probably the most iconic material used in industrial style designs for the simple reason that it was the one industrial buildings were most commonly made of at the turn of the century. Renovated factories and warehouse buildings almost always have brick walls, and much of the unique character of the brick comes from age – natural weathering, wear and tear, or even signs of the industry that formerly occupied the building. But old brick by itself just looks like urban decay – for it to look like an intentional stylistic or architectural choice, it needs to be balanced out by other elements. This bathroom by Jane Kim Design uses high quality carrara marble, polished wood, white porcelain, and chrome fixtures to give the original brick walls a touch of class and sophistication. The clawfoot tub and console sinks are also intentional choices, echoing that turn-of-the-century vibe, but putting it against the more rugged, urban backdrop of the exposed brick.

Concrete (But Not Too Much)

Concrete is a great, durable material with a fantastic industrial vibe, but too much of it at once can be a kiss of death for your bathroom design (design by Jason Roehner Foundry 12)
Concrete is a great, durable material with a fantastic industrial vibe, but too much of it at once can be a kiss of death for your bathroom design (design by Jason Roehner Foundry 12)

If brick is the go-to material get an industrial feel, concrete is a close runner up. This look is a bit less old fashioned – not a big-city cannery building by the wharf, but a newer, more minimalist loft space, usually paired with exposed pipes and ductwork and high ceilings. It’s not unheard of to build a bathroom entirely of concrete – walls, floors, and ceilings – but too much plain, poured concrete can feel bleak and uninviting, or at worst outright sinister. Instead, stick to smaller amounts – like a poured concrete floor and a concrete sink – and accentuate the weighty industrial material with something a little lighter, like wood or white tile, and dark iron or oil rubbed bronze accents to maintain that hefty industrial look and feel.

Pulling Off Siding

Metal siding is a tricky material to use well, but if it's balanced out with smooth, clean elements it can create a perfect industrial vibe (photo by Victor M Samuel)
Metal siding is a tricky material to use well, but if it’s balanced out with smooth, clean elements it can create a perfect industrial vibe (photo by Victor M Samuel)

Another interesting material with a very strong industrial feel – and one you might not expect to find in a home – is metal siding. This is definitely also one of the harder ones to pull off; galvanized steel doesn’t have the modern sleek shininess of stainless steel, or the hefty solid weight of concrete. It’s meant to stand up to the elements, but not so much to weather the span of time the way brick is. That said, it can be incredibly effective as an accent – acting as an alternative to shower tile or simply adding detail to a wall or ceiling. Paired with concrete and light wood and glass elements, this look can feel surprisingly fresh, and (to me at least!) is reminiscent of sunny, summery taquerias in southern Califorina.

Industrial Windows

Windows with grid-style frames and many small panes have a distinctly industrial feel, and are much easier to add to bathroom renovation than brick (by Robert Nebolon Architects)
Windows with grid-style frames and many small panes have a distinctly industrial feel, and are much easier to add to bathroom renovation than brick (by Robert Nebolon Architects)

Perhaps my personal favorite feature of renovated warehouse buildings are the windows: big wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling grids of small window panes in hefty metal frames. Half the charm is the glass itself – often antique, frequently heavily worn and weathered from age, or even discolored or subtly warped if it’s old enough. But that simple layout – of  glass windows in a dark metal grid – is strongly evocative of an industrial style, which makes it a great way to get the vibe, particularly if you don’t live in an actual industrial style home.  This bathroom by Robert Nebolon Architects uses the windows in place of a shower stall, and accentuates the industrial feel of the space with hand scraped wood floors, exposed plumbing, and lighting fixtures with bare, antique bulbs.

Subway Tile With A Twist

It's easy to give a classic cottage style bathroom an industrial twist, just by adding a few more urban-inspired elements (by Interior Therapy)
It’s easy to give a classic cottage style bathroom an industrial twist, just by adding a few more urban-inspired elements (by Interior Therapy)

Most turn-of-the-century bathroom styles (cottage, cape cod, farmhouse, and so on) rely on the simple and time-tested combination of white subway tile on the walls and matching white hexagonal tile on the floors. But this particular look – as the name implies – originated in the subway systems of New York City, and is actually a surprisingly good pair for an industrial style. The catch is, instead of the classic pedestal sink and clawfoot tub you’d ordinarily see paired with this style, you want to opt for slightly more rustic elements – like hand scraped wood floors, old radiators and exposed pipes, and so on. Even changing small details – like opting for a different colored subway tile, or a darker grout – can give a classic cottage style bathroom a much more urban edge.

Accessorize

It's easy to dress up a cottage style bathroom to have a more industrial feel - you just have to pick the right accessories (by BGDB Interior Design)
It’s easy to dress up a cottage style bathroom to have a more industrial feel – you just have to pick the right accessories (by BGDB Interior Design)

If you’re really worried about being able to strike the right balance between old and new, probably the safest way to pull off an industrial style is to skip the architectural elements entirely and focus on accessorizing. Even if you start with an exceedingly traditional cottage-style bathroom, a few elements can easily dress it up and dramatically change the look of the space. Oil rubbed bronze fixtures (from faucets to towel bars) will give a classic white bathroom a more urban feel, while adding in factory or warehouse style lighting fixtures, trough style sinks (especially metal ones!), or even straight accessories like steel cabinets or workstools can really bring out the industrial feel.

So even if you don’t happen to have any aged bricks or weathered beams in your bathroom, don’t worry – an industrial style isn’t beyond your reach – it just might require a little creative design work!