What industrial chic brings to apartment design, Residential property style guide, Los Angeles flat decor

What Industrial Chic Brings To The Apartment Architecture Table

22 Dec 2020

Home and public building architecture trends come and go about as quickly as each of the four seasons. Despite the rapid changes in architectural styles for homes and public buildings, when it comes to apartment architecture, a common complaint among tenants is there is not much difference in architectural styles.

In other words, apartment complexes look about the same.

Utopia Management has noticed an architectural trend in some of the apartment complexes in greater Los Angeles.

Welcome to the apartment architectural style called Industrial Chic.

Wide Appeal: What Industrial Chic Brings To The Apartment Architecture Table

Two Styles of Industrial Chic

Created by artists working in the SoHo district of New York City during the 1970s, industrial chic represents changing an industrial space into an aesthetically pleasing structure that can be a home, an apartment, or a public building.

Industrial chic comes in two varieties. The first variety is the foundation of this type of apartment architecture. Architects convert older commercial buildings and industrial spaces into structures that are designed for residential use.

Many of the fastest-selling apartment markets in the United States include several industrial chic designs. From two-flat apartments in the middle of an urban center to sprawling suburban apartment complexes that space dozens of acres, architects convert vacated industrial buildings into chic residences for tenants.

Adam Stein, who is the senior vice president at WinnDevelopment, is a part of a team of designers and architects that have completed more than 30 adaptive reuse projects in the Northeast. “We’ve created this look and feel out of the need to find projects that will be supported by the municipality. It starts with the economic benefit of turning around these areas. And then have these amazing buildings that were built turn of the century with high ceilings and raw wood and metal surfaces and exposed pipes and ducts.”

Ironically, the popularity of converting vacated industrial structures into apartment complexes inspired the development of the second type of industrial chic style. A growing number of architects are constructing new multifamily apartment complex by using industrial chic design principles.

Turning Back the Clock

With many cities transformed by building steel and glass structures, renters have turned back the clock by renting units located in adaptive reuse complexes. Industrial chic has especially taken off in large metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and New York City.

“They definitely want something different and exciting, compared to—for lack of a better term—cookie-cutter [development],” says Scott Maenpaa, who works as the project manager at The Architectural Team (TAT). “You know, where everything is hidden behind drywall and ceilings. And these buildings, we design them so the structure is the focus.”

The primary reason for the growth of industrial chic apartment complexes is because many downtown areas have developed out of industrial districts. “They’re typically found close to town centers, so they’re walkable to commercial spaces, eating, dining, entertainment, and probably, also, in most cases, they’re close to public transportation. So that makes these buildings more desirable for small families, empty-nesters, young couples, across the spectrum,” Maenpaa explained.

The Prominent Features of Industrial Chic

Most of the industrial chic projects that have developed in the major cities consist of old and new multifamily apartment complexes that are adapted from older buildings or constructed based on older designs. Many of the apartments draw inspiration from the late 1800s and early 1900s designs of buildings located in cities along the eastern seaboard of the United States.

What Industrial Chic Brings To Apartment Design

Industrial chic has four prominent features.

Natural Brick and Exposed Wooden Beams

Adam Meshberg of the Meshberg Group says, “The most important tenet of industrial design is the exposed structure of the building as part of the interior environment, whether it’s steel beams, heavy timber, wooden beams, exposed brick, or wooden joints. It’s an inherent characteristic of industrial warehouse design. People were attracted to a raw style of living, as this is how people worked in these buildings before they became condos—it’s the mix of aged with new that’s appealing.”

Neutral Color

Raw plumbing, concrete floors, and Edison style light bulbs dominate the neutral color theme of many industrial chic apartments. Neutral colors accentuate the spacious design element used to invoke the large spaces inside vacated industrial parks. The use of neutral colors also increases the number of design options.

Large Windows and High Ceilings

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the lack of air conditioning motivated architects to create high ceilings that encouraged the circulation of air. Many of the ceilings from that era rose more than 10 feet tall, with large windows placed on the east and west sides of structures to let in more sunlight. Some ceilings in contemporary industrial chic apartments are nearly 15 feet tall.

Vintage Design

According to Elyse Linowes of Linowes Design Associates, industrial chic offers an incredible amount of design flexibility. Since industrial chic uses both raw and original materials, designers have plenty of design options to integrate seamlessly with the industrial chic look.

“It’s all about mixing materials and design elements in the right places to make the meld work. If the floor, wall, and ceiling finishes are very industrial, you can soften it with your selection of furniture and accessories to better meld various design styles,” Linowes said. “The furniture and art can lend themselves to any design, whether vintage or contemporary, and blend beautifully.”

Will industrial chic become a standard style of architecture for apartments over the next 20 years? The jury is still out on the answer to that question.

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