Pairing Old and New Furniture to Create a Modern-Industrial Chicago Apartment

In cities across the U.S., including Chicago, real estate developers have transformed unused industrial buildings into hip condominiums, lofts, and live/work spaces. To make the most of their urban environment, residents combine modern industrial furniture with exposed brick walls, wood beams, and copper piping. The result is raw, edgy, and totally modern.

Modern industrial design suits these retrofitted living spaces by using sleek finishes, natural wood, and neutral tones. It also gives a traditional home an unfinished, contemporary look.

To make this type of design work in Chicago, designers usually modify the minimalist style. “At its core, Chicago is a very Midwestern city. The residences have a milder taste than other large industrial cities,” says interior designer John Linden, who also founded Mirror Coop, an online shop for hand-designed antiqued and colored mirrors.

When decorating an industrial style apartment, use color and texture to add warmth. Balance concrete floors and metal window frames with both neutral and bold accents, well-chosen furniture, and select accessories.

Start with the Walls

Many modern industrial homes incorporate white walls, white surfaces, and sometimes white appliances. “I personally find [stark white walls] too contrastive and love to use a warmer gray tone or off-white instead,” says Linden. “Having warmer interior tones on the walls gives the entire living space a friendlier feel.” If you like white, consider adding a warm gray accent wall or neutral-colored rugs.

Swap Concrete for Wood

Polished concrete floors fit perfectly with the modern industrial furniture theme, but paired with stainless steel appliances, exposed ducts and pipes, and neutral colors, concrete can feel cold — figuratively and literally. Add contrast with wood or natural stone flooring. If you like the durability and easy maintenance of concrete, lighten it up with select pieces of wood furniture or a butcher block kitchen countertop.

Break Up Open Floor Plans

Even new detached homes now incorporate airy, open floor plans. “But too much space can make the interior feel like a museum,” says Linden. “I try to fill large open interior spaces with furniture, shelving, and small touches like plants and books.” For example, consider using a bookshelf to divide the living and dining areas.

Use Vintage and Repurposed Furniture

Want to make old furniture look modern or modern furniture look more homey? Rustic wood furniture strikes a nice balance with metal finishes and exposed brick. Look for old hope chests for the bedroom and wooden stools for the bistro kitchen counter. Search for key pieces that catch your eye.

Remember, you don’t have to use furniture for its originally intended purpose. If you’re handy, turn an antique wooden door into a large desk or dining table.

Pair Modern Industrial Furniture with Treasured Finds

Balance country-style furnishings with modern pieces. “Dining and console tables with pipe legs are very popular and easy to find online,” says Linden. “You can also get bedside tables in a similar style.” With a quick search on your computer, you can find new furniture that captures the modern industrial look.

Brown sofa in a large room with cement walls, large white chair, and modern art decor

Accessorize with Color

Who says everything in your loft has to be black, white and metal? Paint an accent wall deep red. Set a large colored-glass vase filled with fresh flowers on the kitchen table. Add accent pillows in popular jewel tones, or incorporate a whimsical retro blue chair. A dash of color adds personality and life to an otherwise stark industrial space.

Modern industrial design exposes what’s beneath the surface to create a raw, edgy style. With a few subtle additions, you can get the look without losing Chicago’s Midwestern warmth.

On your next shopping trip, stop by one of CORT’s Furniture Clearance Centers to explore the large inventory of gently used furniture in a variety of styles at up to 70 percent off retail prices. You may just find the perfect accent piece to soften up your ultra-mod home.