Anyone can turn a suburban split-level into an urban-style masterpiece
It’s a typical homeowner conundrum: Should you buy a hip downtown loft, or a home with a yard and a white picket fence?
It is possible to have the best of both worlds by incorporating industrial design elements and the wide-open, spacious idea of loft-living into your home, whether it’s a 1,000-square-foot bungalow near White Rock Lake or 2,500 square feet in the burby Meccas.
All it takes is a little innovation when it comes to decorating or remodeling your house. And while the term “industrial” means different things to different people, the concept typically celebrates the functionality and art of the everyday: Show off the plumbing. Expose that ductwork.
It’s time for a little Home Depot chic.
Here are a few tips that can get you on your way to loft living without the paper-thin walls exposing you to every moan and scream of your neighbors, or the endless walks up seven flights of stairs when the elevator’s broken.
1. Open up. If you are remodeling an older house with small rooms, knock down a few walls. Get rid of the attic and expand upward. Creating multipurpose living spaces (i.e., combining kitchen, living and dining rooms into one) opens up the space and makes an ideal environment for entertaining or simply being able to watch TV while cooking dinner.
2. Expose yourself. Nothing says “loft” faster than exposed ductwork. It’s metallic and phallic the perfect combination. The same goes for plumbing. Display those pipes for a bathroom or wet bar that let’s people know you’re too cool to hide such things behind a frilly sink skirt.
3. Shiny = Happy. While stainless steel is not exactly cheap, there are plenty of lower-cost alternatives available that give you the modern sleekness of stainless even if you can’t afford the real thing. Refit your old refrigerator and dishwasher with stainless panels. A little Liquid Nails and a Saturday afternoon is all it takes. Then change out your switch plates with industrial metal (or “contractor”) styles. They look great and they can be had for less than a dollar each.
4. Alternative lifestyle. You want that metal bowl sink for the bathroom, don’t you? But you don’t want to spend $500. Would you believe that a mixing bowl from Target can be turned into a designer imposter for less than $50? What about hardwoods? While they’re all the rage when it comes to flooring, there are now alternative materials (such as Pergo) that give you the look with the added bonus of increased durability and scratch resistance, all at a fraction of the cost.
5. Dumpster dive. You don’t want your home to end up looking like a Chili’s restaurant, but displaying a few choice knickknacks adds personality, and a little kitsch never hurt anyone. And “I got this on the side of the road down by the train tracks” sounds so much more adventurous than “I bought it online from Lillian Vernon.”
6. Mixed messages. A combination of old and new is another way to add character and sophistication all at once. Recover old furniture in new fabrics and pair with modern lamps and tables. In the kitchen, the latest refrigerator is great, but will be even better alongside a refurbished stove from a restaurant supply. The key is finding items from different eras that work harmoniously together.
7. Trading spaces. Rethink how you use each room. Add a hanging pot rack in the kitchen for extra storage that shows off your favorite cookware. Or throw the TV into the fireplace (rather, place it carefully) for an instant entertainment center that doesn’t take up any extra space (just don’t forget to close the flue). And if you can build it into the wall, do it. Not only does it save valuable space, but by keeping items from sticking out from the walls, your rooms will have sleek lines and look clutter-free.
8. Go into the light. Recessed halogen lighting not only saves electricity and frequent light bulb changes, but when combined with a dimmer switch, rooms can be instantly transformed at the touch of a button. In fact, put dimmer switches on every light in your house, even lamps.
Finally, if you’re planning on doing the decorating or remodeling yourself, don’t take on too much at once. Plan your projects so that each can be enjoyed without the need to complete them all.
Of course, hiring a good contractor is the best way to go. Just make sure to check his or her references and never pay the final installment until work is complete.
Now you’re just one step closer to your very own industrial revolution.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, April 21, 2006.