Vintage Industrial Furniture

When old is new again

interior design, antiques, industrial design, furniture, Hudson Valley homes

Furniture design, like everything in life, is influenced by current economic and social trends. As society sees the implementation of more and more “green” or “sustainable” commercial products, it is not surprising that recycled, reused, and repurposed materials are becoming more popular in interior design. 

Vintage items, claimed from factory liquidations or salvage yards, are being repurposed into beautiful and practical household furnishings, and are among the current rage in home decor. A number of shops in the Hudson Valley are ahead of this re-emerging trend. 

Factory relics

The use of industrial furniture dates back to before World War I in settings such as factories, schools, and hospitals. These non-residential buildings of another era, many left abandoned, housed a bounty of heavy steel tables, glimmering metal storage shelves, thick glass lighting fixtures, and cast iron gears. These pieces were both durable and functional, which is one of the strongest attractions of the industrial aesthetic.

A table that was once a workplace can become a showcase for the dining room, an antique dentist’s exam light is turned into a unique reading lamp, while iron cogs are used as stunning decorative art pieces. At first glance, the industrial aesthetic may not appear to work with all design motifs. If your decor is country kitsch, you might think a piece of metal machinery would be incongruous. 

However, the hand-operated corn-shucker that the old High Falls Mercantile’s owner transformed into a sculpture, highlighting the ingenuity and artistic beauty of the tool, grounds the style in Americana. For most homes, introducing an industrial piece or two requires a sense of balance with other furnishings. “Blend high and low, new and old, and introduce softness, both tactile and visually” to offset the edge of the industrial items, says Serouya.

The appeal of industrial design is in the inherent durability and timeless style of the recycled and re-imagined. Homeowners often enjoy a sense of history these reconstituted artifacts afford, while appreciating their bold, functional appeal, as well as the often under- appreciated beauty in these objects from the past. As the country continuously moves beyond an economy based on manufacturing, industrial furnishings and cast-offs are being resurrected, and respected anew, not only as utilitarian devices but also as decorative accents and reminders of a vanishing America.


James Meyers lives in Kingston with his wife. His writing has appeared in, Spinner, Shelterpop and numerous other national and local publications. He is currently at work on memoir, A.D.D. It Up: Ritalin and Risky Behavior, and an historic novel, Pummy, about his Grandfather’s exodus from Ireland before World War I.