1st August 2023

From Factories to Homes: The Evolution of Steel in Industrial Furniture

Industrial power station

Industrial furniture has become an enduring trend, adding a rugged charm to modern interiors. One material that played a pivotal role in shaping this iconic style is steel. In this blog post, we will journey through time to explore the fascinating history of steel being used in industrial furniture. From its origins in the bustling factories of the 19th century to its transformation into sought-after design elements in contemporary homes, steel has left an indelible mark on industrial furniture design.

The Industrial Revolution and the Birth of Steel Furniture:

In the 19th century, the world witnessed a revolution like no other – the Industrial Revolution. As factories and workshops mushroomed, a need arose for sturdy, functional furniture that could withstand the rigours of a rapidly mechanizing world. Steel, with its incredible strength and malleability, became the answer. It was only a short time before steel furniture found its way into the busy factories, workshops, and warehouses of the time. Utilitarian and pragmatic, steel furniture was a perfect fit for industrial spaces.

The Influence of Functionalism on Steel Furniture:

Fast forward to the early 20th century, and the design world underwent a profound transformation. The functionalism movement was gaining momentum, preaching the virtues of simplicity, form following function, and practicality. It was during this era that steel furniture truly began to shine. Designers embraced the raw, minimalist aesthetic that steel offered, and industrial furniture evolved into its own style. Pieces like steel-framed chairs and tables became synonymous with functional yet visually striking design.

Steel in Mid-century Modern Design:

The mid-century modern era blended organic shapes, clean lines, and industrial materials, with steel taking centre stage. Steel-framed furniture and leather or wooden elements became iconic during this period. Think of the classic steel-framed leather armchair, a timeless symbol of elegance and durability. The likes of Eames, Saarinen, and Mies van der Rohe showcased the versatility of steel, proving that it wasn’t just limited to factories and workshops.

Steel as an Icon of Strength and Durability:

One thing that has remained constant throughout the history of industrial furniture is steel’s inherent strength and durability. Unlike other materials, steel can withstand heavy use and still stand tall for generations. Whether it’s a robust steel dining table or an industrial steel bookshelf, the enduring appeal lies in its ability to age gracefully, acquiring a charming patina over time.

The Revival of Industrial Style in Contemporary Design:

As the 20th century drew to a close, the industrial style experienced a revival, and with it came a renewed love for steel furniture. Industrial lofts and urban living spaces provided the perfect canvas for showcasing steel’s raw and edgy appeal. Steel-framed coffee tables, industrial lighting fixtures, and steel bookshelves once again became the talk of the town. The comeback took the design world by storm, proving that industrial furniture had truly stood the test of time.

Steel and Sustainability in Industrial Furniture:

In recent years, as sustainability concerns have taken centre stage, the eco-friendly properties of steel have come to the forefront. With growing awareness about environmental impact, modern industrial furniture companies have taken steps to use sustainable steel and adopt eco-conscious manufacturing practices. Steel’s recyclability and durability align perfectly with the ethos of sustainable design, making it an excellent choice for environmentally conscious consumers.


From its humble origins in bustling factories during the Industrial Revolution to its prominent role as an iconic design element in modern homes, steel has proven to be a true marvel. Its remarkable strength, versatility, and eco-friendly qualities have cemented its status as a preferred material for designers and homeowners.
Whether you’re captivated by the charm of mid-century modern design or yearn for the rugged sophistication of industrial aesthetics, steel furniture offers something extraordinary. Its enduring allure stands the test of time, enriching spaces with its raw beauty and timeless appeal.

As the world of industrial design continues to evolve, we hope you’ll stay inspired and keep exploring the wonders this captivating style offers. Embrace the legacy of steel in industrial furniture and let it be a driving force in creating your dream spaces.

Browse our catalogue of steel pieces for your home.

Paige Allison