The Designer Approach: simple and effective tips 

¨Loft MDP¨Courtesy of FFWD

¨Loft MDP¨Courtesy of FFWD


-The Designer Approach: 


This interesting trend started as a necessity for artists in New York back in the 1950s, as a way to afford large and open-plan spaces that could be used as a studio and simultaneously as a home. Location was important, as the artists wanted to live and work near to large groups of other artists with similar interests and cultural needs.

Nowadays this type of space has become a luxury and a well established design and living trend, much appreciated in big cities such as London or New York.

The main asset  that  an industrial building possesses is a distinct character that could be described as genuinely raw and honest. With this unique attribute also comes a great challenge, which is to maintain the property´s core industrial character and link it with what we aim to create in that space, and as result end up with a mixture of the old and the new.

By combining elements, attributes, materials and finishes that have bold, raw, hard and un-fancy characters with those that are softer and smoother, we achieve a result based on opposites, and it is precisely this which creates something so unique and attractive.

You will find, below, some easy and simple design and architectural tips to follow to achieve good results when converting from industrial to residential use.

Courtesy of Nadia Kaufhold

Courtesy of Nadia Kaufhold


1-Existing Finishes & Structure:

Ideally we want to retain part of the existing structure and finishes of the building. The new elements will then act as a ¨frame¨ (in visual terms) for the old features. In this way we will enhance the former character of the building. The contrast between well finished and smooth surfaces and the existing raw, untreated and naked materials brings a beautiful and interesting result.

You will find a few constraints when trying to retain and show naked raw materials, all of which relate to Building Regulations:

-Document L1 B (conservation of fuel and power in existing dwellings) and Document E (resistance to the passage of sound):

External Walls might need additional insulation to comply with Building Regulations. This is installed generally in the internal part of the wall, so it would not allow us to see the wall´s original material. Insulation can also be installed on the outer part of the wall and a special rendering can then be applied on top of  it, but in most cases this will change the building´s appearance and become a planning issue.

Floors will have to be resistant to the impact of sound (when separating residential units) and partitions will need to be resistant to the passage of sound; an assessment will need to be made in order to check whether the existing and proposed elements comply with these requirements.

-Document B Volume 1 (Fire Safety):

Leaving an exposed structure is always an interesting option, especially for steel and concrete structures, but one should be aware that these might have to be treated to comply with Building Regulations Document B  (Fire Safety) (sufficient stability of the building under fire load and internal fire spread). Minimum periods of fire resistance for structural elements will need to be checked.

¨La Fabrica¨, Courtesy of Ricardo Bofill

¨La Fabrica¨, Courtesy of Ricardo Bofill

2-Glazing & Windows:

Something commonly found in industrial buildings is either big openings or solid façades with no openings at all.  The first scenario is generally welcomed; we might budget for double-glazed windows and frames coated with aluminum polyester powder. We recommend using colour RAL 7016, otherwise known as Anthracite Grey. On the other hand, in the second scenario, we will either propose opening new windows, which could become a structural and planning issue, or seeking natural light through rooflights and double heights.

Courtesy of Nadia Kaufhold

Courtesy of Nadia Kaufhold

3- Spacial continuity & open plan:

When envisaging  ¨Loft & Industrial style¨  the first adjectives that come to mind are “open”, “flexible” and “large”; these are usually desirable attributes.

Owing to the large size of windows or a lack of them, and to open the possibility of exposing (being able to see)  a pitch roof structure, we might consider installing large rooflights and arranging double heights. This would result in amuch richer, lighter and more continuous space.  And opening viewing angles and  expanding internal views would make the spacelook wider.

To achieve a flexible open plan we recommend the use of a folding or operable wall system when feasible. These have become quite popular and technically advanced in the last few years, and they provide the full flexibility which nowadays is needed more than ever.

¨Loft MDP¨Courtesy of FFWD

¨Loft MDP¨Courtesy of FFWD

4- Furniture, Plants and Lamps:

In contrast with the raw and naked appearance of the industrial style, we need the benefits of elements that provide warmth and coziness. Furniture can play a key role here. We strongly recommend budgeting for this and purchasing good quality pieces,which will be a good investment that will pay back over time.


Soft, gentle and rounded qualities are preferable to hard, rough and angled pieces, in order to reach a good balance between industrial and residential.  If we have managed to retain exposed brick or concrete, we might lean towards lighter colours in order to capture and reflect light and to contrast with the walls. Shelves with books make the space more human, and can be used as partitions to separate spaces while keeping the plan open and flexible at the same time.


Regardless of floor finishes, and whether they are of wood, tile or polished concrete, rugs really help and have an important impact in differentiating spaces, especially those that are intended to be for sitting in from those which are intended to connect with others (for passing through).


In the same way as all the above, and for the same reasons, plants have a powerful impact in humanising the surroundings and bringing life to the space.  Note that in the UK, owing to a lack of natural light, especially in winter, we might want to choose certain species which, in addition to their beauty and attractiveness, do not need direct sunlight. Examples are: Dracaena, Parlour Palm, Umbrella Papyrus, Snake Plant, Creeping Fig, and Philodendron.

¨La Fabrica¨, Courtesy of Ricardo Bofill

¨La Fabrica¨, Courtesy of Ricardo Bofill


-Lamps and lighting:

When designing uncommon spaces such as conversions from industrial to residential, we recommend avoiding ambient lighting, which would result in non-differentiated spaces and could give the impression of an art gallery, storage space orhospital. Instead, what we need to look for is focused illumination, which will help us to differentiate between the various spaces and uses. Moreover, lamps act as ¨milestones for the eye ¨, rather like punctuation marks, so it is worth investing in good quality items. A mixture of the modern and the traditional is also desirable.

In a scenario with high ceilings or double heights, pendant lights are an interesting option, because they enhance the way we perceive the space, making it appear more vertical and hence higher.


¨La Fabrica¨, Courtesy of Ricardo Bofill

¨La Fabrica¨, Courtesy of Ricardo Bofill


This is a simplified and informative guide that does not aim to cover all construction matters, but the cases presented above cover most of the situations that you could face. In case of doubt, always get in touch with a professional. 

This is a simplified  guide and is not a conclusive source of legal information. Land constraints might affect your development. A legal professional will be able to provide precise advice on this if needed.


We are always delighted to hear from you and to speak about your project