Modern Industrial Design Trends: Machine Age Modernism

How To Incorporate Machine Age Modernism Into Your Home

It’s all the rage, and we fully expect it to stay. Machine age modernism is all about embracing our industrial roots and the mechanical and technological advances that have brought us to where we are today. It’s that salute to the past that’s streamlined for the here and now, fully functional while blending rustic charm with sleek practicality.

In a home, you can incorporate a little or a lot, new or vintage. It’s all about personal taste and where you find beauty and comfort. We can guarantee, however, that once you understand what machine age modernism really is, you’ll start seeing infinite numbers of ways to let it flavor other styles or expand it to become the hallmark of your home.
The kitchen is a great place to start simply because it really is the most functional room in a home. In fact, we have a line that we’re crazy about—the DXV Etre Collection—that we’ll tell you more about in a bit. But, regardless of the room, machine age modernism gives you infinite ways to make a home your own.

What is Machine Age Modernism?

Machine age modernism — along with all other forms of modern industrial design — came about as a result of the Industrial Revolution. It was a dramatic departure from previous, more ornate styles that tried to conceal functionality behind a beautiful façade. Instead, the focus became stripping away distraction to find the beauty in the engineering and purpose of a thing.

After all, with industrialization came the capabilities of mass production—and jobs and the ability of more people to afford items readily available. It was a huge shift in mindset and culture—one that became a source of pride and promise, celebrating not only the products manufactured but also the machinery that made them and the factories that housed them.

How To Incorporate Machine Age Modernism Into Your Home

Raw elements are the language of machine age modernism—exposed brick or stone that bespeaks a former era, wood that was distressed yet now gleams with rich character, wrought iron and steel that was needed for their strength and durability. Light is as vital now as it was then—nothing can happen without it—and colors take their palette from the elements of wood, brick, stone, steel and iron. It’s a tried-and-true formula that offers millions of unique iterations.


As a natural element, wood offers endless possibilities. Finishes are often distressed, but even that descriptor leaves tons of room—from oiled overhead beams marked with signature chisel marks or nail indentations to old worn barn doors giving glimpses of layers of past colors. Popular choices for furniture include work-style tables, heavy cabinetry, factory-style cupboards, old desks, lamp bases and even handles for furnishings or tools. Vintage wood and butcher-block style slabs as countertops can give an authentic workbench vibe. Wood brings the light golden to deep mahogany of the color palette.

Exposed Brick, Stone or Concrete

Used to build the walls and floors of the factories, brick, stone and concrete give that unmistakable modern industrial texture and sense of permanence. While they’re still often features of walls and flooring, they can also be stylish materials for fireplaces and mantels or elements, for example, of countertops or backsplashes, staircases, countertops, shower surrounds, greenery planters or accent décor. Brick, stone and concrete can offer all sorts of hues and shades, from whites, pale peaches and roses to deep reds and every shade of gray imaginable.

Wrought Iron, Steel and Metal

When we recognize that something is made of metal, it automatically conveys a kind of industrial strength and purpose. In machine age modernism, we often see objects that either incorporate actual old tools or parts of machines, for example, into their design or are designed in a way that is similarly inspired. Easy ways to give a home that flavor is to leave plumbing pipes exposed, use metal or wrought iron railings, add functional furnishings like wrought iron or stainless steel baker’s racks or shop-style metal cabinetry, or opt for vintage-styled lighting featuring bare bulbs and metal guards. You can choose whether it adds the shine of light, the colors of rust or corrosion, or the grounding of the color black.


In an age of manufacturing and development, light was critical. Shops had huge banks of windows to let light in, but they also had lighting strung above work tables and around machining areas, for example. To re-create that feel, you need sources to create light as well as items that will reflect it. Light—or its reflection—can be at ceiling level, chandelier drop, furnishing height or floor level. You can also use it to define purposeful areas. What you’re trying to achieve is not only illumination but a balance of shadow and light reminiscent of what you’d find in a factory setting of workrooms and alcoves.

The Form of Function and Interest

Modern industrial design celebrates the history of doing and having the right things to do it well. What that translates into today is an assortment of quality furnishings, appliances and fixtures that offer the unmistakable style of purpose with enhanced functionality. They’re flashes of the past that are updated and re-created to make our lives easier and more beautiful with materials that are often more durable and sanitary than those of the past and technology that offers modern convenience and superior efficiency.

Begin in the Kitchen With the DXV Etre Collection

We mentioned DXV’s Etre Collection at the beginning of this piece because we’re convinced that you’ll love it as much as we do. DXV designs and manufactures kitchen and bath product lines, with emphasis on design movements like the classic, golden, modern and contemporary. Each fixture or accessory that they create is crafted to be a quality period representation that performs to modern, superior standards.

For the Etre Collection, DXV specifically focused on the leading principles of machine age modernism—“functionality, practicality and purpose.” Pieces in the collection include Etre pull-down kitchen faucets and Etre apron front sinks, pieces that recall the solidity of past production yet integrate advanced performance levels.

Etre Pull Down Kitchen Faucets

Etre’s kitchen faucet has minimalist lines dedicated to function.

  • The spray head maintains the sleek high-arc line yet offers pull-down convenience. A simple toggle lets you switch between stream and spray mode.
  • The arched faucet swivels 360 degrees.
  • The spray head and faucet lever are knurled—detailed with a fine texture to enhance user grip.
  • The ceramic disc valve cartridge protects against leaks and drips.
  • Stainless steel flex lines offer durability.
  • Etre faucets are lead-free.
  • Installation is single-hole. You can mount the faucet directly onto the Etre sink or—for more effect—incorporate a matching Etre escutcheon plate.

Etre faucets are available in five finishes, perfect for your best version of machine age modernism: matte black, polished chrome, ultra steel, satin brass and a two-tone combination of matte black with satin brass spray head and lever. The line also includes the matching Etre pull-down bar faucet and Etre soap dispenser for consistent style and the perfect touches of metallic contour, color and light.

Etre Apron Front Sinks

DXV makes its Etre apron front sinks in three different heritage farmhouse-style single-bowl sizes plus a more modern 36” x 20” double-bowl configuration. Each sink is “meticulously hand-crafted of fine fireclay with a sleek glossy finish” in traditional canvas white. The qualities of these sinks embody industrial purpose and durability.

  • Bowls are extra-deep—10 inches. The generous depths can handle even the largest pots and most extensive entertaining needs.
  • All four sides of each sink are protected by a triple-layer nonporous scratch-resistant, chip-resistant finish so that the beauty and functionality of your sink will last.
  • Etre sinks can be flush-mounted or under-mounted.
  • With drains offset to one side, you have more usable sink space and better drainage if you need to run water.
  • Etre sinks come with stainless steel protective sink bottom grids and sink drains.

Fireclay sinks are noted for their longevity, substance and quality. Their composition and finish allow them to withstand the worst messes, stains and use yet clean up beautifully. They’re often the signature piece in a kitchen because they’re so distinctive in purpose and form.

Machine age modernism is much more than a trend. It’s the recognition that function and form can be beautiful in simplicity and offer quality with longevity.

If you’d like to incorporate more of these types of products, appliances and fixtures into your kitchen, bath or home, your local Coburn’s Kitchen & Bath Showroom has design consultants who really know our product lines as well as an extensive website where you can explore your options independently. You’re sure to find exactly what you’ve been looking for.