If you love the industrial look and want inspiration, Sara Emslie’s book Urban Pioneer is the best place to start. Sharon Dale reports. Photographs by Benjamin Edwards.
Artists and makers pioneered the conversion of former industrial spaces into homes and for them it was needs must. The properties were cheap and offered potential for those blessed with creativity and the power to visualise.
Now, those make-do-and-mend solutions to a housing problem have become a major trend in towns and cities across the globe.
Interiors stylist and writer Sara Emslie says: “The first conversions of factories and warehouses to residential spaces took place in the 1950s and 60s. A decline in manufacturing meant that many inner-city industrial buildings became vacant attracting the first wave of urban pioneers – artists seeking cheap rents and large interiors to use as studio spaces.
“Since then, ex-industrial spaces in many industrial cities have become sought-after residential areas and the trend shows no sign of abating, with a second generation of urban pioneers now converting warehouses, schools, factories, pubs and office spaces into inspired modern homes.”
Sara investigates how to transform non-residential spaces into dwellings in her new book, Urban Pioneer. She also explores 12 real homes that showcase fabulous interiors inspired by industrial design.
They range from a former carpenter’s warehouse in the hip Shoreditch area of London to a warehouse in Lower Manhattan and a school building in Amsterdam.
Those who want to follow the urban pioneers’ lead should check out the commercial section on property portals and on estate agency websites.
Recent rule changes have made the redevelopment of redundant office buildings much easier as they now fall under permitted development.
“You still have to apply for planning permission from the local authority but now it is a three-page form and a £195 change of use charge,” says Glen Harding of Leeds-based HeadOffice3, which specialises in large-scale conversions for developers.
For other non-residential building conversions, you will have to seek planning permission.
“This isn’t automatically granted and can present a major hurdle,” says Sara Emslie, who recommends “looking outside the box” when it comes to property hunting.
“As urban areas become increasingly built up and developed, finding a space to convert requires creative thinking and an element of compromise. Garages, small factories, schools and commercial sites all have potential for conversion into contemporary homes.”
If size is an issue then consider co-housing. This is a growing trend with groups of friends and like-minded individuals pooling resources to convert or self-build property. Check out co-housing.org.uk for examples of how this can work.
If you love the industrial look but development and all its uncertainties scare you, don’t worry as you can still introduce it into your home.
Its popularity has led to a raft of new products that emulate lighting and storage solutions originally created for factories and other workspaces.
“These pieces work perfectly in ex-industrial spaces but they also have the capacity to transform a comfortable but architecturally undistinguished interior, such as a new build, into a unique living space with a sense of history and a personality of its own,” says Sara.
Hunting for original items can be far more fun than regular shopping. Check out salvage fairs – like the Decorative Home and Salvage Fair at Ripley, near Harrogate, from September 8-10. Car boot sales, especially the weekly York Car Boot sale on the Knavesmire, can deliver interesting bargains and the Newark Antiques and Collectors Fair is full of exciting treasures.
The Antiques Curio and Salvage Barn at Four Lane Ends, just off the A59, near Harrogate, is a must-visit. Owner Rob Cain travels the world looking for salvage, interesting furniture, fabrics and curios.
For the best industrial lighting copies visit Yorkshire-based Factorylux (factorylux.com), which specialises in British-made shades, holders and cables.
■ Urban Pioneer by Sara Emslie with photographs by Benjamin Edwards is published by Ryland Peters & Small, £19.99. It is available at the special price of £14.99 inc P&P for Yorkshire Post readers by telephoning Macmillan Direct on 01256 302 699 and quoting the reference KC9.