She folds her coat neatly and places it, along with her purse and gloves, in number 14, one of the many small stacked metal lockers. She grabs her blue cotton smock and head scarf then makes her way to the factory floor.
First to arrive, she tidies up the work station by adjusting the pop-up arborite stools attached to the long well used maple table.
Flash forward 60 some years. What would Midge think now if she saw the same work table with pop-up metal stools in a restaurant dining area with the green lamps as “chandeliers” or the stacked lockers in someone’s kitchen being used as a pantry?
Reclaimed, restored and re-purposed, these vintage industrial pieces are being redefined for the modern consumer. Sleek lines with rough edges, industrial furniture that was once considered purely functional for factories is perhaps now becoming the little black dress of interior design. That is, the must have design accessory for residential and commercial settings.
Over the past five to ten years scuffed filing cabinets, galvanized metal stools and factory cart coffee tables have become increasingly mainstream and have slowly been taking over floor space at many antique stores. Scott Landon, from Scott Landon Antiques in Vancouver, is one of the few dealers locally who carry original pieces salvaged from North American factories and warehouses.
Landon loves how industrial looks and sees modern applications with just about any salvaged piece. “I just brought in a set of 1940s steel doors on tracks from my first demolition in BC in years. This will be great in a restaurant or in someone’s home.”
In fact, Landon was recently hired by the owners of a local restaurant chain to fulfill their vision of integrating original industrial pieces (factory tables, metal stools, vintage lighting), along with reclaimed wood, as part of the restaurant’s complete redesign. “I like being able to help people pull it all together” says Landon who is determined to show how we can easily blend the old with the new and still find balance.
When he first entered into the business over 22 years ago, Landon carried about 80 percent Canadiana and 20 percent industrial. Today those numbers are reversed and he couldn’t be happier. “Unfortunately, it has become increasingly difficult to salvage industrial furniture locally as not much was saved when many of the older factories were shut down” says Landon. As a result, he has established a team of people all across North America to track any upcoming demolitions. This is a very tight knit network and it has taken years for him to become part of the inner circle. But well worth it for Landon who is passionate about sourcing out new leads and putting together bids to clear out old factories for original furniture, hardware or other interesting industrial “artifacts” as he calls them.
Although the demand is quite high for authentic industrial pieces and Landon is doing his best to acquire, preserve and restore them, several other local antiques dealers have decided to go the route of importing re-purposed reproductions.
The Antique Market in Vancouver began importing industrial pieces around two years ago, and although not the top seller, it now represents 40 percent of their stock. “We did have some locally salvaged pieces” says Jim Wight “but industrial was a niche market and one that was pricey.” As a result, one of a kind pieces were tough to price and they found that many people who liked the look were unable to afford them and wanted more options.
Tim Garrett from Renaissance Home (formerly Antique Concepts) in Langley has also made a shift to ordering re-purposed industrial pieces from Indonesia and India. For Garrett it also makes sense to buy from these countries as “they are manufacturers of the world with a huge amount of factories and it is fitting that that their primitive stuff is being re-purposed.”
Whether salvaged, re-purposed or reproduced, vintage industrial pieces continue to gain popularity. And, with each piece comes a small piece of history. As Landon says “we are trying to tell a story and want people to understand what stuff went through, and what we went through, to make it work today.”