Back to the Basics

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John Wooden-designed interior
Exposed beams and raw metal fixtures are among the industrial touches in this home designed by John Wooden.

Industrial design elements like wood beams and steel bring a touch of urban edge to modern homes.

By Lisa Hallett Taylor


Those exposed beams and concrete floors that decorate restaurants and boutiques all over town have found their way into local homes as well. The look is urban industrial, which strips away all of those expensive materials to reveal the true bones of a structure. Industrial design plays up authentic materials like wood, glass, concrete and steel—it’s the antithesis of a feminine, shabby chic cottage.

The look’s origins come from adaptive use of repurposed buildings, transforming things like old warehouses or factories into brewpubs and lofts. Laguna Beach interior designer John Wooden, grandson of the legendary basketball coach, incorporates a variety of industrial features in his local commerical and residential designs.

“I think it’s a style that’s timeless and truthful,” Wooden says. “Laguna Beach is all about nature and there’s a similar element to industrial design, which uses natural materials. It also can be a more economical way to build, because you aren’t covering up the structural elements with drywall and flooring.”

In addition to being more economical, some industrial design elements can provide a modern aesthetic that is still comfortable and endearing. Wooden suggests using signature components like exposed beams, raw steel doors and windows, cinder block walls, metal with a patina, polished concrete flooring and even exposed ductwork or pipes.

While working on a Laguna Beach cottage formerly owned by Dana Marron, co-owner of Laguna Supply clothing store, Wooden added plenty of industrial touches, from raw brass fixtures and steel doors to an industrial wall-mount, clean-up style sink in her son’s bathroom and a surface-mount barn door with exposed hardware in place of a pocket door for the boy’s bedroom.

Wooden views urban industrial as a bridge from the interior to the exterior, or vice versa. The materials tie in with decor that is often used outside, like concrete pavers, along with landscaping and architectural elements.

Overlooking the beach in Laguna’s Rockledge neighborhood, the Towfiq house is another home that displays authentic materials, incorporating them in unique ways. Designed by the late Laguna Beach architect Mark Singer, this house was another project that Wooden worked on. He says that the famed designer celebrated authentic, industrial materials and incorporated them in unique ways, causing Singer’s structures to blend perfectly with nature, using things like concrete, cinder block and exposed steel. “I think he kind of brought this look to Laguna,” Wooden adds. The walls of the Towfiq house are board-formed concrete, a process in which the grain texture from a wooden plank is imprinted on concrete surfaces, giving them a more organic look.

Wooden was also a part of the team responsible for designing A’Maree’s, an upscale clothing boutique in Newport Beach, working on lighting, finishes and some cabinetry within the shop. The iconic modernist building was designed in the 1960s and formerly housed a variety of restaurants before sitting vacant for 13 years.

“We stripped it down to expose its architecture,” Wooden recalls. “Before, it was all covered with drywall and dropped ceilings, so we took the concrete slabs and grinded them down and polished them up to create a very chic space. We kind of brought the outdoors in … into the materials, which are raw and exposed.”

Like any design style, urban industrial elements need to be carefully thought out before taking a sledgehammer to your walls. “I’m not a big fan of the whole feng shui thing—some people get really caught up in it—but there needs to be a balance of wood, glass, steel and stone in projects,” Wooden explains. “Maybe you already have all of those things. But in industrial design, you need to learn how to effectively balance those true elements.”


Industrialize Your Home

These must-have pieces, available at local stores, will give your abode that industrial look in no time flat.


Seek out a mix of vintage and modern fixtures and furnishings to achieve a truly authentic look.


Aero home

These five-gallon GLASS WATER JUGS, reproductions made from molds of industrial jugs that were once used for alcohol fermentation, are perfect for pouring drinks but can also be repurposed as a vase, $128, at Areo. (949-376-0535;


silver brick wall paper

Skip the remodel and get an exposed brick look with Piet Hein Eek and NLXL’s SILVER GREY BRICK WALLPAPER. The silver tone will pick up any metal accents you have already added, $299, available with advance order at Vertigo Home. (949-494-7547;


Coil Stool

With an iron pipe spiral base and a textured cast iron seat, the INDUSTRIAL COIL STOOL is a great addition for adding urban influences to a modern home, $525, available with advance order at RH, Fashion Island, Newport Beach. (949-760-9232;


Crate and Barrel

Add some industrial flair to your walls with the CIRCUIT METAL WALL CANDLE HOLDER, which combines an antiqued bronze geometric design with 14 glass votives of various sizes, $169, at Crate & Barrel, South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa. (714-825-0060;

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