The Industrial Revolution that gave birth to factories several centuries ago indirectly inspired a design evolution that remains strong today. The streamlined style began as a 19th-century engineering and architectural reaction against ornate decoration. Stripping away unnecessary ornamentation revealed the pure beauty of functional building materials. In the mid-20th century, modernist design visionaries applied this same aesthetic to homes and furnishings, solving design problems with classic industrial materials. The 1970s popularity of loft-living in old warehouses and factories widened the appeal for nuts-and-bolts interiors.
"There's hardly a place you go where you don't see something that was once solely industrial or commercial," says Joan Kron, coauthor of the 1978 book High-Tech, which helped define and popularize the style. (Think metallic finishes, commercial lighting, and restaurant-style appliances.)