Published in the Winter 2012 edition of Vintage KC Magazine
Written by Michael and James Fry
Vin-tage In-dus-tri-al: Of or relating to items that exhibit the best of a certain quality, associated with or belonging to the style exemplified by factories in the first half of the 20th century. (e.g. – exposed natural wood and brick walls, bare light bulbs, muted colors, factory floor furniture, metal piping, etc.)
A growing trend in the re-purpose scene is that of vintage industrial. From loft apartments to your local Chipotle restaurant industrial décor and styling has infiltrated modern design. One of the first places that this aesthetic started to take hold was in urban coffee shops. Exposed brick walls, lots of natural wood, old drafting stools – these seem tailor made for the coffee drinkers vibe. Soon Starbucks even joined in the fray, introducing reclaimed urban wood table tops and reproduction industrial lighting into many of its locations. The style moved beyond the borders of caffeine consumers and can be seen daily in the likes of Dwell Magazine, Ikea stores, and a Pinterest post near you. Big box hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowes now carry an array of industrial style lighting options like cage pendant lights, hanging warehouse lights and even reproduction vintage incandescent filament light bulbs.
So now, you the vintage buyer, have the option of going online and recreating the look with reproductions…or going on the hunt for the re-purposed, up-cycled, and original vintage industrial pieces. Kansas City has a host of purchasing options when delving after those unique industrial items that are the perfect fit for your home or your end use customer. From local estate sales, to business liquidation auctions, flea markets & antique stores, there are many choices for the vintage industrial buyer. On one side of the spectrum there are companies in Kansas City (like Adventure Indoors & Edwin Blue) who purchase reclaimed hardwood beams and flooring from early 20th century buildings. They refinish the planks and resell them as flooring or craft them into custom pieces of furniture with vintage industrial style.
On the other side of your buying options you have garage sales, estate sales, and flea markets with the possibility of finding overlooked or underpriced items. Often these can be found in the form of old metal fans, wire crates, vintage letters & signs, safety deposit boxes, typewriters, light fixtures, and other similar items. A 1950’s working Vornado fan sells between $50-$65, metal crates and safety deposit boxes bring $15-$40, and condition sets the value with vintage typewriters. Cleaned up and fully serviced, you can sell an old Underwood typewriter for $125-$200. If you want to put in more effort than the smaller items require, and usually make a larger profit, you could also be on the lookout for furniture. Solid wood card catalog files can sell from $100-$1,000 depending on the number of drawers. Old factory lockers can generally bring several hundred dollars. Wooden drafting tables, warehouse carts, and typewriter tables are also all good reselling options.
For most knowledgeable resellers on the hunt for industrial items, one piece of furniture stands just a little taller than the rest. It’s the one that you are always hoping that you will find at a garage sale with a $25 price tag on it: The Toledo Drafting Stool. Brothers Clement and Joe Uhl founded the Toledo Metal Furniture Company in 1893. Over the next several decades they collectively designed a large number of furniture pieces, including their drafting stool, that are now associated with the vintage or industrial look. The stool was one of their earlier designs, patented in 1905 and first produced in two models: with a bentwood support and without any back rest. Manufactured during the early decades of the 1900’s these stools had a fully adjustable seat, back height and a rotating base, purposefully produced with heavy wood and steel materials to withstand lots of use. The original price: $4.50. Today the older versions sell between $150-$400.
With the spotlight now shining on the industrial aesthetic, we wish you happy picking as you look for that old wood, brushed metal, exposed tubing thing for your home or shop.