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From the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, to the Atomium in Brussels, steel monuments define cityscapes around the world. Invaluable for its affordability, versatility and strength, steel plays a vital role in commercial and residential construction, even today. For some, the iconic gleam of steel may have futuristic connotations, whereas for others it may hearken to an industrial past.

While the aesthetic importance of this essential metal is undeniable for urban landscapes, few would consider it a useful material for interior design. Fortunately, steel is experiencing something of a comeback in recent years, and is becoming a popular design option for its functionality and classic look.

Let’s explore the various ways to integrate steel into your interior designs.

Add a Unique Touch to Your Home or Office

While steel might seem more suitable for skyscrapers and industrial buildings, you’d be surprised how common a material it is for building homes. Steel buildings are long lasting and affordable to construct, and those advantages translate to the residential market. Steel, especially stainless steel, is more durable than other metals and resists corrosion, denting, and scratching.

Steel is also much less likely to alter in shape compared to plastics or wood elements. This means that any structural or design element made from steel will retain its shape, shine, and look for many years more than most other materials. This translates to increased safety for functional elements and to a sense of timelessness for decorative elements. Any steel surface or accent will maintain a classic beauty despite wear and tear.

Go for the Sleek – or the Industrial

Steel naturally lends itself to minimalist, modular, or industrial aesthetics. Nothing quite tops the sleek look achieved by the combination of glass and glazed steel in both skyscrapers or private homes. Reclaimed metal can add an interesting post-industrial nostalgia to downtown studio apartments and offices alike.

Steel can fit into many different styles of buildings. Because it can be molded into so many different shapes, steel design can range from harsh right angles to more natural curves. Some designers have experimented with steel archways and furniture along with more typical accents. Similarly, steel can be manufactured into a wide variety of different textures and colors.

Accents

If you’re not quite ready to make the bold statement of an enormous, shiny steel wall, go for the accents! Steel makes excellent, inconspicuous window frames. It can also reinforce ceilings and stairs or serve as guardrails along staircases or terraces. Some designers have even used steel’s reflective quality in combination with accent lighting to maximize the impact of small light sources.

Find the Perfect Combination

Reclaimed steel matches wonderfully with brick, and painted steel can also combine with wood ornamentation for a very distinctive look. Matching existing décor is also a breeze for steel, as it can be painted any color. Depending on its surface area, steel accents can emphasize other materials or stand out on their own.

Kitchen or Bathroom Décor

Steel tiles are no longer uncommon as wall or floor elements, and the rooms where they truly shine (no pun intended) are bathrooms and kitchens. Few things look quite as sleek as full stainless-steel countertops, and even a backsplash here and there can add a touch of sophistication.

There’s also the added benefit that steel is a breeze to clean! It’s the number one choice for professional kitchens for this very reason, and it helps make home kitchens appear more modern and so much sleeker.

Utilize its Functionality

Simplicity and functionality are key words when it comes to steel interior design. It’s easy to install, easy to clean, and typically will not require any extra treatment or finishing after being bought, unlike wood. Steel suits the needs of those looking to save a bit of money, as its one of the cheapest design materials around.

More importantly, steel is lighter on the environment as well! Steel and most other metals are easy to recycle, and you can even choose to use reclaimed or recycled steel to make your designs even more eco-friendly.

Experiment!

As with many aspects of design, there are few hard and fast rules when using steel. While it’s easy to see how steel fits into a sleek, contemporary building, it can be equally at home in a more classic, rustic, or traditional setting. No matter the project, you may be surprised at the iconic aesthetic this workhorse metal lends to interior spaces—not to mention the many benefits it lends to the design process itself.