Some folks contact Kevin Ryan because they’re search- ing for a battered wooden scrub brush to hang in their kitchen. Others are seeking the perfect rusty metal box to decorate their living room or a card catalog from the days of the Dewey Decimal System to use as a dining room sideboard. These may seem like odd requests. But as the concept of “industrial design” continues to grow in popularity throughout the nation, these discarded bits of America’s industrial past suddenly have become hot décor items. Ryan runs Urge Studio, an online Etsy shop. He lives
in Shadyside and sells to customers locally, but he also ships items of all
shapes and sizes to homeowners from California to Oregon to Texas — and
especially to New York. Everyone from Park Avenue socialites to Brooklyn
loft-dwellers seems to be hungry to add a touch of industrial edge and all-American authenticity to their homes, he says.
Maybe it’s because we’ve come to appreciate the beauty in old workmanship — the curve of a workshop table’s legs, the detailed patterns etched
into the metal surface of an aging sign, the subtle glow of a whisper-thin
filament inside an Edison-style light bulb. Maybe, after decades spent surrounded by disposable goods made from landfill-choking plastic, there’s a
growing desire for items crafted from steel and wood and glass that have
stood the test of time — or at least appear as though they have.
Or perhaps it’s about the stories. There’s something uniquely comforting
about filling your home with items that have a history behind them, whether
or not you can find out where they originally were used or whose lives they
might have touched before you acquired them.
As this decorating trend burns red-hot around the nation, it’s also being
embraced in Pittsburgh.
by melissa rayworth photos by chuck beard