There’s more to recommend industrial materials than just their brawny good looks. When used deftly, and when warmed up by softer materials like wood or a touch of color, the results are striking, fun, practical, and hardy.

Off-the-shelf pieces, such as windows and beams, can help keep costs down, and often materials can be left untreated, as with Corten steel, the material originally made by U.S. Steel for freight train boxcars. Inside, a building’s engineering can be left on display, offering a modern aesthetic and extending ceiling heights with exposed roof structures. And finishes, such as stainless steel countertops, can withstand heavy and frequent use—in fact, you could argue that heavy usage improves the look of industrial materials.

Senior editors Amy Albert and Claire Easley contributed reporting to this article.