Out With the New, In With the Old
So is the theme of steampunk – a subculture that began in the 1980s and comprises a unique mix of Victorian-style burlesque, industrial-revolution machinery, wild west, and 20th-century science fiction. Think Mad Max-meets-Sweeney Todd-at-Carnivale. A little apocalyptic but a lot of fun, you can whip up this look with leather, gear-exposed vintage clocks and old brass telescopes, a jolt of sci-fi weaponry and literature, and top it off with a dollop of goth-y cabaret.
Steampunk style perfectly lends itself to a sitting room, home office, or library, but can work in nearly any room. Consider these elements of the genre and discover ways to retro-futurize your space.
Elements of Style, My Dear Watson
A steampunk palette is based in browns, brass, and dark grays, with occasional black-and-white striped patterns and pops of crimson, but always in subdued tones. Envision a room in which Sherlock Holmes (the Robert Downey Jr. version, please) would be comfortable. Ways to anchor the space include:
Steamer trunks used as coffee or end tables or as nightstands are nearly must-haves in any steampunk-esque living space. Old books piled atop them give a nod to the literary aspect of this subculture.
Try partially covering or papering a wall with antique-style maps, line drawings, or diagrams of Industrial Age machinery.
Think in terms of exposed, raw materials and machination.
- Brick walls
- Edison-style vintage light bulbs in dark metal pendant lights
- Exposed gears in various clocks and decor
- Pipe framework on bookshelves, tables, and beds
Aged steel and iron should comprise other furniture such as stools, shelves, and accoutrements. Soften the look with fabrics and wood.
Whether or not you fancy a corset, top hat, and laser gun, you can nonetheless fashion your space with elements of steampunk style and make it your own.
For more steampunk inspiration:
- Abney Park
- The Difference Engine
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
- Shelley Adina
- Michael Moorcock
- Scott Westerfeld
- Next time you’re in Cape Town, South Africa, visit Truth Coffeehouse – a steampunk-styled joint voted one of the best coffeehouses in the world.