Trend Report: Steampunk (Bonus Shopping Guide!!)


House Beautiful’s January 2010 issue features a neat little piece Today’s 4 Big Design Forces; which are: The Glams, The Ruralists, The Accesorators and the subject of today’s post The New Victorians (aka The Steampunkians).  For those not familiar with steampunk, it was inspired by literature written during the beginning of the industrial revolution – often featuring fantastical technology such as time travel (H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine) and resurrection (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein).  Steampunk devotees envision an alternative reality where high-tech gadgets, fashion and yes, even interior design, have been interpreted through a Victorian lens.  Imagine a modern day Sherlock Holmes who uses a way-cool laptop constructed of girded metal and featuring cranks, gauges and visible gears.

new victorians

House Beautiful Magazine's The New Victorians - January 2010

Although decor-maniacs and design-o-philes are just now seeing steampunk in earnest, an entire subculture has grown up around the style, and a quick Google search for the term turns up dozens of blogs.  Only unlike Princess Leia’s burger bun hair style or Spock’s uniform, steampunk has benefited from a convergence of trends: the continued popularity of dark colors, the natural reaction against mid-century modern’s seemingly ubiquitous clean lines and a populace who’s in a sour, Victorian mood due in large part to the still piss-poor economy.

Their combined effect may help steampunk cross the chasm to become a mainstream trend.  Like all trends, the style’s being interpreted in different ways; higher end furniture showrooms like Jayson Home + Garden have begun selling furniture and accessories with more Victorian details – tufting, curves and patterns.  On the other hand, I bought my black gauge (?) at the Chicago Antique Center on Lincoln Avenue for fifteen bucks.  If I attach this baby to a cell phone, I’ll be steam punk’d and fancy free.


The fact that I like this thing, which I'm pretty sure is some kind of gauge, proves I'm 100% man.

And of course, independent designers and artists are getting into the act; like Ted Harris recent lamps (pictured at Scout – above), which both have a neo-Victorian aesthetic.  Despite my general distaste for Victorian’s frilly, floral and all too fussy aesthetic, I’m strangely drawn to steampunk’s darker edge, and I love Ted’s lamps.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, my vocal disdain for trends is all talk, so I suspect I’ll be incorporating some form of fashion of new Victorian decor into my home at some point.  Will you be following suit?  To give your home a steampunk-pop (which is a great name for a blog folks – especially if the catchy name is punctuated like so !), check out these Chicago shops:

Agent Gallery — (Click here for Agent Gallery’s Strange Closets listing)

Architectural Artifacts

George Lowell — (Click here for George Lowell’s Strange Closets listing)

Ipso Facto — (Click here for Ipso Facto’s Strange Closets listing)

Jayson Home & Garden — (Strange Closets listing)

Lazy Dog Antiques — (Strange Closets listing)

Scout — (Strange Closets listing)

Urban Remains (Click here to read Urban Remains’ Strange Closets listing)


Students from the Art Institute of Chicago designed steampunk-inspired fashions.

And visit these links for more information about steampunk:

Oxford’s Museum of the History of Science wraps up its first steampunk art exhibit in February, so hurry over.

A steampunk home tour from Gizmowatch.

A steampunk home tour from Apartment Therapy.

The Steampunk Workshop is a blog about all things steampunk.

Steampunk’s Wikipedia entry.


Urban Remains lamp


Jayson Home & Garden Greenwich Chair


A steampunk house on wheels from Apartment Therapy


A steampunk-inspired bedroom - photo from


A steampunk computer - photo from Wikipedia.


Photo from Steampunk Magazine

Build a Wimshurst Influence Machine-final-2_html_m59e3f0c8

A Wimhurst machine from


Gotham by Gaslight cover

A classic Batman tale set in an alternative steampunk-y reality

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9 Responses to “Trend Report: Steampunk (Bonus Shopping Guide!!)”

  1. Don’t forget the fantastical installations at Salvage One like their front desk – they must have a Steampunk artist on staff.

  2. decorator dave 05. Jan, 2010 at 8:35 am

    I just got done telling people that I was feeling rather victorian these days. I am now the proud owner of a tufted leather ‘Sleepy Hollow Chair’….mayb it really is time to redo the living room.

  3. I have to agree with the Apartment Therapy people on this one – I’m trying to like it but not feeling like it’s going to happen.

  4. It’s a gas pressure gauge – measures pounds per square inch – which is extremely manly.

    Our bathroom renovation is leaning decidedly Steampunk. Should be ready around March or so. Come by and see it!

  5. Steampunk meets Decoratus Absurdam in the work of artist Christopher Conte [it’s well worth looking at every piece in his portfolio…unfortunately you have to click each individual link for photos]:

  6. Ooops…my mistake; once you click on the first piece you can move forward by clicking “next” at the bottom of each page. Super cool stuff…but it ‘aint cheap. The skulls start about $4,000 and the amazing Biomech Stainless Steel Arm is $10,000 [he is currently working on a custom arm-as-microphone for a big time metal band].

  7. Also, Dr. Grordbort’s Ray Guns from Weta make awesome accessories and can add an unexpected touch of Steampunk style to a space-age bachelor pad…again, each model is amazing:

  8. Je vous remercie pour cet article. Il était très intéressant

  9. Hello, All,

    Apparently, Steampunk is not only influencing interior design but it has also entered the arena of fine art.

    The Museum of the History of Science at the University of Oxford, UK is currently exhibiting the world’s first Steampunk Art + Design Collection. To date it is the most popular exhibit that they have ever featured.