Steampunk, Defined by the Master…

A couple weeks ago Sherwin-Williams reached out to me asking if I wanted to do a follow up Q&A with the genius Bruce Rosenbaum, the Steampunk Guru, as a complement to an article they were going to run in their printed magazine STIR. They also crafted an amazing video showcase the work of Bruce and his wife Melanie’s transforming their Victorian home in Sharon, MA into something that melds the history and ingenuity of the past with today’s technologies and everyday conveniences…

What is Steampunk, or Steampunking with regard to interiors, you ask? Wikipedia says “Steampunk refers to any of the artistic styles, clothing fashions, or subcultures, that have developed from the aesthetics of steampunk fiction, Victorian-era fiction, and films from the mid-20th century. Various modern utilitarian objects have been modded by individual artisans into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical “steampunk” style, and a number of visual and musical artists have been described as steampunk.”


To get a better sense of the incredible work Bruce and Melanie have poured into their home, check out the video that Sherwin-Williams put together here

So, I was completely in awe of the video and all that they had accomplished, but I still had some questions for Bruce…

Q: Is there an elusive item that you are dying to work your Steampunk magic on?
A: Yes – I’ve been a fan of the 1960s TV series – Wild Wild West since I was 7 years old. My dream is to find a VictorianTrain Coach Car, like the one Jim West traveled in and totally Steampunk it from top to bottom.  It could be converted into a clubhouse or restaurant infusing new technology, appliances and gadgets into the elaborate period Victorian design.
Q: Not all of us have the expertise or know how to re-purpose things the way you folks do, is there a bit of advice for the novice? Maybe a beginner’s project?
A: My advice for the beginner is to open your mind and think about how you can repurpose and give new life to antiques and period objects that are already around you – turning them into something else that you can use for today. When looking at older objects – focus on shapes and design and how they can act as the ‘housing’ for new technology and appliances. Start with building a Steampunk ‘assemblage’ clock. Use modern clock mechanisms, but bring together lots of Victorian pieces and parts (doorknobs, brackets, etc) and assemble them in a way to give the viewer the appearance it’s one big mad scientist, whimsical invention.
Q: Is there a favorite source for finding your treasures?
A: Brimfield MA does a major antique show 3 times a year (May, July and September) with thousands of vendors for a whole week of treasure hunting. It’s unbelievable what you can find there. If I’m looking for something more specific – eBay is the best place to go.
Q: How important is color in the Steampunk aesthetic? Are they true to the history of the Victorian era or colors that have been formulated for this look?
A: Color is important to the Steampunk aesthetic. Steampunk design favors the metallic colors (copper, brass, bronze, steel) and natural, earth tone colors – but with a twist of brightness. The colors are true to the historic Victorian color palette – but given more light and vibrant life.
Q: Besides Steampunk, what other design styles do you love? Why?
A: To tell you the truth – I’ve been spoiled with Steampunk (or Industrial) design and want to always be able to blend history, art and technology when I’m working on design projects. It’s hard for me get passionate about any other design style now unless I’m repurposing!
Q: The home you’ve created is amazing! Do you think you’d ever move and start the process over on a whole new “project” house?
A: Yes – we are on our way to becoming empty nesters soon and our next Steampunk ‘project’ house might be converting/Steampunking an old post office, pumphouse or fire station.
Q: What is the “next big thing” in the world of Steampunk? Are there trends within the trend that you see developing?
A: As Steampunk design mainstreams (i.e. latest catalog from Restoration Hardware) – you’ll see more mass produced objects and ‘faux’ period design of rooms and spaces.
However, I see Steampunk as a movement that offers solutions to larger conflicts in society  through recycling, reusing, repurposing and managing issues relating to ecology and the limits (scarcity) of natural and financial resources. I believe Steampunk design is about infusion of the best of two worlds, repurposing authentic period objects and the marrying of form and function. To make sure we preserve the past, while remaking our future.
My goal is to introduce the public to Steampunk as an elegant creative design solution – and teaching the importance of combining old and new, form and function, creativity and fun, reuse, restoration and reimagining of objects, spaces and our own lives. Maybe by thinking a little differently, architects, designers and consumers will get to see the world in a whole different Steampunk light – to remake and improve the world around you.
I’m kind of a convert at this point… I’ve always been intrigued with the whole Steampunk movement, but hearing all this firsthand from one of the pioneers makes it even better! Go out and pick up your copy of STIR where ever Sherwin-Williams products are sold! And to learn even more about Bruce and his projects, check out his website ModVic

Also if you didn’t jot down those fabulously rich colors Melanie mentioned in the video, their choices for hues that really speak to the Steampunk aesthetic are:  Loyal Blue SW 6510, Chamoic SW 6131 and Rookwood Dark Red SW 2801. Fabulously rich and delicious tones!

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So now, the real question… When are you going to start Steampunking?!…