Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Challenge: Steampunk Zombies for Twin Boys

To keep you busy while I'm gone, here's a challenge from a reader in California named Heather:

We got turned on to Steampunk and then your blog via a friend's wedding. They had a Victorian wedding (I made the wedding dress and my maid of honor dress) while another friend hosted the bachelor party at the CA steampunk convention. We went over the top excited about steampunk. Here's a pick of my guys trying on the garb I made them for the bachelor party....

The boys on either side are 15 year old twins.

Here is my challenge for your readers. The boys have never had a decorated room. We moved into our house when they were in 4th grade and I had all the rooms painted a bland off white to be able to change at a later date. We are at a later date. With nothing further done. One twin is a cross country runner for high school, the other one is #3 in the USA for Tumbling and Trampoline. Needless to say, we spend more time away from home than in it.

The boys are very artistic and love games of all forms. They would really like their room decorated steampunk with zombies as an additional theme. How would Victorians react to a zombie invasion? How would you decorate a room in that environment? What would your readers recommend?

15 year old athletic geeks who'll wear damask and velvet (and look good doing it)? I think this could be fun! Enjoy!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Triangular Smith Tower

I'm off on vacation, to the city that is the home of this find by reader Pica Maloria: Smith Tower.

See the little pyramid at the top? Someone lives there!

It's not quite as cool as a clock tower, but it sure has character, with the pyramid shape echoed by the triangular windows.

According to the architect's website, it was a caretaker’s suite and an old water tower enclosure

Find out more at Seattlest or at Castanes Architects.

I'll post again in a week! See you then!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Brooklyn Clock Loft

Brian pointed out another clock face living space (it rhymes!). I wonder how many more of these are out there? (and you'll help me figure it out, won't you?) This pushes so many of my buttons -- Turkish rugs, wood floors, old brick, and not a bit of modern furniture in the place.

From architect Michael R Davis' website: The The Clock on Old Fulton Street in Brooklyn Heights is a 1,200 square foot loft located in an Italianate storage building built in 1892 on the site of the Brooklyn Eagle Newspaper once edited by Walt Whitman. The most obviously striking feature in the apartment is the 10-foot glass and iron clock face, which serves as the living room window.

From a Time Out NY article: With the original scale and proportions restored, the sprinkler pipes, valves, and clockface, along with it's motor and steel strapping, fully exposed, the result was a return to a true loft space.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Townhome in a former Sanitorium

While we're browinsg the NY Times' crazy real estate features, how about a home in a former sanatorium?

This is the former Holloway Sanitorium, a rambling red-brick hospital built in 1877 in the English village of Virginia Water.

The clover shaped windows are original design.

Swimming pool in the former dining room.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Clock Tower Apartment

Laurie sent me this NY Times slideshow about an apartment at the top of a clock tower. Yes, those are working clocks.

Don't you wish you had an extra $25 million lying around?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"Slice of Life" China

You may think I write this blog to entertain and inform all of you -- or because of the accolades that come with being the world's foremost authority on steampunk home decor (cough _none_ cough) -- when really, I write it for my own pleasure and research into how I'd like my home to be. (Your feedback, ideas, and compliments don't hurt, however!)

Take for instance, this post I wrote over two years ago, on Steampunk Furnishings that don't exist but should, suggesting a line of plates with steampunk gadgets or machines on them. Thaumata was browsing the archives (and that far back shows some real dedication), and commented thus:

I have a crazy china set that I think you'd like. It was made by a company called 222 fifth and the series is called Slice of Life. Each plate, salad plate and mug has a different illustration on them of any number of oddities. Unfortunately, they don't make them anymore so it can be kind of hard to get your hands on them. There was an airship mug I never did get my hands on.

I frequently found them still at places like Marshall's and the like, being sold off from the expensive department stores who were clearing them out.

I always envision a red, black and white kitchen that has them on prominent display.

Aren't they wonderful? From the pyramids to a futuristic city, with an airsteam on the moon in between?

find 222 FIFTH SLICE OF LIFE at Replacements, Ltd

Monday, August 10, 2009

More Bathrooms from the Cabinet of Curiosities

Rebecca just sent me this link to some (more!) bathrooms decoupaged from Albertus Seba's Cabinet of Natural Curiosities.

Stone and his team prep the walls as if hanging wallpaper. They attach the pages with wallpaper paste and let them dry for a couple of days before applying a polyurethane coat, preferably in a matte finish.

from the Houston Chronicle: Papering walls with pages from the past

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Tin Tiles in a Bedroom

This is a very modern bedroom, but it has a fascinating use of tin tiles to cover an entire wall:
Alkemie: Kyle Schuneman - Interiors, Set Designer, and Stylist Extraordinaire

Edna W Lawrence Nature Lab at RISD

I think you'll like this video of the Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Out of Africa Decor

Living in: Out of Africa for all you who like the explorer steampunk style.

A great post of home furnishings inspired by the movie, from DesignSponge. Thanks Mikki!

Designer Lillian August

I ran across designer Lillian August in a post about the Hampton Designer Showhouse's pool house at Habitually Chic. Most of this showhouse didn't appeal to me, but the poolhouse had a number of naturalist touches, and I thought the designer would be worth another look.

These two pictures are from the designer's (online?) magazine.

A nicely done cabinet of wonders, with aged/antiqued wood frames.

It's been a while since I've seen the really big clock, but I like it here.

I think that's the best of the bunch, but you can poke around the website and see what else you can find.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bar or Steampunk Laboratory?

Did you know I scour Apartment Therapy for the word "steampunk"? Yep, I do. Just for you. And I ran across this post about the bar in Thom Filcia's weekend home that a commenter named Tiamat the Red thought looked like a steampunk laboratory.

I was reminded of it when Jon emailed me a link to this bar at Pottery Barn.

Similar, no?

And if you really wanted to up the laboratory feel, add in some borosilicate beakers for mixing and some more "worktable" style lighting.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Geek Details Room Makeover

We're going to try out a new kind of feature today -- the "make over" where a reader asks for help designing a room and I give it my best shot, and you all chime in with your opinions and ideas. This is a bit longer and involved than most of my posts -- so definitely tell me if you like it.

Amanda recently sent me a "cry for help":

I’ve been following your blog for some time and I love it. The husband and I recently bought a house built in 1929 and we’re in process of decorating. I love the steampunk style and I know exactly how I’m going to do that in the rest of the house (and totally plan on sharing photos), but my front room is giving me hell.

First, it’s HUGE. Way bigger than anything we’ve ever lived in (yay military housing). The room is 28 feet x 13 feet, has a ton of windows and entry points and serves no real purpose. We want to steam punk it but we’re at a loss on what to do. I’m hoping you can help me figure something out maybe possibly if it’s not too much to ask? If this was your room what would you do with it?

I told her this sounded like way too much fun -- decorating other people's rooms is a lot more interesting and less stressful than doing your own. So let's take a look at this room:

It's a great room -- I love all the woodwork, especially the coffered ceiling -- but it has a number of challenges -- it's so much longer than it is wide, the woodwork is very geometric and Craftsman style, and it's very, very white.

Amanda doesn't so say, but I get the impression from her blog that she is thrifty and wants to reuse as much as possible (and who doesn't these days?), so I'm going to look to major retailers and thrifty ideas in this project (which is what I do for my own home, too). Amanda is a crafter with the brand "Geek Details" on etsy -- she's been doing a lot of Alice in Wonderland inspired crafts, and I thought that would be a great place to start for inspiration -- it's timely, but also weird and Victorian at the same time.

Annie Leibovitz for Vogue

Poker Cards on the wall, from the now defunct BluePrint.

Still of the upcoming movie, from

That's nice to get us all excited about the possibilities, but the challenge for turning Amanda's room into something fantastic and fabulous is going to require a lot of detailed work. Let's start with the layout of the room.

For a room this large -- 13' x 28' -- the most logical thing to do is break it into "zones." The biggest zone should be a sitting area, centered on the fireplace. I envision this area as an "away" area -- a quieter place to have a cup of tea with a friend or to sit in the morning before the rest of the house is up. She should break her sectional up into something approximating a sofa and two chairs, face the sofa to the fireplace and flank it with chairs on both sides. (Yes, very symmetrical. Symmetry is good, especially for hobbiest designers or geeks who like math.) Find two end tables to put in the corners (and block the white sides of the sectional) and a rectangular coffeetable to put in front of it. (All three of these pieces need to be "heavy" visually, to take up space in the room and match the sectional. I'd scout for appropriate sized pieces of relatively plain design in thrift stores or garage sales and paint them black both to work together and to take up more visual space in the room.) Place the whole arrangement on a rug to define the space -- ideally it would be large enough for all of the furniture, but at a minimum it should be large enough for the front legs of the sofa and chairs to set on. I'd also add a tall, long console table behind the couch.

The second zone Amanda already has, sort of. It's the "entryway" zone, where you drop your bags, keys, and umbrellas. I'd move the sewing table to the right of the door (under the shelf) to make a halltree arrangement. I'd keep an eye open for an antique hall tree to put in this space.

I'd also move the umbrella next to the sewing table. The radiator might get in the way here -- for now I'd say 'ignore it' -- and put the table in front of it (it shouldn't block any of the air), and hopefully the tabletop is a bit deeper than the legs so it doesn't stand out from the wall that much. One of the things that doesn't work here is the shelf brackets -- the are a delicate iron, but too delicate for this large a room. I'd replace them with heftier wooden brackets, again painted black.

The third zone would be the corner and wall to the right of the door as you walk in -- I'd make this "library" space. Use tall bookshelves on both sides of the corner, up to the window. Fill with books, objects, even a stereo. Ikea's Billy bookshelf would work, or their Markor. Or finish them yourself from a unfinished furniture store. (If you ever end up with a piano, I'd put it in there.)
Ikea Markor
Ikea Billy

Depending on the amount of space, you might be able to add a comfortable chair and a reading lamp in front of the bookshelves to complete the nook.

With these three zones, we're left with one big glaring space -- the offset grid of woodwork that you see as you walk in the door. It's lovely woodwork. It's not at all steampunk. My suggestion here would be to turn it into a gallery wall and play against the grid with a looser arrangement of framed photographs and art that ignore the grid altogether. There's an incredible selection of gallery walls at Abbey Goes Design Scouting, and Apartment Therapy put together a how-to recently.

Ok, we've divided up the room into zones, suggested furniture and arrangements. What's left? Color. This room is simply too white. I've got a lot of different ideas here (I find color the hardest thing to get right -- I ended up hiring a professional to help me with it). One idea would be to take her color inspiration from a playing card, particular a face card. (We'll tie it all together in a moment when we get to art suggestions.) I put a face card into's Color Palette Generator to get us started:

The room's already got some of the basics here -- white, the red couch -- but I'd go one of two ways here -- either paint the entire room a taupe color (not that different from the third one down) and/or paint a lot of the trim black. (I'm doing this in my addition, so we'll see how it looks soon enough.) Once you start painting the trim black, it's going to be hard to figure out where to stop, so this would require a lot of thinking. I'd suggest starting with just the fireplace. You could also do the door. If you do the floor boards, I'd also paint that darn radiator -- you don't want it to stick out any more than it already does.

Another idea would be to tone down the white by "antiquing" it.

See this photo of John Derian's home -- the wall color on the lower half of the walls is lovely. I think you could achieve the same thing with Ralph Lauren's aging glazes. Here's an example of how good antique walls and black accents can look:

Interior by Tim Clark

And if those two ideas aren't enough, I ran across this project on putting painted embossed wallpaper inside of panels (like in Amanda's door or the gridwork wall) on Apartment Therapy a while ago and loved it!

She also needs to replace the curtains. I'd use curtains that start at the top of the wall (instead of at the top of the window frames) and ideally puddle on the floor. The goal is to make the room feel taller, to offset how long it is. Depending on what color walls she goes with, I'd either go for a red velvet -- Pottery Barn usually has some that would work -- or a natural linen or cotton.

Pottery Barn Velvet Drapes -- notice how high on the wall they are, and how they puddle just a bit on the floor.

Ikea Bomull -- they come long and you hem them to your desired length.

The funnest part of decorating a room is the accessories -- art for the walls, stuff on the shelves, tables, mantels. I think most of us start with this part -- but really, it's just what pulls an already well designed room together. For Amanda's room, it's where restrain ourselves from going too over the top "Alice" -- the goal would not be for someone entering the room to think "Alice in Wonderland, of course" but rather to discover quirky details that delight them, remind them of "something", and then have them figure it out.

For the aforementioned gallery wall, I would probably stick with plain black frames, but mix Amanda's artwork, her favorite pieces that are on the shelf by the door right now, family photos, and some out of copyright Alice images or framed magazine stills from the upcoming movie. (Again, it doesn't hit you over the head, but if you are browsing the gallery wall, it will surprise and delight.)

For the sitting area, I'd soften the red of the couch with a throw similar to this one that incorporates the red and the yellows from the playing card palette.

And add some antique linen or needlepoint pillows.

I'd use an oriental rug of some sort underneath it all. You could use a smaller similar rug in the "library" area to define that space. (There are tons of these everywhere -- garage sales, thrift stores, Craig's list, etc...)

Find some brass reading lamps for behind the chairs, and put a matched pair of lamps like these on the end tables. (I think you could make these with an old teaset, a lamp kit and a ceramic bit for a drill.)

Rest the empty frame off center over the existing mirror on the mantel, for a "through the looking glass" effect. Flank the fireplace with faux topiaries -- the topiaries for the Burton movie are fantastic and would be great inspiration. If it needs more, pull teacups and pots out of your collection of china and make a collection on the mantel.

The entry table could have a lamp reminiscent of the mad hatter's hat, and a topiary rabbit.

For the walls, blow up some playing cards (face cards) and frame them simply. You could even have an extra large set of cards setting out on the coffee table.

Stick a hookah in the corner. (Too much? Perhaps. ) Use a pocket watch style clock on a side table.

Whew, I'm exhausted -- that was a lot of work. Amanda, I can't wait to hear what you think of it -- please feel free to comment and leave questions. There's also a Kaboodle list with a lot of the links from the article.

Readers, what do you think? What would you have done with Amanda's living room?


Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin