Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Victorian Gothic Halloween

Someone pointed that I had been remiss in my Halloween posts this year, especially compared to last -- who could forget Steam Pumpkin -- but I did stumble across a lovely set of Gothic Victorian Party Decor on MyHomeIdeas.

I can't get enough of red velvet curtains -- but tying them back with a noose is innovative...

Modify portraits with lace masks, decorate old spools with black lace for candleholders, use tarnished silver for a bouquet...

The best use of apothecary jars I've seen -- to hold creepy crawlies...

Many more photos and how-tos here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Q&A on M.O.N.A.'s Drawing Room

Kevin Derrick, the Project Coordinator for M.O.N.A.'s drawing room in the previous post, was so kind as to answer a couple of my questions about the room, it's contents, and the design.

What is the mirror frame made of?
The mirror is oxidized copper tentacles, made by processing wax forms via an electroform tank. The copper solution "sticks" to the specially-coated wax and when complete, all you need do is torch the wax away. Pretty cool, huh?

How did you make the chandelier?
The chandelier was made by Rebecca Pulver, who brings a wealth of talent to our group. She's the protege of Warren Muller (from bahdeebahdu) and also created the fire screen and electric plate covers too. The chandeliers contain the cast-off parts of other light fixtures wrapped around a wire mesh frame. The real difficult challenge was hanging the 150 pound structure from the vaulted slat ceiling. The genius of using steel chains at the top made it appear to be restrained rather than suspended.

Why all the stuff on skinny sticks? :)
Mass-produced porcelain came into the hands of the middle-class for the first time during the Victorian era and so I thought should be included in the room. We used vintage/antique porcelain and silver tableware on thin steel rods which references (maybe a bit too heavily as I'm writing it) plate spinning as a circus act, a huge pastime for families in that era. Too much?

The letters on the walls -- do they say or mean anything?
The letters are random except for spelling out the names of team members in key points throughout the room (Geoff, Emily, Robert, Schuyler, Kevin, Michael, Rebecca and Linda.)

How did you light the glassware on the corner table? (Showing off
clear glassware is a challenge...)
We'll keep that one a secret...

The Dining Room at Dog Haus (photo courtesy of Kevin E. McPherson at

How did you pull this off? It's a bit eccentric for the more
"mainline" style of the house (although props to the dining room...)
Props to the dining room indeed! That was created by my mentor, RJ Thornburg of bahdeebahdu. He coined the name "Made On North American" and is responsible for our existence in too many ways to name.... But back to your question- The PSPCA organizers of the Dog Haus were exceedingly gracious in allowing us carte blanche to create a memorable space in the home. While the owner was unsure of our direction and ability to pull it off (though we never had a doubt, haha), ultimately she was happy with the result as well. The other designers in the showhouse had some provocative elements too, though they were invariably more subtle than ours. Ultimately, our strategy was for people to talk about us first and then sort out if they agreed with our ideas or not... The best part is that the more attention the house receives, the better it is for the mission (and coffers) of the *extremely important* SPCA charity organization.

Thanks, Kevin!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Made on North American's Drawing Room

Usually designer show houses feature rooms designed in the most traditional and unrealistic possible sense (i.e. "The Girl's Room" is always pink with ballerinas, 4 books, and 3 sets of clothes.) Not so the Philadelphia SPCA's designer show house. Atop a set of stairs in an old Victorian Mansion lies the twisted traditional (if still unrealistic) drawing room designed by the collaborative innovators of MONA.

(Play the slideshow for lots of pictures and close ups.)

M.O.N.A.'s space, The Drawing Room, re-interprets the home's lineage into a surreal, neo-Romantic boudoir with references to 19th-century themes that include decorative lacemaking, silver gelatin print photography, the industrial revolution and classic horror novels, amongst others. In order to highlight the broad capabilities of our professional network, M.O.N.A. produced every single piece of furniture and the larger potion of decorative accessory for this room. Signature items include a white oak tete-at-tete, silver-leafed rocking horse/buggy, electroformed copper fireplace screen and antique settee with handcarved, painted wood and patent vinyl upholstery. A strong axis of half black/half white invites further drama into the space while likewise creating an innovative play of texture and pattern. [It's] intentionally-seasonal with its inspired lighting, achromatic scheme and Gothic influences.

The historic mansion is open for viewing seven days a week through November 9th and benefits the Philadelphia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tin Tile for the Dishwasher

RJ Gilmour commented with a link to these great dishwasher facelifts...

Chris Kauffman at Just Beachy created the first one

...a recent Home Depot find , plastic which looks like old tin tiles which I used adhesive to attach to my dish washer , I think it adds a little detail.

Linda MacDonald at Restyled Home made it a focal point with shiny "tin"

Simple, cheap, DIY. Great!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Holly Black's Hidden Library

Holly Black, half of the duo behind the enchanting Spiderwick Chronicles (the New York Post calls it "vintage Victorian fantasy," so you should seek out a copy for yourself or your steampunklets) mentioned her "hidden" library a couple months back, and I sought her out and cajoled some pictures (although truth be told it wasn't that hard...).

Our tour, guided by Ms. Black...

The bookshelf, closed

And now, slightly ajar

And now, open into the sorta secret library.

The secret door from the other side.

The hidden door is from and installed by our
contractor during the renovation. There are a few other small hidden things in our house, but this is really the most fun.

Looking into the library. There is a speakeasy door (ed. note: a door with a small window hole in it that can be opened to see who is on the other side.) on the other side, that leads outside -- the library is in the basement, but it's a walk-out basement -- which is why the library can only be sort of secret.

The fireplace surround is actually pressed stone. It's from They don't have the specific mantel I got any more, but it's a great place to acquire relatively affordable mantles that look like stone.

My husband wanted to be sure to include his WETA ray gun.

I can tell that a lot of love and passion went into this library -- can't you just see a hearty winter meal on that marble table, with a fire roaring and plenty of red wine?

I also wanted to draw your attention to the lighting design -- there's the great chandelier with the mica shade for style, but the library gets most of it's drama from the track lights that highlight the books, panelling, and objects.

Thanks Holly!

More hidden doors.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Escher up the walls and outside

Yesterday's Escher inspired housing designs were boring compared to these...

And molds for three wonderful concrete pavers, so you can make your own and tile a driveway or patio.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Escher on the Floor

Yesterday's library had a floor inspired by M.C. Escher, which made me wonder what else was out there modeled on Escher's work (even if he was too late to be steampunk).

The fundamental mathematics that make Escher's work suitable for floors (or walls) is that they are tessellations -- interlocking shapes that fill a plane. The easiest, and most popular, seems to be the cube tessellation that we saw yesterday. I found it done in concrete, in carpet, in parquet, and in stone tile.

concrete stain by Tom Ralston Concrete

Carpet at the Morgan's Hotel in NYC. Here's a similar rug.

Parquet at the Hotel Palomar

A quick review of the Sunshine City floor in Tokyo, above, makes it easy to see how to constuct this tessellation from simple squares. You need three colors. Four squares of the lightest makes up the top of the cube, and then each side is made up of one whole square with two half squares finishing it up. It's all done on a grid, so while you might get dizzy installing it, it wouldn't be too hard.

Tomorrow: even more Escher for the home.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Jay Walker's Library

You *must* go see Wired Magazine's article on Jay Walker's library. Sputnik? Check. Original Anatomia Universa? Yep. Old surgical instruments? You bet. TRS-80 and the WWII Enigma machine? Wouldn't miss 'em.

The etched glass balustrades with all sorts of scientific references are wonderful, as is the Escher like tile floor (about the only thing here that is recreatable on a professionals budget, instead of a Priceline founder's budget...)

Any area of scientific inquiry can be found here, collected in a beautiful setting that shows just what treasures they are.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Steampunk USB Drives

I try to keep The Steampunk Home, well, "home" focused, and USB drives are a bit outside of the home. (Mine are most in use when I'm *away* from my home.) but these two were too good not to share.

Carl Ulrich sent me this one:

I took an old flash drive and with the aid of a 2 dollar cigar for the
glass tube I made my own vacuum tube flash drive. The entire project
took under an hour and costs under 5 dollars.

I love simple steampunk projects!

This one, made by Dave Barton's dad, is not so simple, but oh so beautiful:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Steampunk Pirates?

Kaja Foglio (of Girl Genius) recently had a link to this fun article on the popularity of Steampunk at Wierd Tales. A couple key bits

It’s not just cool because it’s trendy — it’s cool because it’s inspirational.

Like being Goth without scaring your parents.... Whereas steampunks are — what? Weirdoes who take pocket-watches too seriously? What are they gonna do, vehemently tell you what time it is?

And the whole reason I'm quoting this:
[I]n practice, writers and artists and filmmakers and musicians are all starting with this basic aesthetic and then mixing in some fantasy, some horror, some superheroics. We’re seeing steampunk pirates, steampunk faeries, steampunk Wonder Woman, steampunk Cthulhu cultists.

Steampunk Pirates? Really? (cackle) Just the excuse I needed to get these ideas on pirate decor posted.... I don't really think they are steampunk, but I enjoy them and hope you do as well.

Let's start with options for a kid's room.

Beds! I was astounded at how many different types of children's pirate beds were available!

This one at Rooms To Go was my favorite

For adults, there's some pirate looking pieces like the Taka Trunk coffee table at Crate and Barrel:

Or use this barrel bedside table from Rooms To Go as a side table.

There's even a Cavalier door available -- a house in my neighborhood has this one, and it works surprisingly well on a apanish style ranch house.

The key thing to remember here is to "avoid kitsch" -- your goal is not to fill your home with pictures of pirates, but to project what a pirate of taste would surround him or herself with to remind them of their adventures...

What do you think? Can pirates be steampunk?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Forgotten Beauty: Julie Shiel Photography

Yikes -- sorry for the two week hiatus, but when life and work get busy, my blogging suffers.

Julie Shiel takes photographs of the abandoned and decrepit, and in the process makes art that reminds us that no matter how well built or beautiful, without care and attention things disintegrate into nothingness. To me, they seem to be the real life counterpart to Tuomas Korpi's fantasy interiors.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ron Pippin's Skeletal Taxidermy Art

The Laboratory

Ron Pippin works in skeletons and other remains, combining them with vintage science and electrical components in ways that are intriguing and creepy.

Rattus Rattus

His artist statement is a bit too pretentious for me to quote here, but you can find it and many more examples of his work at Obsolete, Inc.


Monday, October 6, 2008

Spider Web Chandelier

Here's a kitchen/dining room from Metropolitan Home, July/August 2007. The fixture reminds me of the Edison Chandelier by Pottery Barn (although surely that is a knock off of this?). I love how it feels like a spider web. This doesn't seem that hard to build yourself -- I'm wondering if I have a room it would suit.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Dark Style Blog

I stumbled across Penny Dreadful's Dark Style blog last week when she had a post featuring The Steampunk Home, and I've spent a delightful hour browsing her archives. I think if you like SPH, you may like Dark Style as well.

A few of my favorites:

I'd like to read more of Penny's Dark Style, so check out Dark Style and encourage her to keep posting.

Friday, October 3, 2008


If you plan to be in the Chicago area anytime from now to next March, check out the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre at the Museum of Science and Industry.

This temporary exhibit features a collection of 20 mechanical sculptures, called automata, which are intricately designed and full of humor. Their humor is brought to life by tiny cranks, pulleys and gears that allow the sculptures to move and take action.

Thanks to Jill Murtagh for sharing this!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

RetroFuturistic Travel Posters for your Home

Brass Goggles has a post today on the art of Steve Thomas, featuring his retro-futuristic travel art. What they failed to mention, however, was that you can buy this art for a quite reasonable price on Zazzle.

My favorite is Sail Neptune.

Prices start at $11.95 for a small portfolio print on poster paper, and goes up from there for various other options. Probably the best deal is the calendar with 12 of these prints for around $30.


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