Today I am pleased to have a guest post by Lev AC Rosen, author of the new book All Men of Genius (which was just released yesterday!). The book is a steampunk adventure inspired by William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde – specifically, their respective plays Twelfth Night and The Importance of Being Earnest. As you may have seen, I was quite interested in this book. I ended up starting it as soon as I finished what I had been reading and am now 40 pages in. So far I’m really enjoying both the writing and the main character, a scientific genius determined to find her way into an all-boys school.
For more information on Lev AC Rosen and All Men of Genius, visit his website.
And now – please welcome Lev AC Rosen!
So, I’ll be honest – I don’t really dress for steampunk events. There are a variety of reasons for this, but it usually comes down to nothing fitting me right and comfortably, so I just wear a vest with a pin on it, and look at all the people in their awesome costumes with envy. But I do know a thing or two about decorating a home, and so while I may not get to be all steampunked out at events… when I get home, I live quite comfortably in a world of mad science.
It’s surprisingly easy to steampunk out a room or apartment. Easier if you have a lot of money to spend, but even if not – but look at it this way; you get to wear those outfits now and then, but you almost always come home at night.
I’d say the best place to start is small art galleries and antique shops. If you’re in a city, leave that city for small towns – they tend to have the weirder stuff. For example, I bought this postcard at an art gallery in Chester, CT, and then put it in a 25 cent frame:
That’s the door to my office from the inside. Just to the right of the door is another small shop find, from an antique shop in Concord, Mass:
Those are actual medical slides from the 1880s, with handwritten labels. I had them framed with a glass back to give them a more medical board feel.
All of these were under 15$ (except the framing of the slides, which was a gift), and I love their uniqueness and how they give my office the feel of a Victorian scientific study.
You’ll also note in the photo of the butterfly postcard that I have painted the door in metallic paint and lined some of the interior windows (yes, my apartment has interior windows – it’s a bit odd, but I love it) which brings me to my next point: Metal Paint.
Lots of interior paint lines have some metallic options – but you should mix these to get exactly what you want, as often they’re a very modern metallic; pearly and soft, not the harder, brass and steam metallic one associates with steampunk. Anything in your home that should be or is metal should be coated with metallic paint. (Personally, I think this holds true even if you’re not going for a steampunk look). In most apartments, things like radiators and electric boxes have been painted the same color as the walls to make them blend in. But if you’re going for a steampunk home, you don’t want those touches to blend in, you want them to stand out:
(for those of you wondering, the chick-track on the table is actually a fake chick-track art project by my brother, who is in art school).
See how metal pipes and radiator make the room steampunk, but still elegant? Make sure the metallic paint you use compliments whatever other colors are in the room – the brass/gold color of the metal in this room would have been aesthetically confusing (read: ugly) if the walls were a blue-white, or a bright yellow.
If you don’t have pipes, I’ve been told (but never actually tried) you can fake them with PVC piping, sandpapered for texture, and then again, painted with metal. I’m not sure how the faux-pipes would be installed, however – I’d imagine that varies home to home.
Metallic paint can also be used on non-metal touches, like the lining of windows or doors, or small shelves:
They can add some real industrial elegance. But use it sparingly – too much metal paint and it becomes cheap looking, and clear that it’s not actually metal.
You can also use wallpaper – very Victorian.
I’m lucky – my apartment is late 1800s, so it has lots of old detailing, like the corner columns – again, I highlighted these details by not wallpapering them. Also, you can see the metal of the pipes here matches the metallic of the design on the wallpaper. If you don’t want to wallpaper, or your landlord won’t allow it, or you’re afraid of how to get it off later, you can stencil your own wallpaper – paint a basic coat of the background color and then stencil the pattern over it – be careful and use a level and a tape measure to make sure the pattern is regular. Using a metallic paint over a non-metallic base to create a pattern can be very elegant, and if you’re to be willing experimental, you can try using a texturing technique, like sponge-painting, on the stencils for a really worn look. If you prefer something subtler, try using the same color as the base paint, but for the base use a flat paint, and for the stencil use something with some sheen – it’ll create a fascinating effect, and if your stencil is a “Victorian shape” it’ll be both modern and historical feeling.
If you can’t find a stencil you like, you can make one yourself by drawing (or printing out) the image you want and “laminating” it by folding a piece of contact paper around it. Then use a pen-knife to cut the pattern out – but make sure to test this one first! I’ve tried some very complex patterns and found that the image ended up running – this will work best for larger shapes without too many details, unless you’re very careful when you paint (which you should be anyway).
If you’ve read my book, All Men of Genius, you know that I really love gears – in the book, there’s a whole wall of them. And luckily, there are gears everywhere these days – usually bookends, but sometimes as candleholders. Check out these gear candle holders I got from CB2, and gear bookends from Restoration Hardware, and another set I got just by googling ‘gear bookends.’
If you’re willing to spend some money on framed prints, art.com and other sites like it that specialize in poster-reproductions often have original illustrations from Victorian books. Try searching for Verne or Wells. You can save money by buying them unframed and framing them yourself. These two prints are illustrations from Verne’s Robur the Conquerer:
The lamp is a reproduction of a late-1800s American streetlamp from rejuvenation.com – a site that specializes in historical reproductions of lighting and hardware; expensive, but if you have the money to spend on one piece from them, it can really set the mood for a room or home. Just make sure you put it someplace noticeable.
Finally, there’s texture. The beige colored walls in my living room actually have sand in the paint; its hard to see in most of the photos, but here’s the closeup:
I think it’s beautiful, but my boyfriend points out it’s a pain to clean, and if you ever have to repaint… that’s going to be a lot of work. But I absolutely love the rough, worn feeling it gives the room. Ask people who work in paint stores about various finishes you can do that will make the room feel rough and old. There are a variety of techniques.
That’s it on my Steampunk Interior Design tips/House Tour. I hope these tips are helpful and inspiring. Remember, your home is your castle, and if you’re going to live in a castle, it should really have a lab in the basement, right?