Steampunk wonderama in a Massachusetts Victorian/arts and crafts home

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Reader Pink sent me a link to a story a couple weeks ago, and my jaw dropped when the first photo loaded:

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So, what we have here is a steampunk pipe organ desk. It belongs to Bruce and Melanie Rosenbaum, who, as I discovered through thorough e-stalking, have steampunked their whole house. Bruce was kind enough to chat one evening last week, and tell all about how his family ended up in a steampunk dreamhouse.


Soon after the Rosenbaums bought the house in 2000, it needed alllll kinds of roof work. It went deep. And it got Bruce and Melanie started on updating the home — they set a goal of one project a year.

They began with the bathrooms, completing them in a Victorian style with high wainscotting, new fixtures, and plumbing. And then came the kitchen, begun in 2005.

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The kitchen’s redesign flowed through a desire to mix Victorian sensibilities and well-made pieces with modern technologies — the Rosenbaum’s weren’t even familiar with Steampunk. WHAT. They started finding pieces they loved — like the giant JL Moth Defiance #18 (the stove pictured above) — and giving them new life. Erickson’s Antique Stoves modernized the Defiance, and it began the Rosenbaum’s “almost obsessive” exploration of the retro-future aesthetic.

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They moved on to repurposing a printer’s desk into a huge kitchen island. And when the kitchen was complete, it became a sensation with all the visitors. One day, a friend exclaimed, “Hey, you guys are steampunking!” And Bruce was like, “We’re…what?”

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So the Rosenbaums researched steampunk, and soon embraced it as a creative design solution — and they’ve continued on in their projects.

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In talking with Bruce, it was so fun to see how his family’s steampunking lines up with the ideologies growing in our culture over the last few years: doing it yourself, reusing, upcycling, salvaging, honoring craftsmanship and, most Offbeat Home of all — making your home reflect your style. He also turned me on to a pretty cool nod from Nowell Turner, the editor-in-chief of House Beautiful, who said in December steampunk is “what’s next” in 2011.

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So how does this stuff happen? Where do these new Victorian creations come from? Sometimes Bruce makes them, but more often he has an idea, then commissions the right people for the job. Melanie’s background is in design, so she plays a big role too — sometimes the pair gather pieces for a new creation and draw up their vision before handing the project over.

They’ve gotten good at what they do. In addition to his full-time marketing gig, Bruce now works as a steampunk object designer (and licensed contractor!) with their business ModVic.

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The family works hard to ensure their home is filled with beautiful, utilitarian objects — not museum pieces. They say the atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and visitors feel comfortable exploring contraptions and asking questions.

The next project is to transform what was once a basement summer kitchen into a workshop and steampunk showroom.

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Enough talk, though. Let’s ogle.

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Steampunk-Home-ModVic (14) has another album from Melanie and Bruce’s pad: you can take a closer look at the incredible desk here.

For more information on anything made for the home, visit ModVic’s resources page.

Comments on Steampunk wonderama in a Massachusetts Victorian/arts and crafts home

  1. Oh my fricken god. This is incredible. I really hadn’t been drawn to steampunk whatsoever until THIS! Beautiful house, outrageous decor… it feels like a Tim Burton movie. LoveIt3000!

  2. I absolutely love steam-punk style (houses, weddings–you name it). But the truth is, I do not really understand what it is. Could someone please explain its origin to me? I am guessing steam engines and history–but I am sure there is more…

    🙂 Thanks for your help.

    • Basically, it’s Victorian design sensibilities paired with advanced mechanical technology. If the industrial revolution took off instead of the digital one. There’s a lot of artistry, scrollwork, leather, brass, copper, exposed dark woodwork, goggles, clockwork, rivets, gears, and other assorted awesomeness.

      While I love steampunk, I personally prefer Diesel Punk, which is a tad more industrial and grungey.

    • Here’s an example steampunk lovers might hate: Ever seen Wild Wild West with Will Smith? That’s Steampunk. Quite a few touches of Steampunk in the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movie, too.

      Steampunk is fun because you can use it to reimagine almost anything: steampunk Disney characters, steampunk Monopoly, steampunk Star Wars, etc.

      A corollary is cyberpunk, such as movies like The Matrix: black leather/BDSM type stuff, cyborgs, digital implants, etc. If The Matrix had been steampunk instead of cyberpunk, the trenchcoats would have been brown and the Matrix would probably have to be created by aliens or mind control or magic or some other explanation that doesn’t involve highly advanced computer systems.

  3. Wow. My favourite is the print desk -into- kitchen island. As a letterpress/antique printing enthusiast, that is the most awesome re-appropriation of an old desk I have ever seen!

    Also, loving that he’s turned it into a side career for himself. Awesome!

  4. I’ll admit, I don’t get steampunk. I mean, I get that the lines and pieces are beautiful, but to me it just looks like old fashioned furniture. Also, I think the word punk has a negative connotation (in my mind at least). That said, this is a lovely home for sure.

  5. I LOVE it! I think the kitchen island might be my favorite – it’s so subtly steampunk but I love it maybe even more than some of the stuff that is more obviously steampunk.

  6. I went to the International Steampunk Festival in Waltham, MA this weekend and actually saw parts of this home on display in the Museum of Industry. It was pretty cool and I kept telling my friends there was a house in MA that was all steampunk.

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