What is Steampunk?
Imagine a world where steam power is the primary form of energy, where Victorian style is still in full bloom, and where technology is king, yet it is not the technology of today, but the technology of today as the Victorians might have imagined it. Add in a hefty dose of gears and mechanical parts, a large helping of fantasy and science fiction and top it all off with alternate history as it “might have been,” and you will have the steampunk world.
Steampunk started as a subgenre of science fiction and alternate history back in the 1980s, and was a fairly underground subculture until recently. Growing in popularity, steampunk is close to mainstream now; with clothing, furniture, decorating items and films all designed to suit the Victorian, but modern sensibility. Despite its climb to conventional, steampunk still relies on an individual outlook, a taste for modifying and adapting secondhand objects, and a sense of humor and whimsy.
A steampunk-themed bedroom – whether it’s the master bedroom, a child’s room, or a teen’s hideout — is a great choice for anyone who loves the Victorian style, marches to the beat of their own drummer, or just loves the anachronistic/futuristic/industrial look. So whether you want to go full-steam ahead into this industrially-vibed style, or just add a little touch of steam to your more traditional furnishings, check out the bedrooms featured here for great decorating ideas. (If you like the furniture shown here, it’s from Restoration Hardware.)
Subdued Color and Interesting Texture
The color scheme for a steampunk bedroom is not gloomy, but is subdued, as you can see in the wonderful loft room from Indeed Decor shown here. This is not the style for bright colors, wild patterns, or lively, ethnic looks. Colors that work well for this design theme include:
- Burgundy or deep red
- Deep purple
- Navy blue or grayish blue
Create interesting contrast with the use of textures.
Shiny, smooth satin, luxurious velvet and intricate lace all have Victorian flair and add spice to the low-key color scheme. Touches of metal, particularly brass, copper, brushed nickel, pewter, or tin are also a great way to liven up the room while keeping true to the steampunk vibe.
Shop Secondhand, Buy New, or DIY: It’s All Good
One of the advantages of a steampunk design theme is the emphasis on old, secondhand, or repurposed furnishings. Though you can buy brand-new furniture that is designed to look steampunk (Restoration Hardware is a particularly good place to shop for industrial/steampunk furnishings), there is no need to do so as long as you are creative. Check out your local Goodwill, your grandmother’s attic or a nearby garage sale for old-fashioned, but good condition furniture that will fit in your bedroom.
Some particularly desirable items are:
- A brass bedframe, sleigh bed or tall four-poster. Buy your mattress new however; you don’t want the health risks of a used mattress.
- A rolltop desk. A small desk tucked in the corner of your bedroom is the perfect place to write bills, use your laptop, store files or just sit and read your favorite steampunk novel.
- An antique chair to complement your desk. An ornate wooden chair with ball feet and wheels is both convenient and steampunk. A leather armchair with an old-school, gentlemen’s club style is quite steampunk and also a perfect spot to sit and read before bed.
- Old trunks. Your steampunk bedroom needs at least one old trunk for the perfect Victorian touch. Use a trunk at the foot of your bed as the footboard, and also for storage.
- A wooden armoire. Perfect for storing your clothes, electronic equipment or anything else that needs a home. Look for dark wood for the most Victorian flavor.
Have a good time picking out your decorating accents. There are no hard and fast rules to steampunk, and that’s half the fun. Shop garage sales, secondhand shops, and antique stores for items that really are — or just look — Victorian. Anything made of metal, with exposed gears, hands or other workings are especially good. Keep in mind a world where today’s technology looks like it could be placed a century ago.
- Your bed is probably the largest piece of furniture in your bedroom, so it tends to be the focal point. Pick out bedding that plays up the steampunk theme by choosing rich, deep reds, browns, or grays in a thick velvet or satin comforter.
- Shop antique stores, or buy replicas online of old maps to hang on the walls. Old globes are also appropriate.
- Fill your bookshelves with old, hardback books, and nautical or antique instruments used for sailing, predicting weather or surveying.
- Set an antique-looking clock on your nightstand. Go for a replica here, you don’t want to miss work because your alarm clock didn’t go off!
- Though you probably prefer electric lights, keep the Victorian, industrial age look alive with fixtures that look like lanterns or candles.
- Wall art made from gears and mechanical pieces is very steampunk, and you can create the look yourself with parts from a scrap yard.
- A retro or antique table fan will keep you cool in the summer, plus add a great steampunk look to your bedroom.
- Dirigibles are a popular steampunk theme. Find a model or poster of a Victorian-looking airship, and hang it on the wall or from the ceiling.
If you have an interest in reading some of the literary pillars of steampunk, both new works and the classics that inspired them, visit your local library or bookstore for any of the following:
- Infernal Devices by K.W. Jeter
- The Prophecy Machine by Neal Barrett
- Mainspring by Jay Lake
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
- The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
- Steampunk edited by Jeff VanderMeerStick with dark wood and metal for your accents. Ornate, curved designs are more Victorian than straight lines or plain styling. An ornate bookcase. You are going to need shelves to hold your books and various steampunk décor, so choose a dark wood bookcase with a touch of ornate trim.
Steampunk Literature for Your Bedtime Reading Pleasure
Enjoy reading while curled up in your reading nook in the midst of the futuristic and anachronistic blend that is steampunk.