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Steampunk Philly
February 28, 2011 10:08 AM   Subscribe

BRUCE ROSENBAUM and his wife, Melanie, cook their food on what looks like a cast-iron Victorian stove. But the stove, like many items in the Rosenbaums' kitchen, has been gutted and repurposed. There's a modern appliance inside that antique shell, a theme that repeats itself from the fridge to their water heater. "We created this romantic Victorian feel to it," Bruce Rosenbaum said. "But everything works." The Massachusetts couple have steampunked their kitchen.

If you are in or near Philly this weekend you can visit the The Alternative Living Expo at a local convention center. You can also attend a semi-regular meetup.
posted by fixedgear (113 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
You'd think The Inquirer would have realized that pictures are kind of the entire point of that story.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:11 AM on February 28, 2011 [59 favorites]


I hate it when an article talks about things without links to pictures.
posted by oddman at 10:12 AM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


From the photo gallery:

This couple had their steampunk wedding at Disney World.

Given the fake nature of Disney World and the fake nature of steampunk, that make entirely too much sense.

You'd think The Inquirer would have realized that pictures are kind of the entire point of that story.

Yes and no. It's an event listing, not a profile.
posted by Jahaza at 10:12 AM on February 28, 2011


Pictures of the house plus puppy!
posted by specialagentwebb at 10:13 AM on February 28, 2011 [15 favorites]


Rosenbaum said he was attracted to steampunk because there was pride in Victorian craftsmanship. Everyday objects were made to last, unlike modern technology, which can become obsolete in a matter of years.
...
BRUCE ROSENBAUM and his wife, Melanie, cook their food on what looks like a cast-iron Victorian stove. But the stove, like many items in the Rosenbaums' kitchen, has been gutted and repurposed. There's a modern appliance inside that antique shell, a theme that repeats itself from the fridge to their water heater.

"We created this romantic Victorian feel to it," Bruce Rosenbaum said. "But everything works."
LOL wut.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:14 AM on February 28, 2011 [10 favorites]


Yet another example of why Old Media is dying/doesn't understand the internet. Send the damn reporter out with a $200 coolpix camera and we could have had pictures of this kitchen we are told is utterly awesome.
posted by sbutler at 10:14 AM on February 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


Pictures of the house plus puppy!

I came for the puppy and stayed for the pictures.

It's a super-neat house. Sort of like the Weasley house, only with gears instead of magic.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:16 AM on February 28, 2011


I've been a staunch...not defender exactly, but at least apologist for steampunk for a few years. But a couple weeks ago I went to the annual model engineering show that I like where they have REAL steam engines (among other amazing machines). And there was a lady there wearing plastic "steampunk" goggles hawking her tacky wares and seeing it next to actual machines really didn't help her case any. (They also had a showing of steampunk retrofits kind of like these that were OK for what they were until you saw the prices the artists had attached.)
posted by DU at 10:19 AM on February 28, 2011


What's worse is that there WERE pictures, but none which had any relation to the story in question.

It would be like the NYT doing an article on Steve Jobs, but showing photos of Bill Gates and Michael Dell. "These people are also in the computing industry!"

Stoo-pid.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:20 AM on February 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yet another example of why Old Media is dying/doesn't understand the internet.

What's even more revealing is that it probably never occurred to them to do what specialagentwebb did and find a link to pictures that are already available.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:21 AM on February 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


You'd think The Inquirer would have realized that pictures are kind of the entire point of that story.

What are you talking about? There are several pictures of people on steampunkesque costumes.

You should also check out their story on how a Philadelphia graffiti artist has transformed an abandoned west-side factory with some amazing art: the story has some great pictures of his dog.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:22 AM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


The title of the post obviously refers to Steampunkphilly the award winning wax cylinder from Boys Unto Robotmen, one of the more popular barbershop quartets of the era.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:30 AM on February 28, 2011 [10 favorites]


Retaining the outside trappings of The Old and outfitting the innards with The New is just plain
tacky so far as I am concerned. Either decide you want what was or you want what is...It is Not Victorian just because the outside looks somewhat Victorian.
posted by Postroad at 10:30 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


The house is cool. It does have a magical, or at least fantastical feel to it, and yet it looks homey and conveniently arranged. I looked up "steampunk" several months ago when I kept seeing the word everywhere but didn't know what it was exactly. Etsy sellers use it a lot, and April Winchell has a category called "Not Remotely Steampunk" on Regretsy for items such as a eighties-era peach argyle vest that a clueless Etsy seller has designated as steampunk — heh!

I don't think I'll be getting into steampunk myself as the Victorian era doesn't appeal me for some reason — my favourite era is the first half of the twentieth century, when things changed so radically so quickly, and the period design aesthetic can often be employed just as it is. But I enjoy checking out steampunk stuff.
posted by orange swan at 10:31 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Typical newsroom fail.

* Reporter/editor think of a story.
* Reporter chases story.
* Editor assigns photographer to story, likely filling out a paper request for the photographer's services ("Please have photographer go to X address at Y date and shoot Z expected event"). In other words, the photographer heads out there, separate from the reporter, with little context of what to shoot and why. Note that the editor and the photog are working for separate hierarchies within the same newsroom, and they rarely share information. Why doesn't the reporter shoot images? It's not their job. Why doesn't the reporter work more closely with the photographer? Because you likely have a lot of reporters and a few photographers to work with them all.
* Reporter files story.
* Photographer files art.
* Editor submits both into the composition pipeline (page design, copy edit, etc.)
* Designer chooses what to use on the page (again, working with little context).
* Story and selected art submitted to Web content management system.

Voila! You have created a piece of shit. Now, repeat it all tomorrow until your paper goes out of business.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:32 AM on February 28, 2011 [14 favorites]


Rosenbaum said he was attracted to steampunk because there was pride in Victorian craftsmanship. Everyday objects were made to last, unlike modern technology, which can become obsolete in a matter of years. "We created this romantic Victorian feel to it," Bruce Rosenbaum said. "But everything works."

That's good, since Victorian ranges were inefficient, dirty and, if not properly maintained, had a tendency to explode. PBS' "1900 House" provides a good look at the joys of living with one.

That said, I bought a new Kenmore range recently, and the spark unit died two weeks later.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:34 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


BRUCE ROSENBAUM and his wife, Melanie, cook their food on what looks like a cast-iron Victorian stove. But the stove, like many items in the Rosenbaums' kitchen, has been gutted and repurposed. There's a modern appliance inside that antique shell, a theme that repeats itself from the fridge to their water heater

So the tear apart a genuine Victorian stove so that they can fit a microwave into it. The people at The Antiques Roadshow are not impressed.
posted by helmutdog at 10:35 AM on February 28, 2011


Retaining the outside trappings of The Old and outfitting the innards with The New is just plain
tacky so far as I am concerned. Either decide you want what was or you want what is...It is Not Victorian just because the outside looks somewhat Victorian.


I actually agree. I find the pictures of their house very strange. The new, light wood hardwood floors look weird. Having taken quite a few trips to the Ballantine House, and having had a few friends growing up who lived in historic-registry Victorian houses that had been restored, what always struck me about them was their darkness and the textures--the thick carpeting or throw rugs (necessary in places that didn't have modern heating) and so on. The idea of plopping down Victorian fixtures in a house that otherwise seems like any other cold, clean, modern, McMansion-ish house is just . . . weird.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:37 AM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm just a little sad that anyone would "upgrade" a stove with an electric cooktop. Electric cooktops, especially those wretched sheet-of-glass ones, are the perfect tool for making someone not want to cook at home. Of course, there's a plastic electromagnetic food-ruining machine on the tiresome granite countertop just next to it, so this is probably not a household that celebrates cuisine even on a basic level.
posted by sonascope at 10:37 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Irony - I know some folks who are looking at a new wood-fired oven, as their current woodstove rocks completely for heating their whole house, and why not have the ability to roast a turkey while baking cookies during Christmastime? They have a large property, and harvesting enough wood to last the winter is completely the opposite of a problem for them. They're about as steampunk as a Yanni concert on CD.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:38 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is really quite fantastic. It's cool to have a hobby you can share with a spouse and the work they've done looks really good. Bravo.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:38 AM on February 28, 2011


Well, I'm sure there have been multiple changings-of-underwears over at the BoingBoing compound after seeing that home.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:41 AM on February 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


orange swan: my favourite era is the first half of the twentieth century, when things changed so radically so quickly

It's OK, you can be a retro-tech-punk, too - Dieselpunk!
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:42 AM on February 28, 2011


Maybe they also have some "genuine" Victorian subservient servants to keep their dust-collecting Victorian crap clean. Looks like they can afford some.

Anyone who entertains a nostalgia for some bygone era should do some serious research on the lives of those who made things possible. Did the workers in the foundries who made those ornate cast iron stoves make enough money to buy one themselves? Did they work for slave wages in horrendous conditions? What about the miners who dug up the ore? And the environmental devastation caused by the heating needs of those huge Victorian houses, etc., etc.
posted by mareli at 10:46 AM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Winsome Parker Lewis was beginning to get very tired of sitting by his fellow MeFites on the internet and of having nothing to do: once or twice he had peeped into the article his fellow MeFites were reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, "and what is the use of an article," thought TWPL, "without pictures or conversations?"
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:46 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's a full tour of the house! No puppy in these, though.
posted by VelveteenBabbitt at 10:48 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]



BRUCE ROSENBAUM and his wife, Melanie, cook their food on what looks like a cast-iron Victorian stove. But the stove, like many items in the Rosenbaums' kitchen, has been gutted and repurposed. There's a modern appliance inside that antique shell, a theme that repeats itself from the fridge to their water heater

So the tear apart a genuine Victorian stove so that they can fit a microwave into it. The people at The Antiques Roadshow are not impressed.
posted by helmutdog at 10:35 AM on February 28 [+] [!]


I'm not impressed either. There's something very very special about people who are willing to design, fit and work within genuine period kitchens, laundries, bathrooms, etc. Sure the appliances were built to last, but frequently they're labor intensive, time consuming to use, and in many ways just not as convenient as modern gear (eg ryanshephard's example of exploding stoves). So folk who actually put up with all that in the name of maintaining a historical moment that fills some special place in their heads or their hearts deserve huge kudos.

Compare that with gutting antiques and stuffing em with modern crap so as to present a facade of the past, and all you've got is a cheap arse bunch of fakes.

Pffft. Rant over.
posted by Ahab at 10:48 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I was a kid on the ranch, my mom actually cooked on one of these. I like the modern world, thanks.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:48 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can't wait for HGTV's new show, "Punk'd."
posted by hermitosis at 10:51 AM on February 28, 2011


Anyone who entertains a nostalgia for some bygone era should do some serious research on the lives of those who made things possible.

I wouldn't assume that anyone who is into steampunk or period design isn't familiar with the negative aspects of that time, mareli. Embracing a certain period design aesthetic is not the same as embracing that period's values and morés and social problems. And especially in the case of steampunk, the movement is by definition about picking and choosing Victorian items that one likes and jettisoning what one doesn't.
posted by orange swan at 10:53 AM on February 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


gutting antiques and stuffing em with modern crap so as to present a facade of the past --- Life in the mid-to-late 19th century was pretty tough. Why would anyone in this day and age willingly put up with the shortcomings of ancient technology when all that really appeals to them is the look and style? To dismiss what they're doing is to also dismiss the gothic revival movement, the renaissance revival movement, and the resurgence of any other ancient style that's repurposed for modern use. Hell, half of Washington DC is built in the greek revival style. Do you expect all of Washington DC to wear togas?
posted by crunchland at 10:55 AM on February 28, 2011 [6 favorites]



Compare that with gutting antiques and stuffing em with modern crap so as to present a facade of the past, and all you've got is a cheap arse bunch of fakes.


But that's what steampunk is all about.
I appreciate it occasionally, but it has never had much substance. Maybe I'm biased because I've spent a significant portion of my life studying history, but I don't understand the hollowness of it. The world already had an era dominated by steam, making it more anachronistic doesn't seem to add much. It too often feels like a short cut - apply the trappings of the past, without stopping to understand how the past actually worked. Part of what makes their steampunk furnishings cool is the appearance of substance and craftsmanship. But why not go beyond the appearance of substance?

Looking at those pictures, I was constantly haunted by one thought: "This would be cool if it was just victorian, and they lost all the gimmicky steampunk nonsense."

I like K W Jeter as much as anyone, but the kitcshy steampunk seemed to pull the antiques from classy and elegant down to a more lowbrow, theme park kind of feel. And it won't age well.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:57 AM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's the Disney California Adventure(tm) applied to a private home.
posted by tommasz at 11:01 AM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


"This would be cool if it was just victorian, and they lost all the gimmicky steampunk nonsense."

Yeah, I'm no expert, but it looks like a mishmash of crap made of cast iron and brass rather than anything from a particular period. For example, I'm pretty sure that's a Round Oak woodstove, which are mostly from the early 1900s.
posted by electroboy at 11:01 AM on February 28, 2011


Retaining the outside trappings of The Old and outfitting the innards with The New is just plain tacky so far as I am concerned. Either decide you want what was or you want what is...It is Not Victorian just because the outside looks somewhat Victorian.

I agree. The "we gutted the outside and stuffed it with the modern technology", bugged me -- but not so much as the "then we also took some random elements of certain things and glommed them together to make something totally different because it looked cool" bugged me even more.

It looked cool, yeah. But it's not "Victorian", no more than taking the pitcher from a set of Fiestaware and upending it on a rabbit-ears TV antenna makes "an authentic 1950's weathervane" or anything.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:04 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I clicked on the link, saw the phrase so you want to be a steampunk? and had to close the tab immediately.
posted by fight or flight at 11:07 AM on February 28, 2011


Would Black Flag do any of this to their kitchen?

No.

Therefore, this is not punk.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:08 AM on February 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


Compare that with gutting antiques and stuffing em with modern crap so as to present a facade of the past, and all you've got is a cheap arse bunch of fakes.

Yes. Steampunk, at this point, has all the dignity of people dressing in Star Trek uniforms and building replica captain's chairs in their living room. Less, actually, since hard-core Star Trek obsessives would probably utilise the technology if it was actually available; the steampunk set have no excuse for slapping brass crap on everything.

But that's what steampunk is all about.

Well, of course, it was originally about imagining what the world would look like if we'd had a techno-political revolution in the early/mid-19th century enabled, in part, by Babbage's toys actually working well. Fashionistas spackling non-functional crap on top of modern technology is a later 'accomplishment'.
posted by rodgerd at 11:09 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


>

I clicked on the link, saw the phrase so you want to be a steampunk? and had to close the tab immediately.

Then you probably won't be interested in the next season of "So You Think You Can Steampunk" hosted by Cory Doctorow in a corset and a monocle.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:11 AM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


in a corset and a monocle --- Don't forget the fetish mask.
posted by crunchland at 11:15 AM on February 28, 2011


Sheesh, there's a lot of haters in this thread!

I don't care WHY they did what they did to their house, or HOW it was done. As was said up above, the place is steampunky and homey at the same time. It's unique, fully functional with all the modern amenities and frankly, I think it's gorgeous.

the steampunk set have no excuse for slapping brass crap on everything.

Except for the fact that they like it....

Sheesh.
posted by ashbury at 11:15 AM on February 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


There's a great house tour in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn where one of the beautifully maintained/restored brownstones has an old-school stove, upon which they heat cider or something else vaguely Victorian. Those homes are awesome. I went to school in an area with many likewise lovingly restored/maintained Victorian homes. I love the architecture.

This home is okay and all that, but having seen many beautiful homes from the same era I have to agree about the light wood being really discordant and the whole effect generally unpleasant.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:17 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait, they use Windows?! I can't get behind that.

Steampunk works best, IMO, when it's all about the shiny and ornate devices and fashion. The looks is incredible, so leave the politics and history out of it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:17 AM on February 28, 2011


It looked cool, yeah. But it's not "Victorian", no more than taking the pitcher from a set of Fiestaware and upending it on a rabbit-ears TV antenna makes "an authentic 1950's weathervane" or anything.

God help me, I'll defend steampunk. It hardly seems about recreating any kind of Victorian/Edwardian authenticity so much as fabricating a fanciful aesthetic that never was, inspired by the likes of Verne and Wells, and the interpretations of their work since then.

I admire the effort they put into their house.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:17 AM on February 28, 2011 [16 favorites]


Well, I guess I'm in the minority. I love the house, I love the passion that these people put into their lives, and I think you'd have to be insane to actually want to try to cook on an old, unreliable wood-burning stove which, as mentioned above, could easily explode on you. Why not have the convenience of modern life along with the charming artifice of the past, if that's what you want? I find the anachronistic approach fascinating.

Electric cooktops, especially those wretched sheet-of-glass ones, are the perfect tool for making someone not want to cook at home.

I have one, and it's great! Yes, I know gas is practically instant, but we don't have gas down here, and after seeing the documentary Gasland, I'm no bemoaning that. As for the cooktop, it's much more convenient to clean a smooth cooktop than coils and elements and saucers.

I know these folks have a lot of money, and probably most of us here would not choose to spend our own hard-earned dollars in the way they have. But so what? They have planned this out, and even made special accommodations for their dogs. Why not celebrate the results, instead of GRARing about "the environmental devastation caused by the heating needs of those huge Victorian houses," (which is completely irrelevant in this context, since all the actual heating is done by modern systems).
posted by misha at 11:19 AM on February 28, 2011


"Philly is no stranger to steampunk. Since last June, local steampunks have been communing in the DoubleTree of Center City ..."

I cannot decide whether this is either the least or most punk thing ever.
posted by zippy at 11:20 AM on February 28, 2011


Also, damn, that mustard/yellow everywhere is supremely ugly.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:20 AM on February 28, 2011


Then you probably won't be interested in the next season of "So You Think You Can Steampunk" hosted by Cory Doctorow in a corset and a monocle.

I went to a party a couple months ago and spent some time standing not five feet from Cory Doctorow*. Unfortunately, I didn't realise who it was until my friend mentioned him on the way home. I had nerdy steampunk blue balls all weekend afterwards. Alas!

*not wearing a corset (or at least, not one I could see).
posted by fight or flight at 11:20 AM on February 28, 2011



God help me, I'll defend steampunk. It hardly seems about recreating any kind of Victorian/Edwardian authenticity so much as fabricating a fanciful aesthetic that never was, inspired by the likes of Verne and Wells, and the interpretations of their work since then.


And that's a very reasonable defense, yeah.

And so is this:

Except for the fact that they like it....

Also, with that in mind, they should probably retrofit the dog to look like an aquarium full of electric eels.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:21 AM on February 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


Retaining the outside trappings of The Old and outfitting the innards with The New is just plain tacky so far as I am concerned.

I can understand the appeal. The motorcycle I ride most often these days was made in 2009 but styled after a bike from the 70s. Nice retro look with lots of modern features. I'm also in the process of gutting an '85 Honda Sabre and converting it to electric.
posted by the_artificer at 11:24 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


What about all the kids that don't have even one piece of antique furniture.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:24 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Retaining the outside trappings of The Old and outfitting the innards with The New is just plain tacky so far as I am concerned.

But we do this with everything!

Walking down the street in many neighborhoods and you'll see fake window shutters and vinyl siding made to look like wood. If you were to go inside you'd see flooring made of particle board and plastic that is made to look like wood. The design of everything is influenced from what came before, often taking directly from earlier aesthetics.

Steampunk is more of a grassroots movement, so we notice its shortcomings and amateur efforts more.
posted by ODiV at 11:25 AM on February 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm just a little sad that anyone would "upgrade" a stove with an electric cooktop.

I'm a lot sad. You couldn't go for gas? Or you thought the glassy contrast was cool?

Maybe they also have some "genuine" Victorian subservient servants to keep their dust-collecting Victorian crap clean. Looks like they can afford some.

Oh, just - yawn. I mean, how deeply do we think about the subservient factory workers who make our day to day crap?

I admire the intensity and the effort and the fact that they enjoy it as much as they do. Encourages the rest of us not to settle too much for standard issue. Not my style, though I'm intrigued by the aquarium full of electric eels....

What about all the kids that don't have even one piece of antique furniture.


What about them? That's what yard sales were invented for. Assuming they want such things.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:27 AM on February 28, 2011


It hardly seems about recreating any kind of Victorian/Edwardian authenticity so much as fabricating a fanciful aesthetic that never was, inspired by the likes of Verne and Wells, and the interpretations of their work since then.

Best explanation for steampunk I've come across.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan - there's not a trace of steampunk in my house and I find the literature to be mostly meh, but I do recognize something gorgeously unique when I see it.
posted by ashbury at 11:29 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hell, half of Washington DC is built in the greek revival style. Do you expect all of Washington DC to wear togas?

That would be righteous as hell!
posted by Greg Nog at 11:33 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


So not very righteous then?
posted by kingbenny at 11:34 AM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I guess my question is what these people do for a living, because none of that could have been cheap.
posted by valkyryn at 11:36 AM on February 28, 2011



It's a super-neat house. Sort of like the Weasley house, only with gears instead of magic.
*




*actual gears not included.
posted by eyeballkid at 11:39 AM on February 28, 2011


My girlfriend and I visited the Rosenbaum's Steampunk house last year when the town of Sharon was doing a set of old house tours, so we visited that house along with a couple of old places that were genuinely old but well maintained (ie. large homes dating back to the turn of the century or the 1930s at the earliest). The Rosenbaum house is certainly different from those species, but still, imho, worth celebrating.

Despite what some of the haters are saying in this thread -- none of their stuff looks 'cheap' or feels cheap. There's a lot of cheap, hastily assembled steampunk stuff that you can find at cons, but this isn't it. It's largely repurposed salvage. Massachusetts has been on a tear of gutting old factories and flipping them into loft condos or demolishing old department stores and leaving big old holes in the ground, and the Rosenbaums have just been scooping up whatever they can of that debris and making it work in their house. It feels respectful of an old aesthetic without being slavish about it; and most of it is somewhat functional.

(I say this having been exposed to a lot of steampunk after it's infected the Goth subculture and thus tend to be fairly burnt out on the overall look. I've never figured out why anyone would want to wear goggles on top of a top hat.)

Later that day, we walked around an old school that had been utterly gutted and turned into loft condos and it was one of those buildings where, if you never stepped outside, you'd never guess at the historic legacy of the place. That was just sad. If you like living in a place that has a sense of history, then better to have that history be in your home than just a superficial eggshell that you can't see from inside.
posted by bl1nk at 11:40 AM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


oh, valkyryn, from what I understand, the Rosenbaums run their own print shop. The entire attic area is devoted to their workspace, where they do things like print up the designs and documents used by various Massachusetts government agencies for things like utility bills and public notices. Not sure if they've had other income, though, but the general impression that I get is that grabbing stuff from salvage yards isn't quite as expensive as, say, shopping at Restoration Hardware.
posted by bl1nk at 11:46 AM on February 28, 2011


I find steampunk to be pretty meh-tastic but I thought they did a nice job on the stove. They did a very good job incorporating the new technology very cleanly into the old form of the iron stove.

In contrast, the big TV in the faux fireplace mantle was just tacky.
posted by GuyZero at 11:47 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


(It is pointed out that ad hominem and I are probably coming from the same place. My irony meter is off. No more comments from me today.)
posted by IndigoJones at 11:49 AM on February 28, 2011


I think it's pretty awesome. I love vintage and antique aesthetics but I love modern convenience and efficiency just a little bit more--I used to dream of getting a bunch of those mid-century style/modern-innards appliances back when I had a house that would have looked great with a big pink chrome-trimmed fridge, but the cost of that stuff is really insane. I love that they did it on their own, to suit their own aesthetic.
posted by padraigin at 11:50 AM on February 28, 2011


I don't understand all of these complaints about authenticity. I managed to enjoy a visit to the renaissance fair even though during the actual renaissance my ancestors were tortured and/or thrown out of Spain for various reasons. Might as well enjoy the simulacrum.
posted by betweenthebars at 11:52 AM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I often get mistaken for steampunk, altho I have never worn goggles or glued an extraneous gear onto anything. "I just like vests, dammit!" is my defense. However, them sonsabitches can craft like nobody's business, and the Steampunk World Fair is a hell of a bash (yeah, I'm going again this year).

That being said, this is the best summary of steampunk I've ever seen, and this is the best refutation.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:58 AM on February 28, 2011


Do you expect all of Washington DC to wear togas?

That would be righteous as hell!


Until there was a day with a good brisk wind. Do you really want to see, say, a toga-clad John McCain with said toga twisted up around his waist?

It hardly seems about recreating any kind of Victorian/Edwardian authenticity so much as fabricating a fanciful aesthetic that never was, inspired by the likes of Verne and Wells, and the interpretations of their work since then.

Right. It seems playful and whimsical to me, and those of you who are saying you'd prefer this couple had gone with an authentic period look seem to me to be almost missing the point. I don't think I'd like living in a place that was done in faithful period detail. It would feel like living in a museum. It would not accommodate modern conveniences. And it would be incredibly expensive and a lot of work to put together. And it would feel really slavish. Why not make your own home truly your own habitat?

My own house was built in 1912 and I'm gradually renovating and decorating it. I've tried to evoke an Art Nouveau feel, but I would not want to do it in authentic Art Nouveau style. When I look at actual pictures of Art Nouveau rooms I just can't imagine living in such a room. It would feel like a set piece and not a home.
posted by orange swan at 11:58 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also - all haters going on about 'oh how DARE they not be period accurate with the filth and disease and poorly engineered explosion-prone devices!' need to go back to the rennfest and resume bitching about how the middle ages were NOTHING like 'Sir Lance-a-Wurst's Sausage Castle and Beerhall'.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:00 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Might as well enjoy the simulacrum.

Perhaps I can explain. I just bought one of these lovely hand cranked coffee grinders. You can still get new and antique conical burr grinder that do an exquisitely nice job for under a hundred bucks. They used to be all anyone used.

To get a comparable grind from an electric coffee grinder, you'd probably end up paying three or four times the value.

With that in mind, what would be served by stripping the hand grinder down and shoving the components of an electric coffee grinder into it? I'd either get a worse grind, or end up spending hundreds of dollars more than I needed to.

Now in the case of their stove, I'd imagine it was a wood stove converted to electricity, not a coverted gas one. So we can forgive them that. ;)

But this is where the concern about retrofitting appliances comes in. Modernizing things isn't necessarily better. Although in many cases it can be. Anyway hopefully they were pragmatic and careful when they made the decision of what to retrofit, and what to keep in the original form. But the tone of the article makes it easy to suspect they weren't, whether or not that's fair.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:01 PM on February 28, 2011


Anyway hopefully they were pragmatic and careful when they made the decision of what to retrofit, and what to keep in the original form. But the tone of the article makes it easy to suspect they weren't, whether or not that's fair.

Yeah, and if I judged scientists based on the generally garbage reporting of mainstream media sites, I'd be a creationist.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:04 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]




Yeah, and if I judged scientists based on the generally garbage reporting of mainstream media sites, I'd be a creationist.


No argument there. But I definitely think this couple is being judged on the merits of the coverage, not on their own merits.

It's way easier to be indignant over the internet anyway. If they invited us all over for a couple bottles of 30 year vintage port, I'm sure we'd all be swooning over their leather couch. (A leather couch stitched together from world war one aviator caps, I'm sure.)
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:06 PM on February 28, 2011


If they invited us all over for a couple bottles of 30 year vintage port, I'm sure we'd all be swooning over their leather couch.

Fuck no, I hate port.
posted by electroboy at 12:12 PM on February 28, 2011


Port's OK, but a (real) IPA would be period correct and more fun.
posted by fixedgear at 12:16 PM on February 28, 2011


Eh, I like the Star Trek one better.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 12:29 PM on February 28, 2011


Retaining the outside trappings of The Old and outfitting the innards with The New is just plain tacky so far as I am concerned. --- It's called recycling, and now that we're into the post peak oil age, you'd probably do well to get used to it.
posted by crunchland at 12:30 PM on February 28, 2011


Those of you who dislike what the couple did to their house will probably enjoy this FPP, Steampunk and its discontents, which links to two articles critiquing steampunk.
posted by orange swan at 12:31 PM on February 28, 2011


Restoration/preservation of antiques and whatnot I understand. I personally collect antique electric fans from the turn of the century and back, but I'm trying to make them look as period-accurate as possible. So I guess what I'm saying is get the hell off my lawn.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 12:42 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Steampunk manages to combine almost all of my favorite things into one package. It's got it all: Fantasy, fancy dress, old crap, brass, leather, goggles, antique technology...
Yet somehow the package as a whole makes me want to throw up in my mouth and go crotch-punch Cory Doctorow.
posted by TheCoug at 12:45 PM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Can't wait for HGTV's new show, "Punk'd."

I would so watch this.
posted by reductiondesign at 12:53 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I want to roll my eyes at the whole steampunk thing, but the fact is that I work in a giant clock tower. There's definitely a common thread between the steampunks and myself in the way my arm hairs bristle when I'm working on the clockworks and find some particularly gorgeous brass gee-gaw that's buried deep in the machinery and yet has a little stylized swagger in its form. The main clock drive itself sits on a cast-iron platform with elegantly curved legs, painted in a rich green that's gone nearly black with age and highlighted with little gilded pinstriping that no member of the public would ever have seen, and it's still working well after a hundred years of constant operation. There's a pride in its construction you'd never find if they even made something like this these days, and it cost a fortune in 1911--about $3600 for the mechanism, the five-hundred pound pendulum, the weights, and the glass and iron clock faces.

I get why people love things of this era, but so much of it is just a veneer plastered over the mundane, gears decoupaged onto every surface at random, omnipresent big screen LCDs sitting awkwardly in repurposed frames, and lousy plastic crap hidden behind gutted facades. The drive to reconnect with what was wonderful and satisfying about older things just seems oddly misplaced when all we can do is hide our modern-day failings behind the empty shell of the past (sort of like that neverwas history the Tea Party loyalists are always hoping to recapture).

They're also alluding to the lovely 1954 mythmaking of the Nautilus, but with a kind of faux orthodoxy that just makes me scratch my head. If you're constructing a mythology, why assume that styles and aesthetics would have somehow frozen as technologies moved on? I want to see this house as something playful, but it's so much just a catalogue of tropes, duly checked-off one by one and laid out like butterflies pinned up in a glass case. If it's the craftsmanship, it should be more broad, more anachronistic, and more inclusive. If it's about Victoriana, it should be obsessed with odd collections and cultural appropriation. Real Victorian mansions weren't solely inhabited by the design aesthetic of a single moment in history any more than our homes are. In Victorian times, people thought modern cast iron and brass stuff was all pop garbage, and lusted after nice older stuff, you know, like they just don't make anymore.

Ultimately, the whole ends up being so much smaller than the sum of its parts, which is sad. A plastic 500-series telephone, a 1920s Emerson electric fan, or a Maytag wringer washer has just as much claim to be venerated, but we're just all about keeping things of one kind together in a sort of made-up orthodoxy.
posted by sonascope at 1:02 PM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Did the workers in the foundries who made those ornate cast iron stoves make enough money to buy one themselves? Did they work for slave wages in horrendous conditions? What about the miners who dug up the ore? And the environmental devastation caused by the heating needs of those huge Victorian houses, etc., etc.

I don't understand. You think we've stopped ruining lives to make stoves possible? Impoverished workers, endangered miners and environmental devastation haven't gone anywhere. The better off people in this world benefit from more misery than ever before. We just don't have to look at it now.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 1:06 PM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


What I want to know is, WTF is a "craftsman style Victorian"? (American) Craftsman architecture was antithetical to Victorian architecture. I'm assuming that's from the person who wrote the article; if the couple are indeed restorers (really, rehabilitators) of Victorian homes they probably don't make that mistake.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:10 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Would Black Flag do any of this to their kitchen?

No.

Therefore, this is not punk.


Sorry. That's a different lifestyle section: punk house
posted by ennui.bz at 1:13 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just got to the photo of the entertainment center cum fireplace. Ugh. Even on the Nautilus, a screen would look like a screen, not some other totally unrelated thing. But whatever. There's a guy outside the train window, sweetly and patiently walking and playing with an elderly dog, so my ire has dissipated for the moment.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:17 PM on February 28, 2011


Steampunk is a third stage of sign-order from Simulacra and Simulation. It is nostalgia for something that has never existed. Yes, there were Victorians. But not like this.

It's like Disneyland's Main Street -- not a simulation of any real place, but a simulation of something we wished had existed, or a feeling of something that had been imagined to exist. It's a copy of something with no true original.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:19 PM on February 28, 2011


That kitchen is primed and ready for some jaw-dropping feats of breadcraft.
posted by rusty at 1:21 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


The images section of the article is hilarious, after it finishes being frustrating (for not having, you know, pictures of the house?). It looks like some intern got the order to find four images to go with the piece, found one of their honeymoon on Facebook, and then just grabbed the first few things in a Google Image search for "steampunk" to fill out the rest.
posted by rollbiz at 1:22 PM on February 28, 2011


I guess my question is what these people do for a living, because none of that could have been cheap.

WI public school teachers, obviously.
posted by dglynn at 1:36 PM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


One of the most fascinating aspects of steampunk as a subculture is that there are few staunch rules and regulations. No cool kids can tell a perspective steampunk that they don't fit the profile. "It's the only movement of its kind where there's no barriers and no boundaries," said Mach.


Well I guess we dragged that claim through the mud and back again.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:36 PM on February 28, 2011


No cool kids can tell a perspective steampunk that they don't fit the profile.

I would have used the word "prospective" but I guess that's because I'm one of those pesky proscriptivists.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 1:40 PM on February 28, 2011


One of the most fascinating aspects of steampunk as a subculture is that there are few staunch rules and regulations. No cool kids can tell a perspective steampunk that they don't fit the profile. "It's the only movement of its kind where there's no barriers and no boundaries,"

And holy CRAP is that ever wrong. If you ever want to totally waste hours of your life, trawl any given SP forum. It's nothing BUT debate over 'Is that REALLY steampunk? Is it just post-fantasist? NO NO NO that's merely retro-pulp!' You can really see how it grew out of the goth community in that way, heh.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:54 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm just a little sad that anyone would "upgrade" a stove with an electric cooktop.

I'm a lot sad. You couldn't go for gas? Or you thought the glassy contrast was cool?


Or perhaps their house/neighborhood doesn't have gas?

My first house was a 1920 craftsman, but there were no gas lines in the neighborhood. So I had one of those glass electric cooktop ranges. If you're stuck with electric, you may as well have the easy clean-up.
posted by Fleebnork at 2:05 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I say it is your life and you get to dress it up and live in it any way you want. I think the same thing can be said of houses and furniture. Are we seriously the group that points and laughs and says that the people who are different are wrong? I understand the temptation to brand and ostracize those that we find different but it never makes us any better and makes the world a poorer place.

Also if a steampunk Republican furrie hipster is ever found you guys are going to explode!
posted by The Violet Cypher at 2:15 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Steampunk is a third stage of sign-order from Simulacra and Simulation. It is nostalgia for something that has never existed. Yes, there were Victorians. But not like this.

"A fantastic past that we can grasp with our imagination" seems like a fair description of steampunk to me.

Confession: I am wearing the non-steampunk version of the necklace in FatherDagon's link. Is it better with clockwork? I don't know!
posted by betweenthebars at 2:17 PM on February 28, 2011


Can't people ever just say "I like cool shit, I have heaps of cool shit" without needing to apply a name to it? I dig just about all the cool shit in that house and would have it in my own, but would I say I had a "steampunk oven"? No! "Check out my fucking wicked oven" is all that's needed. "Check out my couch and those chairs 'n' shit." "Oh awesome is that steampunk?" "NO ASSHOLE IT'S JUST A KICK-ASS CHAIR!"
posted by tumid dahlia at 2:32 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Hello, I'm looking for some furniture. A couch and maybe a matching loveseat."
"Very good. What style were you looking for?"
"Kick-ass."
"Excuse me?"
"Kick. Ass. Kick-ass furniture."
"... What I mean is are you looking for something minimalist? Late 19th centu-"
"No, no, no. Fucking wicked, kick-ass furniture."
posted by ODiV at 2:39 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like steampunk. I have no particular opinion about the house: some features are nice, some touches are not to my personal liking, though I presume the occupants like it. But I just want to point out that, in the first link with photos of the actual house (plus admittedly cute puppy), that there is a craftsman style house, not a victorian. There is no such thing as a "Craftsman style Victorian".
posted by eviemath at 3:19 PM on February 28, 2011


Except for the fact that they like it....

They are wrong for liking it.
posted by Ratio at 3:24 PM on February 28, 2011


I don't know. Having Victorian finishings and furniture mixed with modern stuff is fine, but this is something else. With all the fake exteriors and hidden junk, it would feel like living in Disneyland. Not very homey.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:52 PM on February 28, 2011


"Hello, I'm looking for some furniture. A couch and maybe a matching loveseat."
"Very good. What style were you looking for?"

"Whatever appeals to me, I have personal tastes, I'll just walk around and have a look at what you have since I possess legs and eyes and your furniture warehouse is not the size of the entire planet, I'll sing out if I need you, good day sir!"
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:56 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I said good day!"
posted by ODiV at 4:00 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anyway, I can understand wanting to categorize things. At the very least it gives me a word I can use to help eliminate annoying eBay and Etsy sellers.
posted by ODiV at 4:13 PM on February 28, 2011


Not very homey.

Yes, but they probably sanitized it for the photoshoot. It probably looks homier when it's covered with newspapers, the dog's on the couch, and a week's worth of laundry's on the floor.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:41 PM on February 28, 2011


They obviously have the time, motivation, and money to decorate their home exactly as they see fit--awesome for them! They obviously put a lot of care and consideration into it. Steampunk is sometimes very aesthetically intriguing, although I'm not into it myself, I enjoyed looking at the pictures. Thanks for linking them, specialagentwebb.
posted by studioaudience at 4:47 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


"My first house was a 1920 craftsman, but there were no gas lines in the neighborhood. So I had one of those glass electric cooktop ranges. If you're stuck with electric, you may as well have the easy clean-up."

Maybe, but for my 1911 house where I am stuck with electric, I got one of these. (It's actually from 1970! But it is cast-iron. These were made up to a few years ago and you can often find them on Craigslist. Our fridge, on the other hand, really is vintage. 1930. It's our regular daily-use fridge and it works beautifully!) Our kitchen is as late 20s as we can get it on our budget (which means we had to use IKEA cabinets, darn it) and it doesn't feel like a museum piece, it feels homey that way.

Anyway, I love their stove, though I am a bit disturbed that they had to gut a period stove to do it. And the tv on the wall... ehhhh. I am tempted to do the same sometimes, because having a tv on the library table in my Arts and Crafts living room is just wrong. But I think I'd rather have the obvious tv on a table than to try to put it above the fireplace instead of actual art.
posted by litlnemo at 5:26 PM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I got as far as this picture in specialagentwebb's link.

WTF spends that much time beautifying their surroundings, and then, when a photog comes over to snap shots for a magazine, wears jeans & a crappy t-shirt for the interview?
posted by IAmBroom at 7:18 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Camp is a vision of the world in terms of style -- but a particular kind of style. It is the love of the exaggerated, the "off," of things-being-what-they-are-not

From Sontag's "Notes on Camp."

I don't have a lot against these people, but still, there you are. If you embrace camp, you've probably got to expect to take your lumps.
posted by Trochanter at 7:25 PM on February 28, 2011


I want all the politicians to wear togas to work. To match the neoClassical D.C. architecture. They would not have pockets to put bribes in.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:11 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Have you not all heard of induction cooktops? Are they not a thing in America?

As for the house. It is not to my taste, but then, neither are a lot of peoples' homes. They like it, it makes them happy, the end.
posted by jasperella at 1:02 AM on March 1, 2011


IAmBroom: WTF spends that much time beautifying their surroundings, and then, when a photog comes over to snap shots for a magazine, wears jeans & a crappy t-shirt for the interview?

People who don't expend much time looking at themselves in mirrors, but spend a lot of time looking at the house they live in would be one possibility.

What is this, Bizarro Metafilter? Are so many here really bagging on some people spending their time, effort and money on a home passion-project that happens to be sort of a niche thing, and being proud to show off their work?

Look, Doctorow and plastic goggles and all the other trappings might not really be to our personal tastes, but no need for us to be assholes about it. Live and let superfluous-gear, if you will.
posted by pseudonymph at 1:41 AM on March 1, 2011


Birth of Steampunk? From Letters of Note (which is great, BTW).
posted by fixedgear at 2:56 AM on March 1, 2011


Have you not all heard of induction cooktops? Are they not a thing in America?

Induction cooktops are sweet, but they are mostly not a thing in America. They certainly exist, but are pretty rare.
posted by electroboy at 7:52 AM on March 1, 2011


Sorry, pseudonymph, but failing to dress the part for an interview is failing Interviews 101.

He doesn't have to deck all out in a velvet vest, pocket watch chain, top hat, monocle, and prosthetic brass hand, but... a t-shirt and jeans?
posted by IAmBroom at 9:03 PM on March 1, 2011


Hell, half of Washington DC is built in the greek revival style. Do you expect all of Washington DC to wear togas?

I was very recently lamenting the fact that although a rather large portion of DC has been preserved quite well and has absolutely fantastic architecture, virtually no buildings have even retained hints of their original interiors.

Induction cooktops are sweet, but they are mostly not a thing in America. They certainly exist, but are pretty rare.

Rare in homes, but increasingly common in the foodservice and catering industries.

I really want to love this a lot more than I actually do. It's like they paid huge attention to many very minor details, while losing focus on the big picture and completely neglecting other details. Like others have said, the stove is gorgeous (even though I wish they'd have installed modern gas burners into it to retain some authenticity), but it's right next to a black plastic microwave. WTF? Similarly, the floors and countertops don't seem to have been chosen with any regard to the house's other furnishings.

Overdone and half-assed. What an odd combo.
posted by schmod at 10:01 AM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


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