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Steampunk Design Style Defined

Find out how to incorporate steampunk decor into your home..

By Lisa Frederick

Steampunk style springs from the literary genre of the same name that involves a blend of the past—most often the Victorian era—and the future, usually with a sci-fi or fantasy component. A relative newcomer on the decorating scene, it layers factory tools, industrial machinery, and other workaday objects into a more romantic, feminine aesthetic. Its name is derived from the steam-powered engines that predominated in the Victorian years, modernized with a purely punk attitude.

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The Basics

Stately Transitional Bathroom by Antonio Martins
Antonio Martins

Steampunk décor celebrates the industrial and technological innovations of the late 19
th century, reinterpreting and repurposing them with a futuristic spin. Although it feels anachronistic, its details and demeanor are anything but obsolete. It brings the legacy of the industrial revolution to life in an imaginative and vital way.

These designer rooms embody industrial steampunk décor:  


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Steampunk Industrial Lamp Sultan Jack
Donovan Design

Industrial elements.
Cogs, chains, gears, spools, and other parts and machinery figure prominently into this style. You'll find art, decorative items, and furnishings crafted from them, but you could also have one or more raw parts made into your own statement piece.          

Old-fashioned curiosities. From pocket watches to gramophones, obsolete gear gets new life in steampunk style. Display these finds in the same way you would more conventional accents such as vases and frames, or assemble them into wall groupings and tabletop arrangements.

A blend of hard and soft. Victorian sweetness meets modern edge in this look: from lace and tapestry mixed with leather and metal to baroque mirrors and ornately carved furniture alongside giant bolts and exposed pipes. The stylistic contrasts should be sharp, even startling.

Cog 3d Leather Wallpaper
Genevieve Bennett

Textural materials. Steampunk style is highly tactile. Bring in roughly textured or heavily embroidered fabrics, hammered and distressed metals, and crudely hewn woods, balanced by a handful of more polished surfaces. 

Whimsical themes. From time-traveling pirates to aliens invading the Old West, steampunk style often has a tongue-in-cheek flavor. Push the boundaries by adding a few fantastical notes through art, accent pieces, and fabric or wallpaper patterns.

Dark, moody colors. As befits its origins, steampunk style eschews cheerful brights and airy pastels in favor of a more somber palette. Black and gray figure prominently, as do metallic hues such as silver, gold, pewter, and copper. Rusty reds and browns also speak to the industrial overtones. 

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