Author: Jake Von Slatt
If you dropped by my house you’d probably be disappointed. Because (with the exception of my office, which is more post-apocalytic than anything else) it’s simply not very steampunk. I do have plans, but none have come to fruition. However, a couple of weeks ago I was invited by Bruce Rosenbaum to visit his home in Sharon, Massachusetts and what I found there was just stunning!
Bruce and Melanie Rosenbaum started ModVic (Modern Victorian) Home Restoration in June 2007 and have now moved onto steampunk Home Design. ModVic’s mission is to authentically restore historic Victorian homes (1850 – 1910) to their original beauty and richness while completely modernizing the home’s systems, functional layout and conveniences for the family of today (sound familiar?). Bruce and Melanie also love the steampunk design aesthetic of combining the best of Victorian high design and craftsmanship with modern functionality and usefulness.
Bruce’s home is a Craftsman style Victorian built in 1901. It has a great deal of history associated with it and Bruce has filled it with unusual Craftsman era antiques. But we’re interested in steampunk here rather than the merely historical so I’m going to gloss over almost all of that and get to the mods and the steampunk art!
We’ll start the tour in Bruce’s kitchen with a lovely Victorian heater restored by David Erickson, a local craftsman and restorer of antique stoves who’s workshop is just down the street from my own. David did a fabulous job restoring this wonderful old stove, repainting the iron and cleaning and re-plating the nickel brightwork. In addition, he added a firebrick lining in places so the stove will continue to burn well and should last for decades to come.
Bruce designed and built the fire-back and hearth to compliment the stove and installed the back-lit stained glass windows to brighten the entire kitchen.
The hearth is cultured stone done by Brendan Mostecki of Cultured Masonry. The look of the stone matches closely to the real fieldstone on the outside of the house. The stain glass was salvaged from a home in New York that was being demolished. The panels are from the entryway of the home and Bruce turned them on their sides to fit above the fire back.
The center of the kitchen is dominated by an antique printer’s bench topped with engineered quartz stone. The bench wasn’t quite large enough to fit the space so Bruce found a salvaged pedestal from a girl’s school near Boston and used it to extend the bench. The pedestal is actually the dog’s food storage bin. The wide flat drawers of the bench were already ideal for kitchen utensils and have just been repartition into appropriate sized sections for cutlery and sundry implements.
Quarters where a bit tight and I had to crouch in the corner to get this shot, as I was taking it I felt something poking at my backside and turned in time to catch the perpetrator! A big fluffy pup–one of two big white Samoyeds named Zasha and Kolya–nosing in through a doggie door!
Many of the features of Bruce’s kitchen were designed with the pups in mind. At the lower left below are a pair of stainless steel doggie dishes in a cast iron bracket that nicely matches the cast iron bar stools.
The bar stools look to be Victorian, but they are actually 1940 reproductions of stools from the late 1800s. I guess even reproductions can someday turn into antiques!
Next to the stove (below) is a copper water heater tank. In the past, tanks like this would be connected to a heat-exchanger in the stove and a day’s cooking would produce a nice quantity of hot water for the household.
Here the cast iron base from a second antique water heater has been fittied with a copper bowl for the afforementioned doggies refreshment and the hot water tank has been modified with a water filtration and purification system to fill the copper dish for the pups.
The stove itself is another restoration form Erickson Stoves and has been fitted with a hi-end electric Miele halogen cooktop so there’s no longer a need to stoke it with firewood. Two electric ovens have been fit into the body of the stove as well.
These switches imediately caught my eye as I have always loved this style of toggle. What’s particularly neat about these is that, while the switch in the background is original to the house, the one in the foreground is actually a modern dual switch/dimmer combination!
Another small feature that caught my eye was this antique timed set-back theromstat! Bruce tells me that it’s fully functional and his heating technician had little trouble integrating it into his modern steam heating system.
Throughout the house there were wonderful pieces of art and craft, this clock being a fine example, it’s been assembled from various vintage bits that Bruce has collected, notable a steam whistle, fire hose nozzle and an old hat and coat stand.
The fire hose nozzle forms the base of the clock and the steam whistle is at the top.
In Bruce’s living room I found this mantle piece with a plasma TV installed in place of the mirror. The mantel was acquired from an architectural salvage company and then modified by adding a few inches to the mirror frame to accomodate the TV. Bruce’s carpenter did a marvelous job seamlessly stretching the frame. See if you can figure out where the additions were made.
Below, a late 1800s fireplace insert from a coal fired train station heater in Kansas has been installed to contain the electronics and sub woofer for the surround sound installation. The insert has been restored – but Bruce was able to save the original faux marble paint that was part of the original design.
The mantle piece and stove front both swing out to allow access to the electonics and the system’s wiring.
Bruce works from his home and the pièce de résistance of this steampunk house is the office in what were formerly the servant’s quarters on the third floor. This is the view from the doorway as you enter the room.
The wainscoting is galvanized tin (not wood) and was likely salvaged from a restaurant or government building. Bruce’s craftsman had to cut the wainscoting down about 10” inches the fit, and painted it with Benjamin Moore Bronze Metallic paint. He also used leftover outside porch balusters to make the separators between the panels.
A ships binnacle guards the view from the window, the binnacle I’m told will eventually contain the household file and media server.
Above the binacle is an example of another of Bruce’s passions, a Puffin – this one steam-powered and on the wire!
Moving to the other side of the office we find the door to the file room and a display shelf for some of the steampunk artwork Bruce has collected.
There is something about this door, every time I looked at it I heard the theme from MYST in my head and imagined that it lead down a long coridor to a machine room of some sort rather than to a file storage closet. The lock wheel is functional and the signal light over the door illuminates along with the interior lights when the door is opened.
To the right of the door is a World War II battleship telephone that he found at Old Chicago Telephone, a fully functional one too.
And below the phone this exquisite model Bruce found on eBay of the contraption from the movie adaption of the classic H.G. Wells novel The Time Machine.
A vintage optician’s instrument is cleverly positioned to give you a closer, and fully adjustable look!
The project that I travelled out to Bruce’s house to see is not yet complete, so I have not included any photos of it in this article. It will be a truly magnificent mod, judging by the portions that have been completed to date and I’ll give you a hint as to what it is by showing you this keyboard which Bruce acquired from the maker Brian Arieno to serve with–well you can guess what. But believe me when I tell you, the reality of it is going to blow you away! Stay tuned we’ll have a full set of pictures here for you when it is complete!