Studio Tour #24 - Bruce Rosenbaum's Steampunk Home


Today we are off to Sharon, Mass to visit with Bruce Rosenbaum - restorer, dreamer, and Steampunk fan. Throughout this post click on any of the photos & links for closeups and more info.

Bruce's Company, Modvic, takes home restoration to a whole new level. While a traditional restoration renews & preserves the beauty of an older property, Bruce adds his own unique spin to the process. Visiting his Sharon, MA home is like stepping into a story by Jules Verne or H.G. Wells ....and yes, Bruce does have a Time Machine (purchased on ebay). In fact this time machine plays key role in the Modvic company. Click here to read more about it.

But 1st, for anyone who is still wondering What is Steampunk? This is how Bruce explains it on his Modvic site:

"It was a phrase first coined in the 1980s that describes, in essence, an alternate reality where the Victorian period (late 1800s or early 1900s) coincides with the modern technology era. The term can refer to a subculture (think ‘renaissance’) or fashion (think ‘goth’) or design aesthetic (think Jules Verne 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or H.G. Wells Time Machine)."
So, to "steampunk" an item Bruce's company "can take authentic Victorian items or homes and modernize them for today’s use or (2) Take modern items and “Victorianize” them to appear they are original from the period. Either way – you get an amazingly beautiful, well crafted piece that fits into today’s lifestyle and use."

So, are you ready for liftoff? Grab your goggles or a cup of something tasty & lets get going!

How did you become interested in restoring Victorian houses?

BR: My wife, Melanie and I purchased a beautiful 1901 Victorian/Craftsman home in Sharon MA in 2000. The roof was leaking and we wanted to do it right by installing a new roof with architectural shingles. The snowball just got bigger from there – new gutters, chimneys, clapboard siding, brackets, decorations and on and on. That was just the exterior. Then we started to tackle interior projects – making each year a new project.

We enjoyed the process so much (and was still happily married) that we wanted to start a Victorian Home Restoration. In June 2007 we created ModVic (Modern Victorian) – where the thought was to sensitively restore and fully modernize a Victorian home to sell (and make at least a little money as a result).

What prompted you to get creative with your home instead of sticking with a traditional restoration?

BR: I can appreciate beautiful things to look at and behold – although I’m more of a practical person and love to have beautiful items in my home but want the pieces to function and have practical uses. ModVic or Steampunk was a way to blend the aesthetic form with function.

I’m curious. Which comes 1st, the cool idea or a great antique which you then find a modern use for?

BR: It works both ways. However most of the time I see a great Steampunk-inspired item that I just have to have. It sits in my office for sometimes weeks or months – and then it hits me – wouldn’t that be cool if it was a…(fill in the blank). In other cases – for example, I needed a mantle for a Steampunk entertainment center – so I went on an intense search (that took weeks) for a specific mantle with certain dimensions and other desired attributes.

What has been your favorite project? What is your dream project?

BR: My most favorite (and complex) project was my Victorian Organ Command Desk. It took over 6 months to plan, design, acquire objects, build and install – working with 3 other furniture and electronics specialists to make it happen. It makes me smile every morning when I come into work : )

BR: My dream project is designing and building a Steampunk Workshop and Showroom in my sprawling, stone foundation basement. I already have lots of ideas and items that I know I will be using. I actually recently purchased a 7 foot round wood mold gear that I will be using for a working ‘door’ to the outside.

The Steampunk aesthetic has been infiltrating the mainstream the last few years. At the same time you have been taking the lifestyle to a new level, beyond the cliché of corsets, cogs & cosplay. Is Steampunk “growing up”?

BR: That’s exactly what I’m trying to do with the aesthetic – make it grow up in a way. I love the gears, gauges, cogs, etc – but I’m now trying seamlessly and authentically blend the old with the new and create a design solution for people who love everything Victorian, but don’t know how to make it modern for today’s use. The idea is to use authentic Victorian objects, furniture and pieces and infuse modern technology so you can enjoy the beauty and craftsmanship of the period but also incorporate it into your everyday, practical life in your home, office or business.

What prompted the creation of the 1st annual Steampunk Form & Function Competition?

BR: The Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation in Waltham MA approached me to help organize the New England Steampunk Festival that is happening on May 1st from 10:00AM – 4:00PM. After about a month of planning, I thought it would also be a great way for the museum to increase membership by holding a worldwide Steampunk Design Competition. In addition, I wanted to get to know more Steampunk artists so I could create a network of talented folks to work on bigger Steampunk projects in the future.

So the 2010 First Annual Steampuffin’s Steampunk Form & Function Competition was born. The competition brings together outstanding Steampunk design innovations, details the design process and promotes the role of the Steampunk designer/craftsman. Along with recycled items, all Steampunk design solutions are primarily built using authentic Victorian (1850s to early 1900s) objects, salvage items, clothing and antiques that incorporate modern technology and have specific functions for modern day, practical uses. Another exciting opportunity for Steampunk artists will be a film documentary we are planning on the competition. SteamFusion: How Steampunk Artists Infuse Modern Technology into Victorian Homes and Objects.

Everything you need to know about entering the competition is available on www.steampuffin.com. Folks can also call me at 781-784-0250 with any questions.

What is SteamPuffin?

BR: I’m a puffin fanatic – learning how to sail on a small sailboat called The Puffin. It taught me valuable lessons on how to be independent and how sometimes you need to tack back and forth if the wind isn’t going your way. I collect lot of puffin stuff and thought that SteamPuffin would be a great image for a new business…www.steampuffin.com. I actually created Steampuffin artwork by using a 3’ diameter elevator solid bronze gear, handcrafted flying wood puffin, Victorian cable message sender, kerosene lighter and clock pendulum. You can see the artwork on my website and it has now become the imagery for my logo.

The initial phase of the site is the place for folks to go to enter the competition. Ultimately, Steampuffin.com will offer unique ‘Steampunk’-inspired architectural salvage and antique items, project ideas and modified Steampunk Victorian modern appliances, inventions, innovations and gadgetry to high-end Steampunk enthusiasts, homeowners, home restorers and designers.

I enjoyed visiting crmi.org. It looks like a fantastic museum. How did you 2 find each other?

BR: Wow – what a Steampunker’s Paradise! Amazing working Victorian era equipment, tools, machines, steam engines, bikes, cars – everything to get us Steampunkers wide-eyed. Ellen Hagny, Director of the Museum found me through all the press I’ve been getting locally and nationally with ModVic and our Steampunk innovations. It’s taken all my energy – not to just walk off with a display of incredible large scale machine gears in the museum.

Do you have any favorite Steampunk artists, writers, musicians?
BR: I have a lot of appreciation for many types of Steampunk artists – but I lust after some Steampunk work more than others. I love Art Donovan’s lighting; Jake Von Slatt’s DIY works as his Steampunk Strat and Mark Eliot Schwabe, SteamSmiths Steampunk jewelry. I’m not that involved in Steampunk literature or music – but I’m now reading again the works of Jules Verne – maybe the first ‘Steampunker’.

While enjoying the photos of your Victorian Organ Command Center, I think I spotted one of SteamSmith's fabulous airship brooches. Love the presentation in the porthole, by the way.

How did you discover SteamSmith’s wonderful creations? (I’m a big fan of Mark’s work & he kindly shared a photo tour of his studio on this blog last fall)

BR: I spend a lot of time on Etsy looking for Steampunk ideas and artists. I found Mark’s Airship's Revenge Steampunk pin and fell in love with the piece and all of its moving parts! I didn’t want it to go to waste sitting in a drawer, so I created a lit porthole along with brass plumbing fittings to hold it in place. Now I can enjoy it every day in my little porthole window about my desk. I’m planning to wear it at all my Steampunk conventions including the New England Steampunk Festival and the Steampunk World’s Fair (www.steampunkworldsfair.com) where Melanie and I were asked to do 3 workshops on Steampunk Architecture and Design.

Thank you for your time, Bruce. If there is anything else you would like to share?

BR: I’ve also been recently approached from a restaurant owner who is opening the first Steampunk-themed family restaurant in the country! It’s going to be in a restored, stone, railroad station in Newton MA. I’m now asking Steampunk artists if they would like to consign some major Steampunk art work and collections to display and sell within the restaurant.

Thank you Bruce for taking the time to visit. It has been a true pleasure. I look forward to viewing your future creations!
Want to see more of Bruce's wonderful world? Just toss him into google & you'll find photos of Bruce's treasures all over the web. Here are a few of my favorites:


A 360 degree virtual tour of Bruce's Sharon, MA house

the Sharon, MA house on steampunkworkshop.com

Details of the Victorian Organ Command Desk at Steampunkworkshop.com

Artizen Online Magazine page 26

CBS interview (via skype, using the modded brownie webcam)

Angie's List Article

Are you near Waltham, Mass today? Hightail it over to the The Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation for the New England Steampunk Festival.

Want to see Bruce's Steampunk Home for yourself? On May 2nd you can! That's the date of the Sharon, Mass, 2010 Old House Tour. You'll need a ticket. Find prices & times on the Sharon Historical Society site.


  1. Gorgeous ... & I love the explanation of "steam punk" ... !

  2. Fascinating interview! I love that steampunk aesthetic in decorating. Thanks for the tour, Bruce and Stacey!

  3. Wow - what an interesting artist!! I would give away my first-born (if I had one) for one of those restored Victorian homes. Gorgeous!! Thanks!

  4. This is just amazing. What a great post, thank you.

  5. WOW! Stacey, this was a wonderful tour and so interesting. I really enjoyed reading the explanation of steampunk.

    Fascinating, breathtaking, stunning :) T.

  6. What a fabulous interview!! His work is amazing! I enjoyed visiting his links too. Wonderful works!!
    Thanks for sharing

  7. Oh now I'm feeling inspired!!! I just love all the pics and what great history that goes with it!!! Thank you for such anawesome post.