In April of last year, writer's at the Institute broke a story about how a substantial number of younger dealers were noticing a trend-shift towards modified brown furniture that had been absent up until this time. Many of these dealers commented on the fact that the trend seemed to focus on an adaption of old styles blended with new - a Duncan Phyfe style sofa for example - reupholstered in a modern theme. Or, the use of industrial pipes and fittings in the construction of old-wood style harvest tables.
Steampunk, which has often been described as a type of industrial design and fashion, combining Victorian elements and sensibilities, with a Jules Verne style steam-driven utopia, appears to have transitioned from merely being a decorative arts niche, into something far more mainstream. In what many perceive as a societal rebuff and revolt against the modernist themes currently associated with the Mid-Century ideal, Steampunk is a growing movement that seems to somehow capture both the old and the new into one fantastical genre.
Denise Orland, a dealer from the south side of Baltimore, echoed this sentiment in her comments when she noted that her husband had gone from refinishing to recreating pieces. "Our business model has literally swung 180 degrees in the last year," said Orland, "We're not only building Steampunk bespoke pieces for clients, but we're attending Steampunk festivals all around the world that combine everything from fashion to furniture to handmade decorative items - often sourced from old Victorian pieces - it's a wonderful mish-mash of ideas and design."
Whether Ms. Purdy is a precursor of things to come or what's already been, can be difficult to say, as changing tastes within the decorative arts community are usually influenced by similar changes within society first. These are then transferred down the cultural-highway, and, if all the stars are aligned just right, you'll often end up with the creation of a unique style or motif that manages to cross all societal boundaries, while simultaneously imbuing itself within the contemporary fashion, art, and furnishings of the day. The question as to whether or not Steampunk can truly make the leap into mainstream culture remains to be seen, but if the response to our recent questionnaire on the subject is any indication, then we'd say it's likely a good bet that top-hats and petticoats might well be making a return...
- A.I.A. Staff Writers
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