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The New Victorians, Steampunk, and All That Not-Yet-Jazz

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Yesterdays's New York Times Home & Garden section featured the Selma, Ala., residence that was once a defunct social club (above) that the homeowner converted into a peculiar sort of home over the course of a decade. If it looks like he's been slacking a little on the restoration, that's because he renovated the place in a self-described "neo-Gilded Age steampunk" style. Steampunk, also called New Victorian, is a style that relies heavily on a reverence to the past, and lately it's been getting press aplenty. House Beautiful editor in chief Newell Turner recently went on record by naming steampunk as part of the face of "what's next" in the world of design. In the December/January issue of House Beautiful, Turner and his editorial team also named steampunk as one of the four major trends to watch for in 2011. Arguably, the term "New Victorian" was coined by New York Observer journalist Lizzy Ratner when, in 2007, she noticed an aesthetic movement characterized by 20-somethings who "throw dinner parties, tend to pedigreed pets, practice earnest monogamy, and affect an air of complacent careerism." Now, the lifestyle has gained speed in the sphere of interior design and decor. After the jump: a pictorially fascinating journey through this new age of old stuff.

Let's start with present day. Here's the clip of Turner extolling the virtues of steampunk:

Now, on to some major players and places that have made waves over the last decade:

Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch of hospitality-design firm Roman and Williams have set the "New Vic" trend apace in a very modern, very trendy current-day NYC. Standefer and Alesch took the tenets of New Victorianism to heart when they designed and built 211 Elizabeth (above), a residential building in NoLiTa, a downtown NYC neighborhood typified by 19th-century architecture. In designing the building, which is intended to replicate the feel of its more established neighbors, R&W didn't shy away from dark color schemes, nor did they skimp on the hand-laid brick. The attention to detail is evident in the final product—evidenced more by a roster of bold-faced tenants that includes Billy Joel and In Treatment star Gabriel Byrne. Luckily for the rest of us, the duo has also put their creative juices to work on public spaces. NYC's Ace Hotel (below) is also among their credits, along with the Breslin restaurant next door, two locales that are indubitably responsible for introducing the New Victorian style to the masses.

While Standefer and Alesch have been popularizing New Vic in brick-and-mortar, two sisters from Kansas have made quite a name for themselves in the New Victorian blog scene. Porter and Hollister Hovey have established themselves as queens of New Vic collecting; the loft they now share in Brooklyn (above) is the showplace for a multitude of vintage finds, ranging from fencing equipment to sepia-toned photography to stuffed swans. So obsessed are the Hovey sisters with their collection that the apartment has no windows—well, either that or the windows lost the budget battle to silver- handled brushes. Either way, this is some New Victorian hard-core.

Where do such full-blown steampunk fanatics like Porter and Hollister get their sustenance in familiar surroundings? Freemans, the brainchild of restaurateurs Taavo Somer and William Tigertt, could be a good bet (above). Located down an alley on Manhattan's Lower East Side, place is self-described as a "rugged, clandestine, Colonial American tavern." Reviewed in 2006 as a spot "where the new Lower East Side, Appalachia, a British hunting lodge and a suburban 1950’s dinner party all converge" by former New York Times food critic Frank Bruni, Freemans, with its bent-wood chairs, bare bulbs, mounted antlers, and subdued color scheme, screams New Vic.

As for the steampunk design and decor icons:


? Edison bulbs, $11 to $16 each, through Rejuvenation.

? Glass vitrines, pricing varies, through Finderskeeper's Market.


? Taxidermy, pricing varies, through Evolution.


? Gilt frames, available at flea markets, Etsy, eBay, or, naturally, Grandma's house.

Let's say you're looking to bring some taxidermy into your design universe but your local flea market is a little light on the dried crocodile heads. Evolution has your back. Once derided as a tourist trap, this shop, located in downtown NYC's SoHo, carries a staggering collection of taxidermy, bones, eggs, insects, and other spooky decor (above). Best of all? The eerie spot has an e-commerce arm, too.

· The New Victorians [NYO]
· Editor TV: What's Next? [Editor-at-Large]
· Roman and Williams [official site]
· All 211 Elizabeth coverage [Curbed NY]
· Billy Joel Buys at Nolita's 211 Elizabeth [Curbed NY]
· Actor Gabriel Byrne Buys in Nolita's 211 Elizabeth [Curbed NY]
· The New Antiquarians [NYT]
· Hollister Hovey [blog]
· Ace Hotel, New York [official site]
· All Ace Hotel coverage [Curbed NY]
· All Breslin restaurant coverage [Eater NY]
· Freemans Restaurant [official site]
· All Freemans restaurant coverage [Eater NY]
· The Evolution Store [official site]
· All Evolution Store coverage [Racked NY]
· Hiding in Not-So-Plain Sight [NYT]