Black + Blum's "Box Appetit."
Steampunk goes mainstream
Steampunk is a genre of speculative fiction that draws on 19th-century inventions and reimagines the present as if steam power, typewriters, Zeppelins and moving parts in general were still driving forces. Hallmarks of steampunk design include lots of polished brass and iron and a generally dark color palette. Think industrial - lots of visible cogs, handwriting from a fountain pen, elaborate ornamentation.
Steampunk is going mainstream in several areas, one of which is ceiling fans, which incorporate elaborate cages around the blades, antiqued bronze finishes, frosted Victorian-style lamps and yet the capacity for newfangled improvements like halogen bulbs and remote controls. Think about the elaborate Minka Aire Gyro Belcaro ceiling fan, and the even more baroque Esquire three-head, in bronze.
Look also at lighting, where 19th-century industrial design is influencing wall and ceiling fixtures. The "bare-bones industrial" look of the Rockwell from Rejuvenation (rejuvenation.com) features a graphite finish and optional clamp-on cage.
Less mainstream, but in keeping with the aesthetic: Reproductions of wood-burning cylinder stoves that heated Victorian homes can work in the modern home, like this Estate Oak model circa 1880-1900. At upwards of $3,000, it's an investment, but it is a functioning wood stove. Also available as electric and gas conversion models (goodtimestove.com).
Decorating for spring (or, as some may choose, Easter) is a perk that goes along with spring cleaning. A most excellent resource for bunnies, eggs and chicks (and even full-size chicken replicas) is Fontaine, 811 East Johnson St., Madison (608-310-8002). The vibrantly stocked home decorating stop carries a wide variety of spring-themed knickknacks. Fontaine is a go-to resource for those seeking the not-too-cute bunny. In stock are families of terracotta bunny families (mom, dad and babies), some with ears pointing up and some flattened back against the head ($9-$14).
A more cosmopolitan French lapin can be found on estimable lacquered boxes, something between a TV tray, a lap desk and a fancy bento box (round and square versions, $34).
Also brightening the place: scads of felt rabbits, some dressed in the latest carrot styles, some leaping, some going on a hike. Also felted: carrots, chicks and eggs (all $7.50). Actually, they are pretty darn cute.
Black + Blum is the London design team of Dan Black and Martin Blum; the duo has cleanly redesigned a number of household standards. To make carrying lunch from home more appealing, they designed the "Box Appetit," a better lunchbox intended especially for adults. The square plastic container is heavier than disposable Glad-ware and is meant to evoke ceramic and glass. It is BPA-free and microwave- and dishwasher-safe (although microwaving should be limited to a heat-up of less than two minutes). Lids have secure side snaps; the cover corners evoke thick glass like that of a mason jar; and everything about Box Appetit conveys quality. A special sauce container in one corner holds salad dressing, dip or coulis.
The Box Appetit also fits into its own bag, which opens out into a placemat to protect your work clothes. It can also double as a seat cushion, if you happen to find yourself trying to picnic after a spring shower. Also available: a smaller bento box version and the lunch pot, for soups and stews. $7-$24 at Century House, 3029 University Avenue, Madison (608-233-4488), or via black-blum.com.