How to Give Your Room a Cyberpunk Design Makeover
Cyberpunk is no longer fiction. It is our reality. And DIY is its first name.
If you don’t know about the cyberpunk genre of science fiction , I cannot tell you what it is, because that is the stuff of Internet holy wars. Search out authors like Philip K. Dick, Neal Stephenson, and of course, William Gibson. Our own writers have even collaborated on a technology apocalypse story for you.
Buy at least one each of their books. Read them; slowly. Let your mind wander deep, then come back here. You’ll thank me. For the rest of us, be kind to the newcomer. They’ve been living in our world all along and have only come to realize it now. They are our kin.
Because of the digital nature of cyberpunk and our lives today, it’s no surprise people are making their own worlds match the fantasy. It could be their home office, gaming room, or even home theater room. All of these rooms lend themselves well to this kind of DIY interior design.
Elements of Cyberpunk Interior Design
The cyberpunk aesthetic can be broken down into three main types: minimalist, chaotic, and retro-futuristic. Before you go saying that there’s more types than that, consider that most scenes in any cyberpunk game or movie are, at least, some combination of those. Blending in elements of Asian or even Ancient Egyptian culture is also often seen. You might call it a pan-cultural look as well.
In all three of those types, there are some common elements: electronics, glossy and matte colors with a sparse palette, repetitive geometric patterns, metal, glass, ambient lighting and automation. Lots of ambient lighting and home automation .
These elements seem so common but are used in vastly different ways within the design types. Let’s take a look at each type, and a few real world examples in real people’s homes.
The Minimalist Cyberpunk Room
Great cinematic and gaming examples of the minimalist design can be found everywhere. Pick a cyberpunk movie, think of where the rich people or villains lived, and that’s typically your minimalist cyberpunk room. One example is Flynn’s safe room in Tron: Legacy.
Before you go off on me saying Tron isn’t cyberpunk, think about this; in plenty of cyberpunk stories, people inject technology into themselves . In Tron, they inject themselves into the technology.
Flynn’s room inspired TheRPF.com user gdspy to design and build a Tron safe-room of their own. Using some impressive woodworking skills, and creative lighting techniques, the effect is astounding. Take a look through gdspy’s post and you can see the techniques they used. Remember to make some wicked cyberpunk light-up costumes , and wear it for full effect.
If you’re lucky enough to get featured on a reality home makeover show with a big budget, you could end up with this Tron-inspired bedroom. It comes complete with video projector, computer station, luminescent bed spread and a Tron-cycle. Go full punk and build your own video projector .
Another source of inspiration for the clean cyberpunk look has been the Portal games. Again, purists might say this isn’t cyberpunk. Like I said before; Internet holy wars . Trying to defeat an evil tech company and teleportation are huge tropes in the cyberpunk world. So get over it and check out these two amazing Portal inspired rooms.
First up is the Ultimate Portal Bedroom created by Randy Slavey and featured at GeekDad.com. Using his DIY skills, some sweet rope lights, a few Portal collectibles, and lots of paint and patience, Slavey gave his son a bedroom worthy of any Aperture employee’s kid. And made the rest of us dads look bad in the process. Way to raise the bar, Slavey.
He used Wi-Fi enabled color changing lights to great effect. You can do the same in any type of cyberpunk room you create as well. Controlled by a smartphone app, you can trigger changes in the lights either by music or even IFTT recipes .
Equally as impressive is Lauren’s Portal Bedroom, featured on her site at PortalBedroom.com. Maybe the site name isn’t so creative, but one look at her room and you’ll know she’s the real creative deal.
Taking string LED lights and mirrors to a higher level, Lauren has created some very impressive Portal infinity mirrors. And if you care to try, you might be able to hook them up to an Arduino and control them via Siri.
Using a subdued paint palette, and monochromatic bedding, the feel of the room becomes real. Check out her impressive dry brush painting technique to give the walls seams. It gives a nice dull metal panel effect that invokes the games atmosphere quite well.
Minimalist Cyberpunk Design Elements: a. minimalist furniture, b. LED rope lights, c. 3D textured wall panels , d. electroluminescent wire (el wire), e. Wi-Fi controlled lights, f. Arduino controllers, g. geometric mirrors.
The Chaotic Cyberpunk Room
In a world so ordered by computers, chaos is all that man has left.
You should read that in the movie trailer guy’s voice. But chaos is the common thread in the cyberpunk world. Everything made of everything else. Bits of this, pieces of that, soldered together, melded by insane tech knowledge, the high-tech low-life takes back control of their world from the cold corporate computer cabals.
When you’re putting together this kind of cyberpunk room, think movies like Blade Runner or Strange Days. Think games like the Deus Ex and Crackdown series. Think poor cable management and bad electronics storage. Everything is tinged with gray and rust. Ambient lighting leaks from monitors everywhere. You might see old quasi-Asian advertising signs, or totalitarian propaganda. This isn’t the clean ultramodern room. Expect to find old tech repurposed to do new things.
Rick Deckard in Blade Runner has the prototypical grungy cyberpunk apartment. Oddly enough, much of its interior design was inspired by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House. Odd, because it was built in 1924. But it shouldn’t be too surprising, since it was also used for other ‘dark’ films such as The Thirteenth Floor and Black Rain.
If you’re trying to achieve a similar look, try your hand at 3D printing and mold making. You can download a file to 3D print the Blade Runner Ennis House tile and then watch the video below to see one way to make a mold from it. Then you can cast as many tiles as you want in concrete or plaster. Just make sure to paint them a dreary gray for authenticity.
Deckard’s apartment is likely the most well documented cyberpunk space, ever. A bunch of folks over at PropSummit spent the better part of year documenting every item in Deckard’s apartment, often finding the real-world equivalents. For a more visual exposé, check out Interiorator’s collection of apartment screen shots from the Blade Runner.
If that’s not enough, how about a 3D walkthrough of Deckard’s apartment? Software engineer Quentin Lengelé has created a series of these virtual reality walkthroughs. You can even pop on your Oculus Rift and experience it yourself over at the BR9732.com website.
When you do build your Blade Runner room, make sure to set up your DIY Raspberry Pi home theater system on a loop of 12 hours of ambient sounds from Deckard’s apartment.
For real-life chaotic cyberpunk interior design, check out a maker space in Germany called C-Base. It’s, well… just look at it. A thing of beauty? An eyesore? I’m going with thing of beauty even though it assaults my obsessive need for order.
Their own description for it is that, “…C-Base is a space station that crashed 4.5 billion years ago in the center of Berlin-Mitte.” Hackaday.io adds that, “Nerds, artists and digital activists founded a society to reconstruct it in 1995.” Fair enough.
Another beautiful feature of this space is that it’s highly functional. They’ve got 3D printers, a home-made vacuum forming table, book scanner, piezo controlled LED lit staircase, what they call the “microcontroller zoo” full of Atmel, MSP430, and ARM-based microcontroller units for tinkering with , and a brain wave scanner. You read that right.
Chaotic Cyberpunk Design Elements: a. modern orange bonded leather chair, b. daylight invisible glow in the dark paint, c. concrete wall wallpaper mural, d. black light fixtures, e. hammered metal finish spray paint for plastic, F. Blade Runner 47″ x 35″ Huge Deckard Poster, g. contemporary black cloud chair
The Retro-Future Cyberpunk Room
Retro futurism is what folks raised before 1970 were told the future would be. You know, laser pistols, flying cars, and living on the moon. The design lines are anywhere from 1920s Art Deco to 1930s Buck Rogers to the 1960s Lost in Space. Often, popular culture design of those days is featured heavily. I guess they thought we wouldn’t change much, even if technology did.
You’ll find cinematic examples of this look in movies like the Japanese K–20: Legend of the Mask set in an alternate 1949. Or the 1998 movie Dark City, that might be called a cross of Memento and Metropolis. Look at games such as Gatling Gears or the epic BioShock and Fallout series, amongst others.
All these mediums have a certain film noir feel and a revolt against technology with technology. There’s always an average person, with above average knowledge and skills, using whatever they can find to combat the corporate or government machine.
Devices tend to be more mechanical in nature with some electrical and electronic controls, however they tend to avoid the micro-controller which is the basis of all computers. The exception being Fallout, of course. That’s a world where nuclear and electronic technology rivals or even exceeds our own. But there’s still that Tomorrowland feel about everything.
If you’re going for that cozy Vault-Tec feel, why not start with a fresh batch of Nuka Cola? You’ll need the pep. There are literally a bazillion tutorials on how to make your own, from the recipe to creating the labels for the bottles. This video shows you how to make both Nuka Cola classic and Quantum.
You’re going to need to have a seat after all that, and just enjoy quaffing a few back. This DIY stuff can really take it out of you. Of course, sitting on some shiny new Nuka Cola and Sunset Sarsaparilla bottle cap shaped bar stools would make it that much niftier. Fortunately, you can buy the bottle cap bar stool already made. Just have to dress them up a bit.
Once that’s done, you need a place to store that sweet, sweet stuff. Look into getting a mini Coca Cola cooler that looks like the old fashioned vending machines. Then use the skills from making your stools and re-label it as your personal Nuka Cola dispenser. Or, if you have the money, find a full-size vintage soda bottle vending machine and give it the same treatment. That’s what Tor Amundson did.
It’s not done yet, but check out this insane beginning to a Fallout themed game room. Maker Trey Hill has done some serious planning and woodworking. It might have taken a lot of time, but only about $400, he says. He hints that it will be automated at some point. Let’s hope that nice touch-screen station next to it is the control. Watch the video to see how it moves and closes.
People are also doing some interesting things, inspired by BioShock. Kim, of the Tales of a Girl Gamer blog, did up her rec room for a BioShock New Year’s Eve party. Much of it is done in temporary materials like cardboard, plastic sheeting, and paper. Yet, the ideas could easily be duplicated in more permanent plywood, polycarbonate sheets, and glass. The creative re-soldering of LED light strands to light the buildings is a great first-time solderer’s project. You could do it.
Now what if you made a BioShock aquarium? The story does have a heavy underwater theme. Using your new found molding skills and your awesome imagination you could make one like master prop maker Tim Baker did for a BioShock super-fan.
Because you’re all cyber-l33t, you could fill it with mineral oil for the ultimate BioShock PC case mod. Imagine gaming on this unit. It could easily be the center of your new cyberpunk themed battle station.
While we’re going over the top, how about following these two costuming tutorials and adapting it to make your own freestanding Big Daddy and a Little Sister Syringe like no other.
Now take those ideas, incorporate your newly learned beginner’s electronics skills , or even a Raspberry Pi , and you can really take it to the next level. Imagine hooking all the lights up to a Raspberry Pi using OpenHAB . Then you could have the lights turn off and disappear to Rapture with just a touch on your smartphone. Your creativity is the limit. Well, that and your wallet.
Retro-Future Cyberpunk Design Palette: a. neon red LED lighting, b. hammered finish copper spray paint, c. Edison light bulbs, d. glass lab ware, e. stainless steel finish spray paint, f. neon blue LED lighting, center – retro home decor clock.
What Will You Do?
Looking at all these awesome rooms surely must have you inspired. So get your cyberpunk on. Just as we get lost in these cyber fiction worlds, we can also create one of our own making. Learning some basic electronics, maybe a little bit of micro-controller programming , and getting some simple woodworking tools can take you a long, long way into your future.
Have you created cool cyberpunk rooms, workstations, or props? Know of some other great books, movies, or games for further inspiration. We’d love to hear about it, and definitely see them.
Image Credits: Sleep Dealer Scene via CCA, Ex Machina via CinephileFix, Gdspy’s Tron Inspired Room via TheRPF, Portal Room Entrance and Portal Room Closet via GeekDad, Portal Bedroom Panoramic Lights On and Lights Off via PortalBedroom, Cyberpunk Cityscape via YouTube, Ennis House via Wikipedia, C-Base Meta Matrix Admin Terminal via Metavolution, C-Base People Hanging Out via Wikipedia, Wikimedia Conference at C-Base © Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons), C-Base Lounge Area via Hackaday.io, The Aircraft of the Future via Shutterstock, 50s Garage Scene with Robot via Bethesda, Nuka Cola Bar Stools via WinnersUseDrugs, Nuka Cola Vending Machine 3/4 Angle via FBRTech, Vita-Chamber and Happy 1959 Neon Sign via Tales of a Gamer Girl, Big Daddy and Little Sister Costumes via Instructables.