3 UNIQUE TAKES ON GOTHIC STYLE
If Gothic style conjures up vampires and amulets for you, think again. While it is true that Gothic design has gotten a bad rap over the years, when removed from any kitschy context, gothic design can feel romantic, mood-setting, and—in its best forms—otherworldly.
Gothic design first emerged around 1150 AD, during the medieval period. Gothic design was originally conceived as an architectural movement, and consisted mainly of dramatic, peaked arches and buttressed forms. Gothicism eventually evolved into the Renaissance movement, which shared many of the ornate qualities of Gothic architecture, but favored more linear shapes.
Beginning in the 18th Century, Gothic style began to reemerge, this time predominantly as an interior design movement. Known as the Gothic Revival, the trend focused more on luxurious textiles than opulent millwork.
A mainstay style since that time, the Gothic style has been reinterpreted in a myriad of ways. Below, we outline three ways to interpret Gothic interiors. Whether you’re angling for a traditional take on Gothicism, or something a little more goth n’ roll, read on to find your signature look.
The original Gothic Revival began in the 1740s. When you consider the elaborateness of the Victorian style, reviving Gothicism simultaneously was a no-brainer. Both styles favored elaborate woodwork, dark, phantom-y tones, and stained glass. To decorate your space in the Gothic Revival style, first look for places to interject dark woods, be it exposed ceiling beams, grand staircases, or Gothic furniture. If you’re not sure you want to go all out with lavishly carved Gothic furniture, consider seeking out old church furniture to repurpose—altar chairs, pews, trestle tables, and candle chandeliers are all game. These storied pieces will evoke Gothic stylings without calling undo attention to themselves. Gothic cabinets are also a low commitment way to try out Gothic furniture. Just look for Gothic cabinets with subtle wood carving and glass cabinet fronts. You might also consider furniture that’s not Gothic furniture per say, but showcases Gothic features like finials and heraldic and tromp d’oeil carvings.
When it comes to complementing your Gothic furniture, consider wallpaper and carpeting in dark jewel tones—use colors pulled straight from stained glass panels for inspo. Wallpaper and faux-painted were both popular during the 18th and 19th centuries, so consider doing up the walls in more than just flat paint if you feel so inclined. Textural touches should include silk, satins, and velvets—use them in the form of drapes, pillows, and table linens. And as a final touch, line the walls is Gothic light fixtures like sconces made of wrought iron.
In the south, the writings of authors like Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner were deemed “Southern gothic.” Subtly surreal with folkloric undertones, the keystones of Southern gothic literature can be easily translated to home décor. To start, focus on setting the stage with simple but elegant furniture. French, Federal, and refined Georgian pieces will offer just the right mix of beauty and constraint. Opt for a mix of traditional wood and gray weathered finishes to keep the palette from becoming too dark, and do the same with fabrics. Gray and cream linens will offset the heavier, gothic elements you’ll be layering in later in the decorating process. You might also think about adding a few dramatic period details like Trumeau mirrors or plaster pediments. While these aren’t traditional Gothic furniture pieces, per say, they do have grand, ornate flourishes which hark back to traditional Gothicism. But where Southern Gothicism really gets its legs is with Southern Gothic home décor and accessories. In ode to the eeriness of Southern Gothic literature, look for old oil portraits—the spookier the better—and statuary, which will hark back to the south’s grand cemeteries. You might also consider investing in a left-of-center collection like straw hats, silver trophies, or aviary mementos. When used in excess, these kinds of pieces rapidly transform from off-beat and quirky into straight up spellbinding.
If your inner mantra says, paint in black, then consider indulging your space in gothic glam style. A style made for the 80s glam rocker in all of us, gothic glam is composed of minimalist furniture, here-and-there Rococo detailing, and a jet black finish coat. On your checklist for a glam gothic bedroom? Start with a Gothic wallpaper. Since wallpaper is one dimensional, this is a low-key way to introduce theatrics. Gothic wallpapers can range from all-over damasks to velvet embossed fleur-de-lis and are often found in compelling shades of black or red. Paper as many walls as you need, as the objective here is more catacomb than light-filled monastery. Keep your furniture low and sleek, opting for basics like low profile beds (no Gothic beds here!), lacquered media consoles, and a minimalist chesterfield. If upholstery is in the cards, go with a luxe fabric like velvet or leather and don’t be afraid to opt for black, even if your walls already are—as let’s just say subtlety isn’t the goal here. With your fundamentals in place it’s time to load in the drama. Choose a single crystal chandelier for a rock n’ roll vibe, or a hooded chair for something more Victorian-feeling (and slightly Adams Family-esque). You might also consider an oversized mirror. Choose a gold-framed Baroque mirror to complement a chandelier, or a gothic mirror to offset a hooded chair. And for final touch? Be sure to dim the lights.