The origins of classic Gothic interior design date back to the Middle Ages when architectural styles were dominated by ecclesiastical influences, especially Christian cathedrals. This important design movement has resurfaced over the years in several forms such as during the Victorian era and during the end of the last century with the Goth subculture.
History of Gothic Design
Although Gothic architecture has its roots in the grand religious structures of Europe, it can also be seen in universities, castles, civic buildings, and private residences. The dramatic designs of buildings such as the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, have distinctive elements that still endure today. These include the pointed arch used on windows and doorways, tracery, clustered columns, ribbed vaulting, and flying buttresses.
Architects of the medieval age used innovative building techniques which resulted in slender masonry walls able to support expansive, decorative glass windows along with intricate stone tracery. These new cathedral designs created bright and open structures with ever soaring spires on the outside. Colorful stained glass windows were prominent in the churches along with remarkable sculptures of gargoyles and religious icons.
In subsequent centuries, residential architecture was given more attention, and Western tastes returned to the romantic nature of medieval design resulting in the Gothic Revival movement of the 18th and 19th centuries. This coincides with the ornate Victorian period when new machinery resulted in easy access to detailed trim designs and carvings. The movement was called Carpenter Gothic in the United States due to economical lumber supplies which allowed for wooden gingerbread trim with complex medieval Gothic designs.
Gothic Interior Design Today
The Victorian Gothic and Gothic Revival styles are still used in building modern homes and for decorating interior spaces. The most important elements to include are architectural features like pointed arches, fireplaces, stained glass, and wooden ceiling beams. Floors in a Gothic home are typically a hard surface like stone, tile, or dark stained hardwood. Add some cushy rugs in deep tones for a cozier feel in your castle-like retreat.
Echo these rich hues with dramatic wall colors like ochre, violet, red, black, gold, and hunter green. The medieval vibe can be further enhanced with wood paneling or decorative paint treatments such as murals, stenciled heraldic designs, or trompe-l'oeil illusions of stone walls. The addition of sumptuous wall tapestries and velvet window treatments will help create the magical atmosphere found in Gothic interior design.
Furniture pieces should be heavy and solid wood for the best effect, but their design can be elaborately carved or more simplistic in nature. Modern reproductions of Gothic Revival oak furniture will make an impressive statement. Look for furniture pieces with turned legs, arched designs, carved details, and plush upholstery. Accessories in Gothic interior design can include some essentials characteristic of the style like candles, wrought iron pieces, statuary, gargoyles, and crosses.
Gothic Interior Design Resources
Victorian Furniture Company - Offering reproductions of Victorian era furniture including bedroom sets, living room ensembles, dining tables, and accent pieces.
Andy Thornton USA - Large collection of reclaimed and salvaged Gothic style antiques such as church fittings, stained glass, fireplace mantles, carved wood architectural pieces, and furniture.