How to Work With Gothic Furniture in Modern Spaces

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Have you ever walked into a beautiful, old church and said to yourself  “You know, I want my house to look like this!” You may not want the entire package, but I’m sure there’s a furniture piece or architectural moment you were transfixed by. If you do it right, modern gothic interior design can create a unique ambiance that comes with a captivating story.

A Little History

Gothic furniture originated in Europe in the 1400s, it began to appear in churches and became a sensational hit, heavily trending throughout the middle ages. Gothic furniture during this era was dark and powerful. Think of any throne or bedroom in any vampire movie — intricate carvings, symbolic motifs.  This era resulted in some incredible displays of artistry that prized artistic sculptural technique over function. Surviving pieces are visually stunning and mind-bindingly intricate. Take a deep dive into a Gothic Architecture internet wormhole and wonder at the Gothic cathedrals of Eastern Europe like St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague or the Black Church in Romania. Throughout my travels, I’ve seen many places like these in person, and every time I find it impossible to not be completely awed by their construction and their inherent mystery.

Centuries later, the Victorian Era arrives. This period, beginning in the early 1800s, experienced a strong Gothic Revival where interior designers and architects revisited popular Gothic motifs. It’s here we see Gothic furniture evolve and begin to push artistic boundaries with highly ornate pieces that required incredible craftsmanship. The use of rich, glossy woods and lush fabrics, combined with some much-needed color, gave furniture of this era an elegant, less church-y vibe. Think Sherlock Holmes or Alice in Wonderland. This style was notably popular in the homes of Posh, upper-class Londoners.

Going Medieval

So I’m sure you’re at this point you’re wondering  “How can I fit a giant, ornate, vampire-church throne from the middle ages into my perfectly balanced, minimal home?”  Well, I have amazing gothic living room design ideas. Doing so requires a tasteful, calculated approach particularly when it comes to choosing the right piece.

First off, it’s important to focus on a single piece. You’re looking for a bold statement. Furniture from the Gothic era generates a stark yet luxurious contrast when paired with a significantly more minimalistic modern design. These pieces invoke darker imagery and are often truly thought-provoking works of art. The deep, rich woods work remarkably well with neutral colors and cool tones.

When you go with a piece from this era you want to make sure it works within the confines of your current design. You don’t want to end up with something out of a My Chemical Romance music video.  Melding together these two vastly different design eras, Modern and Gothic, can produce visually striking results. Word of caution: these pieces are old and hard to find, because of their rarity they often fetch high prices so be ready to spend some cash if you want something truly original. I recommend looking into church thrones and armoires from this era.

On the other hand, Victorian-era furniture has a totally different energy.  Victorian Gothic pieces peacock a bit, that is to say — they are louder, flashier, and more opulent in comparison. Victorian-era furniture utilizes luscious fabrics and whimsical textures—deep burgundy velvets, curvy lines, and wondrously plush motifs. These pieces tend to work incredibly well with muted colors and geometric design elements. They are also a lot easier to come across.

Furniture from the Victorian Gothic period requires a willingness to step completely out of your comfort zone. The point is to find a piece that tells a story. Who did this belong to? How did it end up at a farm in Pensacola? You want to use the piece to invoke contrast and electrify the room. Victorian furniture is for those who aren’t afraid of being a bit outlandish. That being said, I recommend looking into chaise lounges, armchairs, and of course church thrones from this era.

Now that you’re armed with a little knowledge and know-how, go out and try spicing up your favorite room. Finding these pieces won’t necessarily be easy, but it can be a blast. However, I do have to warn you: searching for vintage Gothic furniture can quickly turn from a fun, weekend hobby into a full-blown obsession (I may or may not be speaking from experience here).

I recommend hunting for your new Gothic statement piece at modern to vintage furniture and design stores. If you’re willing to take it to the next level, try venturing out to estate sales in older, more affluent neighborhoods. These can sometimes take the form of an auction, so be ready to fight for something you know will look better in your house than in some hoarder’s basement.

That’s it for us. Now welcome your inner Goth and find that statement piece!

About Jarret Yoshida

Jarret Yoshida has worked in the New York interior design world for more than two decades. With a varied portfolio of projects including residential and commercial spaces, he draws inspiration from his Asian interior designer heritage to create stylish, welcoming, and sophisticated design solutions.

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