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Gothic Revival Victorian Home Decor

Updated on January 29, 2015
chezchazz profile image

Chazz is an Interior Decorator/Consultant/Retailer, amateur photographer, cook, gardener, handyman, currently restoring an 1880 Victorian.

Detail from a stained and leaded glass window used in a Gothic library designed by Restoration Decor and Consulting.
Detail from a stained and leaded glass window used in a Gothic library designed by Restoration Decor and Consulting. | Source

Authentic Victorian Gothic is a currently popular home decorating style that is too-often reduced to kitschy macabre themes and limited to Halloween parties. This site will show you how to achieve Victorian Gothic Revival interior decor as the elegant style it should be.

Perhaps no style of Victorian Interior decorating is more romantic than Gothic Revival. Gothic revival home decor is a style that both celebrates and idealizes the Middle Ages.

It embodies the romantic tales of knights and dragons, of King Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot, of mythical gargoyles and unicorns as well as the ecclesiastical architecture of Europe's grand cathedrals like Chartres, Notre Dame, and Westminster Abbey.

The Gothic Revival Victorian style features elaborate tracery in wood and stone, dark wood paneling, carved statuary, stained, leaded glass windows, heraldic imagery, ribbed vaulted ceilings, and pointed arches borrowed from iconic medieval mythology and design.

However, the Victorian Gothic Revival of the 19th century is a far more sumptuous style than the original Gothic period of the Middle Ages. Most homes of the Medieval era were sparsely and plainly furnished, but that did not appeal to Victorian sensibilities. Thus they drew inspiration instead from the wealthy who built and furnished ornate castles and cathedrals.

Left: Pugin’s sketch of a gothic revival interior and furniture he designed. Right: 1850 period illustration of a gothic revival drawing room (artist unknown).
Left: Pugin’s sketch of a gothic revival interior and furniture he designed. Right: 1850 period illustration of a gothic revival drawing room (artist unknown). | Source

Some Important Names to Know In Victorian and Gothic Revival Interior Design

* Augustus Pugin (1812-1852) is often considered the inventor and most influential designer of the Gothic Revival style. Pugin designed buildings, interiors, furniture, wallpaper, fabrics, and more.

The video here points out some of his architectural accomplishments and features many of the conventions that distinguish Gothic Revival design.

* William Morris (1834-1896). Although he is associated more today with the Aesthetic movement, Morris was also influenced by and influential in popularizing VIctorian Gothic Revival style and for being a forerunner and founder of the Arts and Crafts movement.

* John Ruskin was a critic and art historian who wrote essays that greatly influenced gothic revival design, including The Nature of Gothic. He also wrote pieces about William Morris, Phillip Webb, and other neo-medievalists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

* Thomas Chippendale (1718-1799) was an English cabinet maker and interior designer. He presaged the Gothic Revival movement by incorporating Gothic influences like tracery and pointed arches in many of his furniture designs.

"Tristram and Isolde" by John William Waterhouse
"Tristram and Isolde" by John William Waterhouse | Source

* Charles Eastlake (1850-1917) was an architect, writer, professor, and designer. What is known today as Eastlake Style was a popular variation of the Aesthetic Movement and regularly incorporated neo-Gothic tropes. Although the term "Eastlake" is often mis-applied, it is no accident that many authentic Eastlake designs are compatible with Gothic Revival interiors.

* John William Waterhouse (1849-1917) was an English painter renowned for his lifelike and sumptuous paintings that epitomized Victorian romanticism. His paintings are known for incorporating historical, mythological, and literary subjects with a strong narrative.

What to Look For in Victorian Gothic Revival Home Decor: Motifs, Patterns and Shapes Featured in the Gothic Revival Style

© 2011-15 Restoration Fabrics & Trims LLC
© 2011-15 Restoration Fabrics & Trims LLC

Accent your period home decor with items featuring heraldic themes, coats of arms, gargoyles, lions, dragons and other mythical creatures, fleur de lys, trellises, stylized roses, and ecclesiastical motifs such as crosses. Be sure to include what is perhaps the most iconic of gothic motifs: the quatrefoil (shown above, top center).

Decorative items include stained glass (think European Cathedrals and early Universities), gothic style carved frames, heavy fringes, needlepoint tapestries (the famous Unicorn tapestries are frequently copied), and heavy crewels.

Gothic revival decor is rich with vibrant jeweltoned colors, architectural detail, and accessories.

Pointed arches, quatrefoils (a sort of 4 leaf clover motif), tracery (an ornamental branching openwork design), ornately carved furnishings with an emphasis on the vertical lines are also hallmarks of gothic revival decor.

These motifs would have been incorporated into the overall design of a room. "Theme" decorating, such as a "gothic bedroom" full of gargoyles, may be fun but it is not representative of Victorian Gothic taste.

For an authentic Gothic Revival room, avoid getting carried away with the color black and twenty-first century reproductions of so-called gothic motif items such as dragons, suits of armor, and grotesque figures.

Tree of Life Tapestry designed by William Morris. The Tree of Life was a frequent Gothic Revival theme.
Tree of Life Tapestry designed by William Morris. The Tree of Life was a frequent Gothic Revival theme. | Source

Common Misconceptions about Gothic Revival Decorating

The Gothic Revival style of Victorian period interior decorating should not be confused with what is known today as "Goth." Coffins, vampires, and skulls were not motifs found in Victorian home decor.

Gothic Revival in the hands of the Victorians was not at all macabre and dark. The Medieval period it draws inspiration from saw the introduction of larger and more windows in architecture.

Sunlight filtered through colored glass gave a soft glow to the often cavernous interiors of the high Gothic style of the Middle Ages, eliminating the gloomy spaces created by the previously minimal windows that were a feature of earlier architectural technology.

Quoizel LP5006IB La Parra 6 Light Chandelier
Quoizel LP5006IB La Parra 6 Light Chandelier

This Gothic influenced series of lighting is made of hand-forged iron with an imperial bronze finish. The handmade shades cast a soft candlelight-like glow. Other styles and sizes available.

 

Similarly, interiors featured multiple chandeliers and sconces carved in wood or made of bronze or cast iron, often with glass panels, that provided additional lighting. Stained and leaded glass windows were often featured in late Victorian homes and are found in Queen Anne, Stick style, Carpenter gothic, and similar styles of architecture.

Contrary to popular belief, black was not the predominant color of the Gothic period and its revival in the late 1800s. Building materials and furnishings were in a variety of earthtoned colors that were inherent in available materials from dark rich oak and walnut panelling and furniture to carved stone embellishments and masonry. Natural dyes provided rich colors for yarns used for woven or tapestry wall hangings, bed draperies, and decoration. Additional color was added by the opening of trade routes with the east and the importing of spices, silks, and carpets.

The Epitome of Gothic Revival Style

The dining room at historic Lyndhurst Castle in Tarrytown, NY. Designed by Alexander Jackson Davis, the room was built in the 1860s.
The dining room at historic Lyndhurst Castle in Tarrytown, NY. Designed by Alexander Jackson Davis, the room was built in the 1860s. | Source
A marker635 South Broadway, Tarrytown, NY 10591 -
635 South Broadway, Tarrytown, NY 10591, USA
get directions

Lyndhurst is one of America's finest examples of Gothic architecture and interior design. Located in New York's Hudson River Valley. It was designed by Alexander Jackson Davis and constructed by William Pauling in 1838.

Some twenty-five years later, the property was purchased by New York merchant George Merritt who had it doubled in size. He renamed it “Lyndenhurst” after the Linden trees that were planted on the grounds.

Railroad magnate Jay Gould purchased Lyndhurst in 1880 as a "summer escape." After his death, his two daughters lived at the estate until 1961, when it was acquired by the National Trust.

Guided tours of the Lyndhurst Mansion are available seasonally by reservation. The grounds are open to the public.

Gothic and Gothic Revival Textiles and Fabrics

During the middle ages, fabrics were rich and substantial and woven from in wool, flax, linen and other natural fibers. Leather would have also been used. All of these materials were labor intensive and costly, which limited their use to those who could afford such luxuries. Other than being used in clothing, fabrics were made into draperies for beds, walls and windows to keep out the drafts.

In wealthier homes, extraordinary tapestries and other types of needlework hung on walls and served as draperies and table coverings, but upholstery was virtually non-existent during the medieval era and the use of fabric was sparse.

However, although the use of upholstered furniture, seat cushions, and similar fabric applications were not a feature of the original medieval period, they are abundant in Victorian Gothic Revival interior decor.

Today, using fabrics that feature gothic motifs and, in some cases, reproduce original gothic revival designs, is an easy and popular way to add a gothic flair to your decor. There are fabrics that mimic gothic style tracery, grille, tile, and scroll work, or feature gargoyles and gryphons, quatrefoils, knights on horseback, rampant lions, and similar elements of gothic imagery.

Fabrics that feature gothic motifs and, in some cases, reproduce original gothic revival designs. The fabrics shown in the upper and lower left corners of the fabric montage below are reproductions of original Pugin designs. All fabrics courtesy of
Fabrics that feature gothic motifs and, in some cases, reproduce original gothic revival designs. The fabrics shown in the upper and lower left corners of the fabric montage below are reproductions of original Pugin designs. All fabrics courtesy of | Source

Gothic Revival Interior Decorating

Antiques add an air of authenticity to period style home decor. For a Gothic Revival interior, look for substantial, carved pieces in natural woods that are reminiscent of ecclesiastical architecture and design.

Affordable period European imports often cost far less than new furniture but will likely appreciate in value and represent a better investment.

Antique gothic furniture can also be incorporated into today's similarly influenced styles such as steampunk. You can build a room around a single great piece or select one or two smaller pieces to accent your current decor.

The Gothic Revival movement grew out of and overlapped with the later Victorian and earlier Arts and Crafts (in the U.K.) and Craftsman (in the U.S.) movements and looks equally at home mixed with much of those styles.

Source

More About Gothic Revival Style

Furniture Embellished with Carved Gothic Motifs and Leaded Glass

Photo shows detail from Gothic library designed by us. Note the quatrefoil motif on bookcase carvings and leaded glass on door.

Behind the bibliotheque is Wallpaper Frieze "Lion and Dove" designed by Walter Crane, the 19th century artist and social activist and printed by Bradbury & Bradbury. It was designed as a response to the Second Boer War between Great Britain and two South African republics.

The lion represents the belligerent British Empire and the white dove is the symbol of peace. The banner reads "The Wilderness shall blossom as the Rose," a paraphrase of the first verse from the biblical book of Isaiah, chapter 35.

A reproduction of one of the Gothic room  illustrations from the original 1841 publication of "True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture" by Augustus Welby Pugin.
A reproduction of one of the Gothic room illustrations from the original 1841 publication of "True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture" by Augustus Welby Pugin. | Source

Do you favor Period Decorating Styles from Earlier Eras?

What are your interior decorating preferences? Do you prefer Colonial, Victorian, Federal, Art Deco, Retro or another historic style of home decor from the mid-twentieth century or earlier? Or are you modern, post-modern, or avant-garde? What's your style?

Were you born too late?

Yes. I am happier living in a home that reflects a historic decorating style.

Yes. I am happier living in a home that reflects a historic decorating style.

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    • Amedare 2 years ago

      Absolutely yes!

      My personal choice would be Late-Victorian era or Art Nouveau, or French classicism.

      Historical styles until the WW2 was different, sometimes opposite, nevertheless each of then had its own beauty. But I can't see contemporary design, starting from constructivism/functionalism and until the post-modern devastation, other than one long process of degradation.

      The only element from modern styles that I would like to have at home is this modern/post-modern styles creators skulls. :)

    • Angela Hobbs 3 years ago from The TARDIS

      Love the old

    • Michey LM 4 years ago

      I think so. I love history and I think we have to learn from it... which I don't see it nowadays... maybe it is just me!

    • Justin 4 years ago from Slovenija

      Yes, some historic styles are appealing to me.

    • DDLewis 4 years ago

      Yes, I think the Victorian era would have been great!!

    • anonymous 4 years ago

      Unfortunately, yes.

    • indigomoth 4 years ago from New Zealand

      I would adore anywhere with touches of Art Nouveau.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      I'm just content to live simply in any age but do enjoy and antique or two, I could be very comfortable with living in Gothic Revival! We need a third choice.

    • magictricksdotcom 5 years ago

      Yes, yes, yes. this is exactly the decorating style of our home. In fact, we installed one of the drapery panel styles you show in your list here. Our furniture is almost all authentic antiques (with lots of carved faces, griffins, dragons and cherubs) and we've been able to find quality reproduction stained glass windows and lighting fixtures. Oriental rugs (artwork for the floor!) are in every room. Really great lens- you know your stuff!

    • Mystico 5 years ago

      Impressive. Nice lens.

    • iijuan12 5 years ago from Florida

      I love decorating with antique maps, old books, and Audubon prints.

    • rayray131 5 years ago

      I prefer Federal and Victorian

    • Tom Maybrier 5 years ago

      Modern spaces are beautiful, but after a few years of living in Victorian houses, I'm a convert to the decadence of old.

    • krakensquid 5 years ago

      I do like the modern, kind of sterile look at times but I just love vintage accessories and design a lot more.

    • baby-strollers 5 years ago

      I love this kind of vintage stuff - very nice.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      This was a hard choice as I like so many different styles, my favourite books are home decorating ones and I think that the type of house that you have makes all the difference. This is a great lens very informative a pleasure to read

    • tealmermaid 6 years ago

      I like mid-century modern/post-war period decor. It suits my new place (built in '52), right down to the iconic pink bathroom.

    • capturedbykc 6 years ago

      I favor older and more historic decor but I also have a taste for certain more modern and retro styles. I don't have enough room where I live now but someday I would love to own a place where each room featured its own unique and fun theme LoL!

    • WhitePineLane 6 years ago

      My dining room is actually done in a gothic style! I have a beautiful tapestry that we bought in France on our honeymoon, some sconces shaped like gothic windows, and even beautiful gothic-looking candlesticks. (I was a history major, specializing in Medieval France - what can I say?) :-D

    • mockingbird999 6 years ago

      I kinda depends on which room you're in at my place. Some have a more historic look than others.

    • Peggy Hazelwood 6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I love William Morris designs. I love Art Deco style.

    • Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Yes, I think so...I love the Gothic and Victorian style. Unfortunately, I don't have any of that stuff, but I sure would love it!!

    • Heather Burns 6 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      I like eclectic transitional style, i.e. mixing it up, but not too cluttered. 1920's Arts and Crafts is a fave era though.

    Nope. When decorating my digs, I prefer looking forward, not back to the past.

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      • Gregory Moore 4 years ago from Louisville, KY

        I think it all depends on the age of the home you are living in. I am in a newer home now, and I don't think Victorian would fit the newness of the home. I used to live in an old cape cod that was in an old area of town. Victorian decor would have totally fit the bill there.

      • applejacking 4 years ago

        Following the latest home decorating trend is better for me

      • Michey LM 4 years ago

        Yes! I like to look forward, but this doesn't mean I don't love history and Gothic Victorian decorations.

      • pickingjessamine 5 years ago

        While I enjoy homes that reflect a historic decorating styles, I have to go with no. I was born in a time that allows me to express myself through styles of the past with hindsight. I can have gothic, victorian, modern, art deco, etc. styles in my home all at once. And I don't have to worry about being burned at the stake. That's a win/win, if you ask me.

      • julieannbrady 5 years ago

        Well, I have a fine appreciation for gothic revival and victorian and deco. At the moment, I am channeling Coastal Cottage Chic in Jacksonville, FL.

      • TheGourmetCoffe 5 years ago

        I appreciate historic decorating styles but enjoy modern surroundings too.

      • EMangl 5 years ago

        no, too early

      • CCGAL 6 years ago

        I tend to decorate in Modern Miscellaneous and Early Decrepid, with accents of Early American Hobo. (joke) I don't actually "decorate" per se ... I live in an RV with very little room for decor, so if you have to classify what I do it's more of a mish-mosh of things I can't live without. Maybe my joke isn't such a joke after all, eh?

      Source

      © 2011 Chazz

      Please Illuminate This Manuscript - By adorning it with a comment, suggestion, or greeting

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        • Michey LM profile image

          Michey LM 4 years ago

          Love Gothic decorations as I love Gothic architecture so those thinks are related for sure. Great lens

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          Justin 4 years ago from Slovenija

          A lot of beautiful peaces.

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          applejacking 4 years ago

          The Accolade poster by Edmund Blair is awsome. I love modern decor but the historical story is good to read in my leisure time

        • norma-holt profile image

          norma-holt 4 years ago

          Love this lens and the beautiful way you have put it together. Blessed

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          anonymous 5 years ago

          I'm not a gothic groupie but I do enjoy the beauty and elegance you present of gothic revival Victorian home decor, I could just get lost in your lighting section. I like how you are sure to point out the vast difference between gothic revival victorian decor and going goth....but I'm guessing there are those who do have fun mixing the two together a little. Beautifully presented in every way!

        • TrialError profile image

          TrialError 5 years ago

          Nice suggestions for home decorating. I've always loved the Gothic look.

        • indigoj profile image

          Indigo Janson 5 years ago from UK

          There is a wonderful charm about Victorian Gothic Revival that as you explain is quite different from 'goth'. I've spent quite a bit of time in and around historic buildings and can see the appeal, but I think you'd need quite a grand home to successfully adopt this decorating scheme! Nothing to stop people adding touches of Gothic Revival though, such as those wonderful goblets.

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          WhiteOak50 5 years ago

          I was letting you know that I have featured this page on my: The Victorian Era lens. This is a beautifully done page so of course I had to drop off a sprinkle of "Victorian Angel Dust".

        • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

          MargoPArrowsmith 5 years ago

          Interesting

        • iijuan12 profile image

          iijuan12 5 years ago from Florida

          I'm never seen anyone decorate their home with this style, but it looks interesting. Very informative lens! Liked.

        • rayray131 profile image

          rayray131 5 years ago

          Really enjoyed reading this lens.

        • TheGourmetCoffe profile image

          TheGourmetCoffe 5 years ago

          Very interesting lens! Really enjoyed reading the detailed information provided. Thank you for sharing your insights.

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          SquidooPower 5 years ago

          Nicely done.

        • EMangl profile image

          EMangl 5 years ago

          old buildings have much more charme and also have something warm which i miss in modern buildings

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          anonymous 5 years ago

          Oh well I will say it again even though I commented above the lens is really informative, It is hard not to enjoy decorating and I love so many different styles and particularly love knowing the history

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          KarenCookieJar 5 years ago

          I have always been fascinated by the Victorian era.

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          Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

          Love decorating old houses. It has more character.

        • lilymom24 profile image

          lilymom24 5 years ago

          Congratulations on your purple star.

          My home decor has no distinct style at this point in time but I do like what you have in this lens. =)

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          Lisa Auch 5 years ago from Scotland

          p.s I paid the purple star forward to this page, I do hope it gets it!

        • LisaAuch1 profile image

          Lisa Auch 5 years ago from Scotland

          The accolade is by far my favourite....I alsways wanted a full wall sized version, stunning art work here!

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          Candlemakingsup 5 years ago

          Thank you for liking my lens! Going through and liking a bunch of yours now!!! Smiles!!

        • capturedbykc profile image

          capturedbykc 6 years ago

          Great lens! Lovely decor choices you have featured. I enjoyed the read.

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          Tonie Cook 6 years ago from USA

          Great resource for gothic period decor.

        • CCGAL profile image

          CCGAL 6 years ago

          I actually don't know much about decorating, well, other than cakes I guess, but I did enjoy this lens a lot. I like the look of most of what you've shown here, and I especially admire how you found and used allposters images in a way I had not seen done before. Most excellent learning experience for me, all the way around.

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          anonymous 6 years ago

          Fabulous information about Gothic Revival home decor. Blessed by the Interior Design Angel.

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          Peggy Hazelwood 6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

          Love these styles though so are dark and a little too heavy for my taste. I love "looking" at them but not sure I'd want to live in them all the time.

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          sheriangell 6 years ago

          Chazz- congratulations on the big 50! Milestones are so exciting!

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          Virginia Allain 6 years ago from Central Florida

          Looks really classy. Thanks for clarifying the difference between Goth and Gothic Revival.

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          Heather Burns 6 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

          Lovely 50th lens! Congrats!

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          Mary Beth Granger 6 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

          Congratulations on 50 lenses.