Gothic Style. Explore creative design ideas, tips and inspirations for this classic architectural design style.          

Revived more than once as a public and domestic architectural style, the Gothic has also inspired literary genres, art, music, fashion and, at the close of the twentieth century, a synthetic design- and lifestyle known as "Goth."

The Gothic was first and foremost an ecclesiastical style, and symbolized the triumph of the Catholic church over paganism in Europe. At a time when most people's homes were the humblest possible turf or wattle-and-daub cottages, churches sported arches, pinnacles, vaults, stained glass, and elaborate sculpture.

Medieval builders discovered new ways to support the weight of a soaring cathedral: piers and buttresses, ribbed vaulting, and structurally integrated arches took the building's load off of its walls. The resulting thinner walls could contain large expanses of glass -- leaded, stained, decorated with stone ribbing called tracery.

Painted Scrolls on Ceiling Beams
Painted scrolls on beams

The charm of painted scrolls on ceiling beams needs no introduction. This decorative accent is a delightful addition to any room. And though beams are common elements in many interiors rarely do one see them used as a focal point for decorative applications. Whether you enjoy the old world charm of Italy, or the contemporary flair of a San Francisco loft space, these tech iques can be adapted to suit the most creative inspiration.


Antiquing Video Tutorial

Turn ordinary objects into heirlooms! Creating the 'Classic Antique' glaze finish for objects, furniture, walls and more. This detailed step-by-step tutorial shows how to mix the right colors to create the perfect antiquing solution for any object, furniture, picture frame and more.

gothic design church cathedralNotre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.

Now churches, which during the Romanesque period had been massive, gloomy affairs, were flooded with light and air. Lavishly carved cathedral spires climbed ever higher, expressing the medieval belief in the essential divinity of earthly creation.

In the fourteenth century, war, famine and plague put an end to this extremely labor and resource-intensive building style. During the Renaissance, increased attention was given to domestic architecture and Neoclassical style reigned supreme. In the early nineteenth century, after centuries of variation on Neoclassical themes, Western scholars and artists developed a new interest in the Middle Ages. This Romantic backlash against rationalism eventually produced the architectural movement known as the Gothic Revival.

In Europe and North America from about 1840 to 1870, historically accurate Neo-Gothic churches, government buildings, colleges, and eventually private homes were built. These grand stone houses sported quatrefoil or pointed windows with decorative tracery, leaded glass, and even gargoyles, pinnacles and battlements. In America, where timber was cheap, a style called "Carpenter Gothic" developed, characterized by an abundance of elaborate wooden gingerbread trim.

In designing your own Gothic castle, start with architectural detail: pointed or ogee arches, tracery, exposed wooden beams, leaded or stained glass windows in complex trefoil or rose designs. But even if you're beginning with a modern interior rather than a scaled-down reproduction of Reims Cathedral, you can still create an imposing and mystical Gothic environment with furniture, surface detail, color and accents.

gothic design styleParliament Buildings and Big Bed, London England

Elements of Gothic Style

Proportion and scale, along with the interplay between linear movement and the spacious qualities of light play an integral role in creating balance and harmony within the room.

Rustic earth tones

Vibrant, colorful patterns underlie this design style.

Feature tutorial.

The Parchment colorwash. Creating the impression of aged walls, the Parchment finish evokes a feeling of history and old world charm. The color density varies over the finished surface and creates appearances of lightly mottled parchment. A soft and airy finish, the Parchment glaze is an ideal way to create mood and character in any room. I’ve found it to be an ideal solution for finishing irregular or textured wall surfaces.

Parchment color wash

Gothic Inspirations

Gothic stained glassGothic Spaces were flooded with colored light.
Gothic style objectsGothic style gargoyle bookends.
Gothic church spiresGothic church spires.
Gothic Design


Flooring should be stone -- large flagstones are best -- or dark wood. Colors should be rich, dark and dramatic: purple, black, ruby, gold, forest green, ochre. Decorative painting on the walls -- scenic murals, trompe-l'oeil architectural features, or stenciled heraldic designs -- can add medieval drama to a dining room or entryway.


Victorian Gothic reproduction furniture can be used, which simplifies things, but any massive oak furniture, either rustically simple or adorned with Gothic motifs, will do. Chairs, bed frames, and cabinets can feature arches, spiral turnings, carved trefoils, and rich upholstery. A trestle table with matching benches creates a monastic flavor. Even Arts-and-Crafts era built-in cupboards and storage benches will work, as that movement borrowed many decorative motifs from medieval art.


Wall hangings are essential, tapestries if possible. If not, you can cheat with dark red velvet curtains, Silver tasseled tie-backs, brocade throw pillows, a midnight blue velvet duvet cover. Stained glass, of course, is quintessentially Gothic. Pewter, wrought iron, and lots of candles are the indispensable Gothic accents. For a truly ecclesiastical look, create your own niche altar with candles and devotional statues.

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