Gothic Architecture and Design - How to Get the Vibes In Your Home

Gothic Architecture and Design - How to Get the Vibes In Your Home

Decoration and Design
Small Projects and Repairs
By Dikran Seferian August 11, 2021

If you are familiar with the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, then you probably have an idea of what Gothic Architecture looks like. Rib vaults, stained-glass windows, flying buttresses, and pointed arches are all defining features of this centuries-old style of architecture. Let’s not forget the sculptures of gargoyles and other ominous figures guarding the walls of the exterior. However, contrary to popular belief, Gothic architecture does not necessarily pertain to the dark and macabre. Nevertheless, some of its aesthetics may appear to carry some sinister tones, especially at first glance. Since today is Friday the 13th, why not acknowledge it by getting acquainted with this extravagant style of architecture and design? 

Roots of Gothic Architecture and Design

Gothic architecture came into existence in the mid-12th century, and maintained prevalence until the 16th century. Throughout its timespan, this architectural thought evolved out of its ancestral Romanesque style and went through two main phases 一 namely, the High Gothic years followed by the Late Gothic years. The initial phase, however, was known as Early Gothic (aka Lancet). One of the first buildings to adopt this style was the Basilica of Saint-Denis of Paris, which was built in 1144. 

The High Gothic years, which lasted from 1250 AD to 1300 AD, were mainly seen in France. Initiated by the cathedral of Chartres in northwestern France, this period brought forth the Rayonnant style of Gothic architecture in the 14th century. One of its main features, the pointed arch, may have taken some inspiration from Islamic architecture in Spain.

An Exemplary Testament to Gothic Architecture, the Chartres Cathedral

An Exemplary Testament to Gothic Architecture, the Chartres Cathedral

The following decades saw variations of the Gothic design introduced by Britain, Spain, Germany, and Italy. The latter even opted for brick and marble instead of the standard limestone used by the other countries. The period from the 15th century up until the 16th marked the Late Gothic years. This Gothic period peaked in Germany, especially with the stunning vaulted hall churches. Meanwhile, Britain highlighted the Perpendicular Gothic architecture while France and Spain introduced the Flamboyant style.

Although the Gothic era ended in the 16th century, it paved the way for Gothic revival architecture in the late 18th century in England. Eventually, this neo-gothic style, also known as Victorian Gothic, became a favorite among many architecture aficionados. The Victorian Gothic style also became known for its elite interior design, essentially hinting at royalty.

How to Recognize Gothic Architecture

Even though the Gothic style refers to both architecture and interior design, the focus is more on the former. Whether you’re exploring a cathedral in France or a palace in Britain, some key features will help you identify the Gothic style.

Intricate Sculptures

When you come across a Gothic style cathedral, the first features that may catch your attention are the mythical beings sculpted on the exterior walls. These exquisite sculptures of gargoyles and other figures are believed to ward off unwanted spirits. You will mainly find this feature in Gothic cathedrals across France and Barcelona where the Flamboyant style is most common. One well-known cathedral guarded by gargoyles would be the Notre Dame of Paris. Other decorative elements include beautifully carved columns, spires, statues, and other moldings.

Flying Buttresses

To support the great heights of Gothic structures, half arches known as flying buttresses extend from the outside walls down to a pier a few feet away. This pier is in turn supported by a pinnacle, which adds further stability. 

Stained Glass Windows

Another striking feature you will notice in Gothic design would be stained glass windows. These windows often extend throughout the height of the walls. Some of the most renowned Gothic structures also boast a large circular window on the main facade. Stained glass windows typically display fascinating mosaics, tracery, as well as biblical figures. Paired with sunlight, these windows create an awe-inspiring effect within the building.

Stainglass Windows and Other Elements We've Adopted from Gothic Cathedrals

Stainglass Windows and Other Elements We've Adopted from Gothic Cathedrals

Ribbed Vaulting

Although ribbed vaults first appeared in late-Romanesque architecture, they became more distinguished in Gothic structures, gradually growing in complexity. The ribbed vaults add both aesthetic value as well as structural support. For instance, you may notice cross ribs known as tierceron added to lierne ribs; the Gloucester cathedral is a good example that features this pattern.

Ribbed Vaulting of Late-Romanesque Architecture Provided Not Only Beauty, but Structural Integrity As Well

Ribbed Vaulting of Late-Romanesque Architecture Provided Not Only Beauty, but Structural Integrity As Well

Pointed Arches

You may identify the evolution of Gothic architecture from the Romanesque in the arches — a transition from round arches to ones that point to the sky, almost in a symbolic manner. 

Variations of Gothic Style

As Gothic architecture evolved through the ages, several variations branched out of the original. Across western Europe (and eventually beyond), countries like France, Britain, and Germany each introduced their own touches. During the gothic revival in Britain, the Victorian Gothic style named after Queen Victoria gained renown. This style combines British, French, as well as Italian elements into one rich architectural feat. The latter elements, which involve brick and marble, add a touch of medieval royalty to the structure.

How to Achieve the Gothic Style at Home

Even though Gothic architecture is mostly synonymous with cathedrals and palaces of its style , it is definitely not restricted to them. You can implement this moody aesthetic to your home by adopting some key elements of gothic interior design.

Adding the Right Amount of Gothic to Your Interior Design

Adding the Right Amount of Gothic to Your Interior Design

Go Fancy With Wallpaper

To add a royal flair to your humble abode, you can apply a damask or brocade patterned wallpaper. For a lighter atmosphere, consider white or silver. A bolder choice would be red, blue, or even black if you don’t mind the dark tones it may exude. 

Treat Your Interior With Elegant Textures

For upholstery, consider dramatic fabrics like velvet for sofas and drapery. As for bedding, you can make your slumber a royal one with silk or satin. 

Elegant Textures and Materials for a Gothic Revival Living Room

Elegant Textures and Materials for a Gothic Revival Living Room

Load Up on Candles

You can’t go wrong with a rich collection of candles. Paired with dried foliage, candelabra would brilliantly instill a Gothic aura to any room.

Gothic Doesn’t Have to Be All Black, Especially if You’ve Got the Right Decor

Gothic Doesn’t Have to Be All Black, Especially if You’ve Got the Right Decor

Consider Lancet Windows

No gothic house is complete without lancet windows. Understandably, replacing all your windows with lancet ones may not be as simple as one might hope. However, you can still achieve this feature by adorning a couple of walls with lancet or even stained glass windows; try shopping for some at your local antique shop.

Go for Extravagant Lighting

For rooms with high ceilings, consider a crystal chandelier to introduce a sense of divine royalty. An equally fancy alternative for rooms with lower ceilings would be wrought-iron wall-lamps. Of course, if ballrooms are not your thing, having a gothic chandelier dress up an understated powder can also be a great way to fuse styles and moods. 

Shop for Gothic Art

Another prominent aspect of the Gothic design is characterized in the form of art. If you can get your hands on a piece of Gothic art from a local exhibition, your transformation would be almost complete. 

Go the Extra Mile With Exquisite Moldings

Don’t hold back on moldings. Anything from mirror frames, ceiling moldings, and chimney mantels would look a lot more Gothic when adorned with fancy carvings. 

Don't Hold Back on Wainscotting, Moldings, and Millwork

Don't Hold Back on Wainscotting, Moldings, and Millwork

Be the Boss with Some Boss Designs

If you’re going Gothic for a full home remodel, you can take it a step further by incorporating some boss elements. What is a boss design you might ask? Anything that protrudes out of wood or stone. Carvings of foliage, animals, and even rugged faces can take your interior to a whole new level of the Gothic style. You can even ward off overly chatty neighbors by displaying statues of gargoyles on your front porch.

Interesting Facts About the Famous Gothic Cathedral

Fun Facts About the Notre Dame

Fun Facts About the Notre Dame

If the Hunchback of Notre Dame rings a bell for you (pun intended), then you’ve probably heard of the Notre Dame cathedral in central Paris. This famous tourist attraction, and iconic symbol of Gothic architecture, holds more interesting facts than one might think.

  1. When we say central Paris, we actually mean central. This cathedral is located on Point Zéro des Routes de France, which translates to point zero of the roads of France.

  2. As mentioned above, the cathedral is the main setting for Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

  3. Each of the cathedral’s bells are named after a French saint. The names are Marie, Marcel, Denis, Emmanuel, Gabriel, Etienne, Benoit-Joseph, Maurice, Jean-Marie, and Anne-Genevieve.

  4. The cathedral is built on top of a pagan city known as Lutetia, which was previously inhabited by the Gallo-Romans.

  5. The cathedral’s twin towers are built in different times and aren’t actually twins; one is slightly higher than the other.

Written by
Dikran Seferian

Written by Dikran Seferian