Home Bleak Home

The Gothic imagination mistrusts the home. Where others associate home with comfort and warmth, the Gothic aesthetic fills the home with ghosts, secrets; cold, cavernous spaces. From Neil Gaiman’s parodic “Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire” to Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”, the home is the site of malevolent forces. A proper Gothic home must be correctly outfitted to channel this atmosphere. With that in mind, I lay out some suggestions for making your home a bit more dark and unwelcoming.

I really don’t care for domestic work. I have moved a lot and reached a point of learned helplessness when it comes to contemplating walls whose color cannot be changed or kitchen appliances that insist upon their white plastic expanses. Decorating is a lot of work; work that more often than not has to be dismantled and packed into boxes when the lease is up. In light of this, I had become proud of the fact that all I owned was a desk, a few bookshelves and a metric ton of books. Now that I am more situated, I find myself turning my thoughts to making Prime Manor a bit more uninviting. I’m still not that motivated to be domesticated, but I can’t help imagining how some of the rooms would look with darker walls.

When you’re considering Gothing your place up, resist the urge to have Halloween decorations out year-round. First, these items are usually made of styrofoam or plastic and they age poorly. Second, are you fourteen? If not, take those rubber bats down from your ceiling. Goth is about aesthetics, so develop some. Finally, it’s just too on the nose. Bram Stoker didn’t fill Dracula’s castle with plastic tombstone-shaped candleholders that say “Told you I was sick.” Having Halloween decorations in your Gothic home is the domestic equivalent of the plastic E.T. costume with the picture of E.T. on the chest.

No? No one? I guess I’m the only one who remembers that.


Personally, I am not a fan of certain things that I think have become Goth décor clichés. These include: the wine bottle (painted black) with the drippy candle stuck in it, black fabric (or leather/vinyl) roses, velvet everything (pillows + drapes + bedding=cat hair magnets), tapestries, dead dried up flowers, lots of faux wrought-iron furniture or curtainrods, pewter statues of dragons/wizards/vampyres. Basically, if it has ever been in the Pyramid Collection catalogue, it’s out. The styles I find attractive vary wildly from a sort of stark, sleek industrial minimalism to full on decadent opulence with a dizzying excess of ornament. I enjoy combining elements of the two.

Below is an example of a room that combines Gothic and futuristic elements.

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It’s a bit Dracula-in-Space. I’m not sure what to call this sort of look. Futuregoth? Spacewitch? Whatever it is, I think I should find a name for it soon, as this really sums up my personal aesthetic.  At one time I had one of those wrought iron canopy beds that was packed into a bedroom so tiny that there was just enough room for me to get into the bed. To get into my closet, I had to stand on the bed and open the closet door from there because there wasn’t enough room for me to stand and open the door in the same space. Apartment living was awesome. I don’t miss that.

This bed is Gothic as all get out. To keep things interesting, I picked an area rug with dark amorphous shapes which remind me of malevolent shadows. You need a big fancy chair to sit in while you lace up your boots, and something in black leather, and the chair fulfills both of those requirements. The lamps are black glass filled with Swarovski crystals, which will produce prismatic reflections of light. Their shapes and glowing interiors suggest luminous nebulae in the void of space. I chose the industrial scorpion statue because I’m a Scorpio–the most Gothic of all the zodiac signs. For the walls I picked a dark purple wallpaper with silver rays. I wanted hard lines to contrast with the curves of the furniture. Of course I’d swap out the white bedlinens for black, charcoal or plum.

Click through for more detail

Here is an idea for a reading room. The curvy Rococo furniture is balanced by an abstract modern rug, industrial chain chandelier and graphic prints. The pillow reminds me of The Castle of Otranto, the first “Gothic” novel, and a book in which a character is killed by a giant helmet.  A proper contemplative space benefits from a  Memento Mori; hence, a crystal skull is needed. Black and violet is a lovely color scheme to which not much need be added. Monochromatic color schemes are my preference most of the time. I find too many colors unpleasant to behold.

In real life, you’re likely to have to do a lot of D.I.Y. if you want a Gothic home. Almost anything can be painted black. With research and preparation, even pressboard wooden-veneer furniture can be transformed into something closer to your style. I have successfully repainted several dressers, a desk and a chair. Sewing and crafting skills are not too difficult to pick up and will allow you to make your own drapes, cushions, etcetera and save you hours of frustrated pawing through unacceptable beige offerings. Picture frames are not terribly expensive. You can fill these with your own art; album or CD covers, old tour shirts or interesting postcards. If you can’t paint your walls, hanging fabric in a appropriate color can give your room some personality. If you can paint, don’t be afraid of dark or saturated colors. I do not get why so many people retreat to the safety of white when they have every option open to them.

If you have a person with whom you share your home, you are likely to encounter resistance to any plans to paint the walls black or buy a violet couch. If your co-domiciled is of a NotGoth persuasion, expect much more resistance. Some people have weird hang-ups about all-black rooms for some reason. Have several back-up plans in case that conversation about painting the living room blood red doesn’t go as you’d like.

If all else fails and your space is still too cheery you can always turn out the lights.

Until the blackout . . .

4 Responses to “Home Bleak Home”

  1. AHHHHHH If you’re thinking of some Halloween 2011 redecorating ideas….this article might suit you. Enjoy Browstars, we love you.

  2. Minakitty (Mary) Says:

    I like the blend of ornate items and those with cleaner lines that you’ve chosen. I don’t think most houses can support everything of the former without looking forced. We have an 1820 fieldstone house, but it is very small, and benefits from simpler furniture with gothic accessories/accents. I have admired that bed for a long time, but it’s far too large for our modest abode. 🙂

    • I know what you mean. I used to live in a place that had wooden paneling on all the walls. They were varnished pine, unpaintable, really country stuff. You really can’t get too space-age with that sort of backdrop. You have to take the fixed features of your space into account.

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