The Gothic style of furniture is distinct. You cannot mistake its mysterious and moody vibe. Think northern European cathedrals and wrought-iron candlesticks. You can recognize Gothic furniture by its distinctive pointed arches. But the feel can be modern, too. These pieces feel sturdy and respect the importance of their contents. But it's more Beauty than Beast. Gothic furniture keeps the focus on big, eye-catching pieces like armoires and chests, with ornate carvings and decorations.
Gothic furniture is famous for its ability to bring us back to a simpler time. This feel can be had through smaller pieces such as statues, sculptures, or even through the addition of wrought iron curtain rods.
The Gothic Movement: A Brief History
The Gothic period lasted from the 12th until the 15th century. It covers the most extended period of all the European furniture styles.
The Gothic style of furniture grew out of the Gothic art period, which originated in northern France in the 12th century. The most recognizable aspects of gothic art are its sculptures and relief panels. Medieval art showed scenes from the Old and New Testament side by side infamous works and in the decoration of churches. Gothic furniture from this period is the most highly sought after.
When the Gothic period began in the 12th century, decorations were simple and usually just comprised of paintings. Over time, carving and tracing became the main design elements.
The type of material used varied by the particular region. In England, Germany and the low countries craftsmen used oak. In France, the central element was chestnut, and walnut was most common in Italy and Spain. Religious themes were common, and so were symbols such as griffins, lions, and hawks.
The ornamentation style was mostly imported from architecture. Hence it had a geometric quality. Besides pointed arches, other central motifs were the trefoil (three-lobed shape) and quatrefoil (flower design with four petals), the wheel, the rose, and the linen-fold.
The Gothic period, also known as the Middle Ages, ended in the 16th century when the Renaissance period began.
Gothic Period Castle Furniture
Some furniture pieces from the Gothic period were most commonly found in castles amongst the upper classes. These pieces were of better quality and more elaborately adorned than the articles discovered amongst commoners.
Gothic chairs were some of the most highly prized furniture pieces of the Gothic period. Initially, in each room, only the feudal lord had his chair while the others sat on benches or chests. Gothic chairs of this period were richly adorned and upholstered.
Initially, people of the Gothic period only used chests for travel. Later they became fixed pieces in households. Households in the Middle Ages did not have a single room without its crate. In the 13th century, artisans adorned chests more elaborately with architectural touches and ornamentation motifs such as tracery, trefoil (three-lobed shape), quatrefoils (flower design with four petals) and the cinquefoil (five arcs).
Gothic Period Domestic Furniture
Gothic cabinets were the essential piece of furniture of the Gothic period domestic household, even for families of the lower classes. Families kept their silver, important papers, and valuables in their cabinets.
Chests and beds were also essential features of domestic households. At first, the crates were just simple or decorated with paintings. Later they added more sculptural touches.
Variations such as cupboards, cabinets, French armoires, and buffets were also common during this period.
The New Gothic Period — A Gothic Revival
The Gothic Revival Period started in England in the 18th century and spread to America in the 19th century. It was a reaction to the increasing modernity of the Industrial Revolution. Gothic-style houses were a way to hearken back to a simpler time and gave the feel of rural village life.
Americans at the time tried different architectural and furniture styles such as Greek and Roman classicism. Many people felt the Gothic style was more accessible than these.
It became a widespread belief that one's house and surroundings should express one's ideas and beliefs. Andrew Jackson Downing (1815–1852) was a leading design theorist of the time. Many people read his book Architecture of County Houses. He collaborated with the architect Alexander Jackson Davis. The view of Gothic Revival houses was as most suitable for scholarly gentlemen and members of the clergy, usually in rural settings. In these cases, the Americans built their Gothic Revival houses out of stone and brick, in a nod to the castles and cathedrals of Europe.
The Gothic furniture revival arose from the rise in popularity of Gothic architecture.
Gothic Furniture | Where to Buy and How Much It Costs
The cost of Gothic furniture depends on the quality and material of the construction. Revival Gothic pieces are not as expensive as you may think. From beds to headboards to bedside tables to altars, these companies and numerous others have made it possible to bring the Gothic style to your home.
SPW Ironworks in Worcester, England recreates Gothic Revival furniture out of ironwork metal and steel. They create beds, daybeds, altars, dressing tables and more all by hand. They can create special commissions based on the dimensions and specifications you give them. International shipping is available. Beds can cost less than $1000 for a single bed to several thousand dollars for a king size. They have several sizes and styles available.
The Ancient Home is one of the world's leading companies in reproduction furniture from ancient and medieval periods. They offer amazing pieces of furniture in rich mahogany and other materials and also sell reproduction art pieces. Ornate headboards and carvings are common throughout many pieces. The Ancient Home provides the US and Europe customer service and makes ordering and shipping easy. Prices vary. Prices are in Euro and are converted based on the daily exchange rate. Certain beds cost around $2000, and some Gothic-style benches are available for about $1000.
The 12 Best Gothic Designs
These 12 designs, whether revival or something historical to get you inspired, are all worth a look.
12: Ironwork Metal Poster Bed
Check out the Ayesha, "an elegant wrought iron four-poster bed with clean straight lines to suit both traditional and modern decors". The bed is discreetly bolted together and can be fit into awkward areas of your house.
11: Ironwork Bedside table
The D179 iron bedside table is the perfect complement to SPW Ironworks' poster bed. It features an optional arch section and a drawer compartment. It is functional and adds an additional design element.
10: Solid Mahogany Canopy Bed
Wood furniture pieces in the Gothic style are also something to consider. If you are looking for an impressive yet earthy piece, click through to the solid mahogany canopy bed from The Ancient Home pictured here. This handcrafted, impressive bed melds well in a room even with a mix of different period styles.
9: Solid Pine Gothic Bench Reproduction
Perhaps you are looking for more seating and want to sit like they did in the medieval period when only lords could sit in chairs. In that case, look into this reproduction of a Gothic bench from The Ancient Home. It is a faithful reproduction of an actual ancient piece from that period. Click here to learn more about this striking piece from The Ancient Home.
8: Gargoyles — Revival
Gargoyles were a common feature of the Gothic period. Gargoyles are grotesquely carved figurines of animals or humans, usually with their mouths open to serve as a spout to project water away from a building. This is an example of gargoyles found in Buffalo, NY from the Gothic Revival Period from 1840 to 1860.
7: Gargoyles — Historic
Medieval cathedrals often featured gargoyles and chimeras, or grotesque carved figures that did not act as rain spouts. The most famous one of these is perhaps the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris where you can see many examples of gargoyles.
6: Wrought-Iron Curtain Rods
This is an easy way to add old-world appeal to your decor without springing for a major piece. Check out these wrought-iron curtain rods and make your living quarters a little more fit for a king.
5: Trefoil Spencer Table
This delicate side table made of brass has an appealing trefoil design top. Add a little princeliness to your abode even if you don't have a lot of space. Click here to inquire about pricing and other details.
4: Quatrefoil 2-Door Accent Cabinet by Hooker Furniture
This modern and elegant yet functional cabinet brings old-world elements to your dining room, living room, library or den. It has a beautiful swirling quatrefoil design on the front. Click here for the ordering details.
3: Quatrefoil Coffee Table from Cherry House Furniture
Coffee tables don't have to be boring, and just because it's elegant doesn't mean it's not sturdy. This heavy iron coffee table from Cherry House Furniture features a beautiful and elegant quatrefoil design
2: Gothic Pointed Arch Dining Room Chair
Comfortable yet regal. This signature and recognizable dining room chair features the signature pointed arch that is fit for a lord — or lady. Priced right at less than 600 Euros. Click through for ordering details.
1: Throne Chairs
When just nothing else will do, it may be time to add a throne chair to your dining room for maximum impact. Today's throne chairs come with comfortable finishes such as leather upholstery. Click through and regale your admirers with the ultimate attention-getter.
It provides ample room for imagination and inspiration. Whether you merely add an ornate curtain rod to your decor or live like lords and ladies with matching throne chairs, the Gothic period is not just for Dracula anymore.