Oh my goodness, is it for real, finally it is happening and I can’t contain my excitement! So, (take a breath, steady yourself), I read somewhere this week that Modern Gothic is going to be the trend for 2018. WOW! Pause for breath again!
I have lived and breathed all things Gothic for as long as I can remember. My enduring love affair began aged 8 when we stayed in a very overblown and crumbling Victorian hotel in Scotland, with creaking wooden floors and painted walls in dark colours. Coming at the time from a pastel sixties newly built semi, my fascination was boundless. My sister and I slept in an attic bedroom, with tall wooden beds, horsehair mattresses and huge velvet drapes with fringing at the edges. Like all children, I fiddled with those fringes, they moved through my hands and came to life. I curled up in lace edged linen sheets and read an illustrated hardback version of Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett of The Secret Garden fame. Leaving there was one of the few times I recall crying excessively in my well behaved childhood, it was a world I had never experienced but one I understood completely.
As an extensive reader at a very early age (I thank my sister’s dream to become a teacher for that) I was onto Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights by the age of 9, and though I had to read them again later to glean their full literary power they certainly emboldened my passion for dark, mysterious interiors and lifestyles and, of course, dark brooding men storming around wearing breeches and big coats! Living my twenties in the misty and very often rainy places of the moors of Lancashire further fed my interest for murky interiors. Never to be forgotten visits to the dramatic interiors of Rufford Old Hall and Hardwick Hall set me on a path of discovery for simple interiors edged with lace and darkness.
Fast forward to a few years later, when high on the joys of working in the music industry, we had our first gig at the Royal Albert Hall, Tears For Fears 1985. Most people would, I suppose, be more phased by the proximity of the wonderful band, but I was utterly moved by the very fact that I was in the Albert Hall, in the areas the public could not reach. Almost at the top of the dome there is a private walkway that circumnavigates the building and I spent most of the show perambulating this walkway in a long, black taffeta original Victorian dress (slightly modified with a black corset around the middle), with vast net petticoats underneath and a slightly surreal hairstyle consisting of very long black hair extensions threaded into my already long locks, which unfortunately, at that time, were favouring fluorescent pink highlights. With my head held high and my pace slow, gazing at the beautiful dome and absorbing the resounding music, I was, for the duration of the show, Queen Victoria herself. I’m not sure what the road crew thought of me when I descended much later amid the mayhem of the get out wearing what they must have thought was a very absurd outfit for the typical TFF audience.
Tamed slightly throughout motherhood to save my children’s embarrassment when I turned up at the school gates with heavily khol’d eyes and long black skirts, I find myself in my later years veering back towards those never forgotten and readily awakened dark inspirations. I have just recently done my bedroom in the gorgeous House of Hackney Midnight Garden wallpaper, accompanied by heavy black velvet drapes (“Nooooooo” I heard my partner say when he saw them, but I think he quite likes them now, as when the lights are low it is a supremely restful and – dare I say – quite sexy place). The ensuite is panelled and painted Off Black by Farrow and Ball, a pretty perfect operative for Modern Gothic, with an utterly gorgeous white slipper bath and gold taps – when I put the blinkers on and the mirror steams up I could be a 1920’s superstar in here, at least until I don my ancient dressing gown and spy my beetroot face.
So back to Modern Gothic, which originally came about in the Victorian era as a rebellion against the excessive ornament of the Second Empire and Rococo Revival. Fuelled heavily from the legacy of Pugin and born from a desire to create furniture which might not have a perfect machine finish, but a need to inspire, Modern Gothic advocated simplicity and honesty of construction, and ornament derived from nature. As a forerunner of the Arts and Crafts Movement of the 1890’s, it was a far cry from our quick fix, flat packed pieces from Ikea! Nothing wrong with them in our throwaway culture, I suppose, (although I have it from the best authority that Sweden is up in arms against their somewhat loose association with “sustainability”), but how glorious would it have been to gaze upon something that had been made with purpose, with passion and with skill. Here’s an antidote to all things modern, a Jacobean inspired chair with a lovely covering of the madness that is Timorous Beasties fabric, which to my mind adds up to a pretty Modern Gothic design.
I don’t think this new foray into Modern Gothic will manifest itself in the elegant furnitures with their extravagant, hand forged butterfly hinges, (you know how we puff and blow at the expense of “hand made”) or the lovely and timeless damask silks that herald the glory of the original Gothic movement. Rather, I think we could possibly just be leaning towards the gloomy, macabre and dramatic that was the lifeblood of all things Gothic, think 1920’s silent movies, extravagant use of fabric, patterned wallpaper and subdued lighting. In fact a total dream for an interior designer like me!
In this style of design black is essential, but if altogether too scared to go dark then use it in moderation, as a highlight rather than a saturate and team it with splashes of emerald green, deep burgundy, ruby red, and dark Prussian blue against a backdrop of murky putty. (Please not against a backdrop of white, that is what makes it look cheap and trashy, it needs to always look slightly dirty to make the true drama shine through.) Of course black, or off-black walls are the easy way to do any kind of Gothic, with some splashes of those rich colours just mentioned, but not all are brave enough, in fact some of us are actively scared of black, so you can get the same effect by reversing the colours to a neutral background as long as there is black and at least one of those vibrant colours somewhere in the scheme. Add some stone floors and you’ll definitely be on for some spooky vibes! I say, prepare to go dark and, as always, more is more!! I so love dark, I think if I come back in another life it will be as a bat.
My new favourite designer is Anna Hayman, I’m soon to be a supplier of her sumptuous fabrics and you’ll see here that she doesn’t even have to try to “do” Gothic, it just happens, with ease. She has plenty of black in here, but has offset it with the neutral floor and ceiling.
While I was thinking up this blog about Modern Gothic, I took a few faux blooms from the shop and created this arrangement of my favourite dark colours. Putting them in an old black Victorian pedestal urn and placing them in a corner of my hall against some very old velvet curtains has given me the most enormous amount of pleasure and it certainly has a Gothic twist. I’m not sure anyone else has even noticed it, it so blends in with its background, but each time I come down the stairs I give a little smile to myself. Sad really!! I suppose I can say that at least me appreciates me!
This blog first appeared on Winchester Bloggers
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