- Gothic-inspired interior decor is back in trend — think skulls, bats, and even Ouija boards.
- For many homeowners, Gothic-inspired decor is a reflection of their ghoulish tastes and a chance for self-expression.
- Even people who aren’t completely committed to the aesthetic are buying Gothic decor items to spice up their homes.
An elaborately carved headboard with bat patterns, black tin ceiling tiles, and dark curtains that glow red in the light welcome visitors to Katrina Johnson’s bedroom.
In fact, it’s become a party trick for her and her husband, Scott Johnson, to reveal the space when they have guests over.
“We would keep the door closed, and as soon as they walk into the bedroom, there would be such shock and amazement because I don’t think they were expecting to see that,” Johnson told Insider.
“It’s always fun to like see people’s reactions when they see the room for the first time,” she added.
When the couple — who live just outside of Los Angeles — bought their first house together in August 2021, they knew that the plain, cookie-cutter interiors had to go.
As metalheads and “lovers of all things dark,” the all-white aesthetic that the house came with was not their style at all, Johnson said.
They swapped out the original floors for charcoal-colored vinyl flooring, and painted the walls in varying shades of grey, dark blues, and deep reds.
The house is still a work-in-progress but they’re planning to have a different theme for each room — and Johnson’s documenting the transformation on Instagram.
“They’re all gonna be dark, but our bedroom is very much a vampire aesthetic. Downstairs, we’re going for a medieval or cathedral vibe, with some dragons and swords,” Johnson said.
Although Johnson can’t modify the exterior of the house due to the homeowners association, being able to design the inside is a dream come true, she said.
“I’ve always kind of leaned towards the darker things in life,” she added. “This house was my opportunity to create some of that vision that I’ve had in my head for so long.”
Making goth cool again
The Johnsons are part of a growing community of homeowners who are embracing an aesthetic that’s inspired by the Gothic style — think dark color palettes, ornate furniture, and even creepy collectibles.
“Gothic styles have had an endless series of reinventions and reprises through history,” Roger Nelson, an assistant professor of art history at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, told Insider.
“As well as going in and out of vogue in fashion, design, and popular culture over the last half-century, Gothic art and architecture was also repeatedly revisited in Europe between the 12th and 16th centuries, and after,” he said.
The beginnings of Gothic architecture in Europe were inspired by Western Asian styles — specifically Islamic architecture in Persia, which is present-day Iran, Nelson said.
Characterized by features such as pointed arches, flying buttresses, and stained glass windows, some prominent examples of Gothic architecture can be seen in buildings like the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and Westminster Abbey in London.
The Gothic literary genre — named after the castles and ruins where the stories are often set — deals with elements of terror and the supernatural, à la Mary Shelly, Edgar Allen Poe, and Bram Stoker.
“During that period, the impact of the Bubonic plague or “Black Death” was one reason for the recurrent imagery of death and decay in Gothic architecture and architectural design,” Nelson said.
Indulging an appetite for the dark and the macabre
For many homeowners, the Gothic style isn’t about following a trend. Rather, it’s a reflection of their own ghoulish tastes.
“My personal style is always evolving, but growing up, I felt drawn to darker styles and themes — think Tim Burton movies and “Goosebumps” books,” Naomi, a 29-year-old homeowner from Pennsylvania, told Insider. She asked that only her first name be used.
Naomi lives with her partner Victor, outside of Philadelphia, in a ranch-style house that she bought at the beginning of last year.
She describes her style as a mix of dark Victorian and Gothic, characterized by her collections of curios and other oddities inspired by those time periods.
Like the Johnsons, Naomi uploads photos of her home on an Instagram account that’s dedicated to the witchy aesthetic.
Framed illustrations of owls, paintings of mythical creatures, and even vintage photographs of old places and strange figures are artfully arranged to cover almost every inch of bare wall in her home.
It’s no question that these are her favorites, Naomi said: “I live in a house with limited square footage, so maximizing the wall space allows me to embrace my style without taking up too much floor space.”
Most of these items she found at thrift stores or antique stores, while the wall art comes from artists that she follows online. She also admits to buying Halloween decor from places like At Home, HomeGoods, and TJ Maxx — and leaving them out year-round.
“I’ve moved around quite a bit throughout my life. I was so used to moving every year that I didn’t hold on to much and embraced a very minimalist lifestyle,” Naomi said. “Now that I have a home, I have so much more freedom to decorate it exactly how I want.”
But it’s not always easy to find items that are to your liking, especially if you have unconventional tastes.
Just ask Rebecca Arnett, a 33-year-old from South Wales, UK, who founded a Gothic home decor brand after not being able to find items that she liked.
“I decided I had to make it myself,” Arnett told Insider. In 2018, she started her business The Blackened Teeth, with her husband Lee.
Some popular items from her store include skeleton lamps, skull bookends, and spine-shaped candles — all of which are designed and crafted in-house by Arnett and her team of eight.
Arnett’s love of the Gothic aesthetic stems from her teenage years listening to punk, rock, and metal music. Since young, she’s also had a fascination with death.
“Death has always been openly spoken about in my family. As a child, I observed my grandmother being an avid collector of unusual urns,” Arnett said.
Over time, she added, the urns became a symbol of how beauty can be found even in the macabre.
Although her family always understood her passion, they questioned her decision to leave her retail management career to go all-in on her business, Arnett said.
“I got questions such as, ‘Do you think that there are enough people who like Gothic stuff, that you can make a business out of it?'” she added. “My answer to that was, well, the clock is ticking and I better take the plunge now and find out.”
As it turns out — there is a market for ghoulish decor.
Most of her clients are female and tend to be aged between 25 to 40 years old. Although the store ships worldwide, the most popular shipping destinations are the UK and the US, Arnett said.
“We fill a gap in the market that I identified very early on through my own struggles, and that’s producing higher-end Gothic home decor products that you don’t even need to be goth to appreciate and love,” she added.
Not just for Halloween — or the goths
The best part of the Gothic aesthetic is its versatility.
Although Instagram hashtags such as #gothicinterior and #gothicdecor throw up thousands of photos of elaborately-decorated rooms, that’s not the only way to appreciate the style.
“Gothic home decor can be as full on as you like or as minimalist as you like,” Arnett said. Even adding small touches in the form of ornaments or wall decor pieces can change the feeling that the space exudes, she added.
Even if you’re on a budget or can’t find an exact piece that you like, DIY is always an option, Naomi said.
“I was lucky enough to find a Vampirina dollhouse at a thrift store last year. It was bright pink and purple, but I spray-painted it black and now it’s one of my favorite pieces,” Naomi said. “I love finding affordable pieces at thrift stores and modifying them to fit my personal style.”
In recent years, Arnett has also seen an increase in customers who are buying Gothic decor items to complement their non-Gothic style homes.
They are also especially popular among people living in rented apartments who need temporary ways to personalize their space.
“I think Gothic decor is growing in interest and has the ability to complement many styles of diverse interiors, from maximalist homes to clean, chic, white-walled homes,” Arnett said. “You don’t have to call yourself a goth or have black walls to be a Gothic home decor enthusiast.”
For Arnett, Naomi, and the Johnsons, Gothic-inspired decor isn’t just for the Halloween season; it’s a reflection of their likes and beliefs.
“It doesn’t mean that all Gothic lovers are morbid, it just means they can see beauty in darker subject matters where others may not,” Arnett said.
That said, for Arnett, part of it is the beauty of impermanence. “I adorn my home with beautifully macabre Gothic decor as a reminder to myself and my guests that our time here is limited,” she said.