Gothic Revival Design Overview

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The Gothic Revival of the mid-1800s reached back to medieval times for inspiration when life was difficult for many. Religion was very important during the Middle Ages, and it is evidenced in the spires, pointed arches and stained glass of the French churches of the 1100s.

As the Industrial Revolution advanced, there was a strong desire to return to pre-industrial times. Religious fervor was on the rise, too, and design elements of the Gothic Revival reflected these beliefs.

Gothic design elements

Spires, pinnacles, pointed arches, cluster columns, stained glass and tracery appeared mostly in churches and large public buildings. It was a difficult design to apply to residences, but these elements, along with trefoils, quatrefoils were very apparent in furniture and accessories.

Spires, pinnacles, pointed arches, stained glass, trefoils and other design elements appeared mostly in churches. It was a hard design to apply to residences, but it was very apparent in furniture and accessories.

More examples of Gothic design

  • The top of this sideboard looks like the front of a church!
  • This hall chair is quintessential Gothic Revival design, with its spires, cluster columns, quatrefoils and high back.
  • The arms and fabric of this sofa display pointed arches and trefoils.
  • Pointed arches, finials and tracery adorn this tall case clock.
  • There is no mistaking Gothic Revival design in this dresser and mirror – spires, trefoils and quatrefoils with a heavenly feel.
  • Here are several excellent examples of Gothic Revival architecture, furniture and accessories, including the New Palace of Westminster.
Design in the latter part of the Gothic Revival was simpler and easy to mass-produce. The entire Gothic Revival era went from being anti-Industrial Revolution to embracing it to make products available to a wider audience. I like the designers’ love/hate of the Industrial Revolution!

Gothic revival is easy to recognize what you know the elements. Think ‘medieval church’, and you can’t go wrong!

Gothic and Victorian revival, and 21st century Steampunk

Gothic Revival furniture, related to the Victorian era, would fit well in a Steampunk home. The Industrial Revolution changed the way people lived during the Victorian era. Steampunk conveys those changes by combining the old with the new while looking at the future.


Rustic wood with an old, handcrafted feel combines with working parts of machinery, gadgets and other metal items to create something completely new, unknown, with a sci-fi feel. The potential contrast created when a Gothic chair is used for a computer station can produce a powerful effect. The wood and religious details of Gothic Revival style furniture would complement the busy-ness of Steampunk, but could be reworked to bring it into the future. I think it’s a great combination!

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.