American gothic design Essays and Papers

This essay has a total of 1394 words and 6 pages.

american gothic design

The most important aesthetic and philosophical style was developed in the eighteenth
century, yet this style did not reach its apex until the nineteenth. With Christian
elements and strong moral the movement appealed to the newly wealthy middle classes. The
notable increase in prosperity that accompanied the Industrial Revolution was largely
based on the accumulative benefits of inexpensive imports for the colonies. This new found
affluence and status for the middle-class, has naturally revealed in the types of homes
they lived in and the style in which they decorated and ornamented them. Unsure how to
begin this new style of living, they chose architecture and furnishings that had
previously been only for the aristocracy and the upper class. The critics of high
Victorian style, known as the Aesthetic Movement, objected not only to the style and
quality of machine-made furnishings but also to the manner in which they were used in the
home. The typical middle-class drawing room was crammed full of furniture, fabrics were
used in abundance and every available surface was overflowing with knickknacks. Such
displays were a means of showing off their new-found cultural interests, prosperity and
status. They were also in accord with the fashionable notion that bareness in a room was
in poor taste. Victorian Gothic style was zenithed in the mid-nineteenth century by those
who yearned to return to the complexity of the skilled craftsmanship and design that
prevailed in the Middle Ages.

Architecture in the Middle Ages in northern Europe was based on arches, such as the gable,
buttress, and ribbed vault. These houses had roofs that were high and sloping, which were
imperative in wetter climates of the north, and inspired the used of decorative elements
such as stonework and brick, oriel and lancet windows, or weathervanes. Colonettes rose to
these ceilings and eliminated the used of masonry walls, now leaving enough interior room
and wall space for windows. Large windows were made of stained glass, in later years
portraying religious figures, and the glow of light was said to symbolize "heavenly
spiritual light." These subjects soon passed as the sixteenth century approached with a
more classical form of architecture. This style, full of symmetry, rounded arches, and
columns, and lacking culture, branded medieval design "barbaric". Now collectively called
Victorian the architecture was made up of several main styles. These include Italianate,
Second Empire, Stick-Eastlake, and Queen Anne.

Facades of Victorian Gothic homes were asymmetrical with steeply pitched roofs.
The public rooms of the house, the living room and drawing room, were situated in the most
convenient area of the first floor. Living rooms were furnished and decorated rather
lavishly with exaggerated medieval features. Furniture was arranged asymmetrically around
the room in conversational groupings, there was abundance of articles in the room, yet
they had very simple patterns. The drawing room's aim was said to be the ‘jewel casket
of the home, in both content and form… in many houses it has almost become a museum of
old, valuable furniture and art treasures, and is often filled to overflowing in the

Kerr, in The Gentleman's House wrote that the overall appearance of the dining room should
be ‘somewhat massive and simple' being ‘of masculine importance.' The dining room was
known to be a male sanctuary where males stayed behind to talk and smoke after dinner and
the women retired. Lighting such as candlelit chandeliers and wall sconces gave the room
its warm and welcoming tones, as well as giving an attractive look to many materials. Wood
paneling that either covered the wall of when to dado level, creating a "chair rail," was
decorative and practical by protecting walls from being damaged by chair backs.

Originally the kitchen was placed in the basement of most terraced homes, and it wasn't
until the 1870's where the moved to a safer location and retained better plumbing and
heating techniques. The kitchen was dominated by a large cooking range and the central
wooden chopping block or table, used for most food preparation. Before the introduction of
the stove in 1840, meals were cooked over an open hearth. The new stoves were more
proficient because they did not need to be refueled as often and sparks were contained
within the cast-iron walls. Food was stored in a cool pantry away from heat of the stove,
or in an icehouse sited underground or on the back porch. Decor of the Gothic kitchen was
very simple since there were no flamboyant architectural details. It was important for the
kitchen to work efficiently as it was usually very crowded with servants doing their

Due to an escalating desire for privacy, bedrooms were made a separate room in the early
years of this movement. Therefore, being unseen to guests the bedroom was a place to let
light in and create a sense of warmth and simplicity, unlike common living rooms. Somber
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