Gothic furniture is characterized by ornate, unique artwork that contains the same elements found in Gothic architecture. This architectural style is associated with church design, and Gothic furniture was created to complement it. Specific design characteristics that appear in the furniture are gargoyles, flying buttresses, and quatrefoil and trefoil shapes. Pointed arches, tracery, heavy fabrics, and heavy woods are some other characteristics of this type of furniture.
Believed to have originated in churches in the 13th century, Gothic furniture contains intricate carvings, decorative paintings, and elaborate sculptures. Initially found in wealthy homes, the furniture evolved over time and features elaborate, cathedral-style ornamentation. Mirroring features in Gothic architecture on a much smaller scale, the furniture was widely popular in the Middle Ages. Furniture pieces are mostly massive and sturdy with rich, dark colors.
Gothic furniture is very reflective of Gothic art, and motifs such as the linen-fold, the rose, and the wheel were imported from architecture and incorporated into furniture. Colors like gold, forest green, ruby, and purple were used to highlight the rich designs. The walnut, rosewood, oak, and other heavy woods used were finished with a dark patina. Rich fabrics such as leather, brocade, and velvet covered the frames as upholstery. Initially, Gothic furniture started out by being very practical, simple, and robust.
Sideboards and large chests in the Gothic style secured valuables and stored them safely. The feudal lords at that time engaged in warfare constantly, and the furniture had to be shifted around. Crafters added chair backs and feet to chests to make things easier. Tables, cabinets, chairs, and beds evolved over time to have many splendid motifs and great character. Initially decorated with paintings in the 14th century, the furniture began to feature more sculpted ornaments later on.
The fabrics chosen to make chairs matched the wealth of their owners. The chairs became more ornate with many sculptures until they began to resemble royal thrones. Beds became more luxurious with painted and sculpted elements and ornamental bed heads. They became larger and began to feature canopies and delicately carved four-posted pieces. After a while, the wooden sections were hidden with beautiful curtains.
Beautifully embroidered blankets and mattresses became the norm. Many precious fabrics containing embroidery with gold threads draped the beds. Tables were sometimes made of gold or silver, while the less wealthy utilized sculpted tables made of marble and stone.