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At the Better Homes & Gardens 100th anniversary celebration this fall, several interior design trends emerged as can’t-miss contenders for 2023. But one dark and moody style stands out as especially magic. Enter: Whimsigoth.
A combination of whimsical and gothic, whimsigoth style, coined by Evan Collins, is built on the moodiness of gothic style—dark colors, rich textures, and plenty of drama—but incorporates hefty doses of airier fabrics, greenery, and celestial embellishments for a light counterbalance.
“The whimsigoth aesthetic shows a lighter, softer version of the original goth spiced up with eclectic elements, such as nature, plants, vintage patterns, and apothecary decor,” says Jeremy Jankowski, creator management lead of lifestyle at Pinterest, who spoke at the event. An already popular emerging style this year, the aesthetic is expected to be huge in 2023. “This is the goth-aissance,” says Jankowski.
Get the details on this moody style, why it’s hot now, and how to get the eclectic look.
What Is Whimsigoth Style?
“I see whimsigoth as grandmillennial style’s darker, edgier, more magical cousin,” says Heather Goerzen, Havenly design editor. “If grandmillennial is a Jane Austen novel, then whimsigoth is Practical Magic. It combines all of the eclectic maximalism, vintage love, and floral romance that people are gravitating towards these days mixed with an equally trending bent towards dark, moody, saturated spaces.”
The key to whimsigoth style is not going full goth. “It’s not macabre. The whimsy is essential,” says Groezen. “It’s more otherworldly and ethereal than it is creepy and sinister.” Celestial elements like moons and stars are often used to add that lighthearted character. Contrasting elements also define the look: whimsigoth mixes heavy and light fabrics, uses both hard and soft materials, and adds bright colors among the dark.
Retro Roots and a Return to Color
Whimsigoth’s rise comes as fashion and entertainment from the 1990s regain popularity. Like Goerzen’s nod to Practical Magic, we can’t help but recall Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer when discussing whimsigoth’s feel. Jankowski also points to Balenciaga’s “’90s gothic undertone” and the “whimsical aesthetic of Alessandro Michele’s Gucci,” which he calls “two of the biggest things in fashion at the moment.”
Kristen Bentrup, design consultant at Fringe, an interior design and home furnishings business, similarly sees this retro influence in whimsigoth style. But just as The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a darker update of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, whimsigoth is moodier and more dramatic than its ’90s roots. Although the look has comfortable nostalgia for some, Bentrup notes the ease of embracing whimsigoth style strongly appeals to “a new and younger audience who add their own spin to it.” And trendsetters have certainly embraced it: TikTok user @ladyfromtheoutside is credited for helping whimsigoth styles and influences go viral.
But it’s not just part of a fleeting retro revamp. Whimsigoth is a response to broadly popular home design trends, too. “It cues an underlying optimism and dreamy escapism that we all desperately crave in a post-pandemic climate,” says Goerzen. It’s part of the movement away from light, uncluttered interiors. “While warm minimalism brought us clean, bright, organic spaces, we’re seeing a major shift towards people wanting color, character, and comfort in their spaces,” says Goerzen. “There’s a desire for spaces to feel immersive, intimate, and above all, distinctive.”
How to Get the Whimsigoth Look
“Whimsigoth mixes some of design’s best elements: rich colors, elegant patterns, and a combination of styles and finishes,” says Bentrup. Both Bentrup and Goerzen align whimsigoth looks with eclectic style, which gives the it some serious design flexibility. Of course, it’s easy to sway more gothic or whimsical, but you can also play up greenery and wood finishes for a more organic style. Or go romantic with florals and lace, or lean into dark academia with plenty of books and leather. The style can even lean contemporary. Jankowski describes his living room as “a combination of gothic minimalism complemented by something whimsical.”
Start with a dark, moody base, then incorporate dashes of softness and whimsy. What and how you choose to incorporate those elements—cosmic blue, dark hickory, or dramatic black walls, for example—is open to both personal taste and what’s available to you. Just remember that whimsigoth needs contrast for the nostalgia-tinted look to feel fresh and now. Here are some ideas from the pros about how to nail the look in your home.
1. Dark, Saturated Colors
White walls, begone! Sorry, Scandi style and other minimalist decor styles; walls need color for this style to succeed. “Set the scene with a slate-black paint or nature-inspired moody sage,” suggests Goerzen. Alternatively, try a dark patterned wallpaper, whether a Victorian damask or a geometric Art Deco print. Be sure to incorporate deep hues through furniture, rugs, and other textiles. Monochrome matte-black kitchens are popping up on Pinterest, which Jankoweski credits as a prime example of the trend and something we can expect to become even more popular in the near future.
2. Mixed Textures
Velvets and hardwoods quickly come to mind for a gothic quality. “Combine a vintage-style sofa or chair in a luxe velvet along with tables in a dark wood finish,” recommends Bentrup. For a light contrast, Goerzen suggests lacey weaves and gauzy fabrics for everything from curtains to throws and tablecloths.
3. Celestial Elements
Here lies the intersection of gothic and whimsy: celestial shapes and patterns. Embrace the witch kitsch of the 1990s with moons and stars, as well as touches of metallics and iridescence. “Look for whimsical wallcoverings or art with a celestial pattern,” says Bentrup. Or turn to more dimensional decor, like a moon-shaped table lamp.
4. Gothic Accents
Feeling the gothic elements? Try a statement piece or incorporate more subtle hues through embellished furniture accents on table legs, mirrors, and lamps. “Mix in unique accessories that add to the gothic trend, such as ornate mirrors, legged candleholders, or skull-themed decor,” suggests Bentrup. Even in a more minimalist setting, ornate accents bring home the whimsigoth sense.
5. Lots of Layers
“To best achieve the look, layer materials and textures,” says Bentrup. Hang a sheer drape with a solid curtain panel, or add rugs over hard or carpeted floors. Stack items like books on surfaces for depth. Don’t just use a few tapered candles; mix them with tealights, votives, and pillars of varying sizes, then incorporate them around a room. Layer multiple pillows and throws over furniture, beds, or even on the floor for informal seating and lounging.
6. Houseplants and Floral Patterns
“Lean into dramatic botanical and floral prints, whether in wallpaper, textiles, or artwork,” says Groezen. And don’t forget the real deal, too. “Opt for whimsical dried floral arrangements, particularly in warmer hues,” says Goerzen, adding that potted plants are also highly encouraged. Go big, bold, and visible with palms, or add creeping vines or hanging spider plants to imbue an ethereal garden atmosphere.
7. Dramatic Art
Art is a great way to embrace the trend and provide color inspiration for a room. Take cues from creepy classics like Caravaggio’s Medusa or Maria van Oosterwijck’s Vanitas-Still Life. Or try something more modern. “Spotlight dark and dramatic portraitures, ones that feel like there is a mystery behind the character,” says Goerzen. Check out Janet Hill Studio for many intriguing portraits that enhance the look.
8. Magic-Inspired Artifacts
There’s a bit of magic at the core of whimsigoth. “Display a collection of natural artifacts, like stones, driftwood, and feathers in a mirrored vintage tray or glass box for that Practical Magic impact,” says Goerzen. Crystals and apothecary jars are obvious selections while decorating with a mortar and pestle or switching dried herbs and cooking spices to display jars subtly enhance the witchy feel.
9. A Sense of History
“Weave in lots of vintage pieces, from furniture to decor elements,” says Goerzen. “The goal is for there to be a sense of history throughout your space.” Similarly, she suggests bringing in rustic and distressed wood and finishes with a patina to feed into the feeling of the past.