How to go goth without painting your walls black

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Jillian Venters
Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter.

This post originally appeared at Gothic Charm School.

Bedroom goth loli
Tiny little goth bedroom by Flickr user Blanca Amores

The Lady of the Manners is going to let you in on a little secret: every Goth goes through a stage where we think that painting a room black is a great idea. In truth, it isn't. There's spooky and elegant, and then there's oppressive and not-at-all inviting; guess which side of that divide black walls falls on?

So what can you do? Well, decide what color you want instead of black. The Lady of the Manners' personal preference would be for a pale pink, but understands that not everyone has embraced the Cupcake Goth aesthetic. A pale dove gray? Ivory? You probably want a mild, neutral-ish color for your walls, so that whatever you put on them doesn't cause eye-searing clashing.

Yes, putting things on walls. Have you seen the dizzying array of vinyl wall decals that are available now? You could have the shadow of Nosferatu on your wall, a flock of bats, "carpe noctem" in elegant calligraphy, a murder of crows, or a coffin design that doubles as a chalkboard. (The Lady of the Manners may have to get one of those for herself!)

If, by chance, you don't want to fiddle with vinyl wall decals, there is the time-honored tradition of having swags of interesting fabric hanging from your walls, framed posters and art, or a collage of post cards and images that strike your fancy. Or you could decide to take the time-consuming, but rewarding, route of painting stripes or stamping designs on your walls in contrasting colors.

Give some thought as to storage options: do you want stacks of plastic bins that you can drape with fabric to disguise their utilitarian nature? Or perhaps mismatched chests of drawers from thrift stores, given a new life with some careful coats of paint? Towers of hat boxes?

And of course, there are all sorts of styles and themes of bedding available for those of a gothy nature, though you probably will have better luck finding dark jewel tones and sumptuous velvets during the autumn and winter seasons.

In short, just because you can't have black walls doesn't mean you can't create a cozy Gothic nest of your very own. Take a look at the home decor blogs and magazines out there, and re-imagine what they're doing in your preferred color scheme.

  1. I went with one black damask wallpapered wall and the other 3 painted a blood red and it's not overly 'gothic' as all the furniture is wooden. Still waiting to install the black flocked chandelier though!

  2. This article came into my life at the right time. I was on the fence for a while about painting one of my rooms black, but these ideas are much lovelier.

    • Chalkboard paint makes for a lovely, more muted gray/black than a straight up black, and is a lot easier to switch up/appeals to other aesthetics. You can do an image search for chalkboard paint and come up with a lot of lovely interiors painted in it…mostly paired with lighter wood floors or lighter carpeting, to ease the transition.

  3. I once moved into a room that was purple with black trim, though I wouldn't consider myself a goth in any way, the purple was very cozy. I was very sad to leave my purple room, but very happy with my new and very offbeat abode. Now all I need is some organizational tips for camper living. 😉

  4. I agree that a whole black house would get a little tedious, but I LOVE my black bedroom and wouldn't trade it for anything. It is the most comfortable, easy room to sleep in ever.

  5. I painted my walls a medium gray– (Ralph Lauren paint called it 'Silver Cufflinks' gray in matte), and added white shelves with wrought iron brackets (thank you, Ikea!). This combined with all of the other black and white damask stuff I had, really brought it together without having to go totally black. It definitely darkened the room though, which made me glad that I didn't go black totally!

  6. Meeeeemories!
    I once had my bedroom painted a near black grey, with black skirting and black carpet installed that was commonly used in cars. I had the constellations up on the roof in those glow in the dark stars once so popular.
    It was my awesome little bat cave, perfect for the teenage goth stoner as you could sleep through the apocalypse in that darkness.
    In fact it was so dark that I could be sitting on my bed and no one could even tell I was in my room even with the door wide open.
    However it was the most agonising colour to live with in regards to everyday living and wear and tear.
    Ferret n cat hair on black carpet is a blinding beacon and you can never, ever, ever get rid of it. Ever.
    Knock the walls just slightly and BAM luminescent white plaster underneath.
    Accidentally ditch a boot onto the skirting and be forever doing touch ups with a black texta.
    Drop a piece of black clothing (obviously my most common clothing colour) and its gone. Not hiding in the darkness but physically sucked into an out of world portal to live with all those odd socks and hair lackies you can never find.
    And even industrial flood lights cant shine enough light so you can see what you are putting on to wear in the mornings without looking like a munchie crumb and pet fur smothered hobo.
    A not cool hobo like the Mugatu Derelicte collection either 😛
    I ended up painting one wall bright red and installing red shelving against the black walls after a couple of years.
    When we went to sell the house many years later we decided not to repaint the room.
    A lovely Chinese couple brought our house based on their love of the abyss.
    They said that it was lucky, they loved the colours where going to keep it that way.
    I'd like to think that the bat cave lives on….even if it is lurking under a billion layers of pastel shades. 🙂

    • My sister had the exact same problems. Even an extra strength light-blub with no lampshade at all (which looked much less cool than the one she bought at first) couldn't light the place up enough for black clothing/bags/shoes etc. to be visable. She tried used an industrial strength torch (flashlight) for a while but it was impractical so in the end she painted the cealing white and one wall pink and added a lot of coloured accessories but even then I think she was glad to move out.

      Black is a great base colour in some situations, but for a whole room I think it's better as an accent.

  7. I had a bit of a bat hole when I was in high school, but I only painted one of the walls black. I have to say, even my staunch republican conservative mom who only let me do that because paint is relatively cheap thought it looked great. The opposite wall was a dark teal and the two perpendicular were grey. What you could see of them, anyway. Between all the book cases and posters and whatnot pinned to the wall, not much wall was showing.

    Moving into my first 'grown up' apartment now that I'm finally done with undergrad and I cannot wait to decorate!

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