Opposite Upcycle Aesthetic: Mid-Century Modern vs. Victorian Aesthetic

For my upcycling project, I’ve been working on a Mid-Century Modern lamp that uses an origami lampshade to highlight the clean lines and natural material characteristics of the aesthetic. In my design, I’ve tried to utilize light colors, simple geometric shapes, and prioritize the function of my project in the design. If I were to complete this project using the opposite aesthetic from Mid-Century Modern, I believe it would be the Gothic aesthetic. The design philosophy is the antithesis of the mid-century modern aesthetic; rather than having clean lines and geometric shapes, Gothic architecture and design are complex, twisting and turning with buttresses and domes. An example of this style can be seen in the Notre Dame Cathedral (pre-fire at least), which can be seen below:


Mid-Century Modern tends to have a lack of visual clutter that the Gothic movement prides itself on. Motifs and cameos etched into form are one of the biggest characteristics of Gothic furniture. This is closely linked to heavy religious influences that are spread throughout the works. The below credenza has engraved carvings of biblical scenes at the forefront of the work. There is an emphasis on meticulous detail: in and of itself, an inherent class symbol. Furniture like the below piece was made for the noble elite and the church, not for laymen, not for everyday individuals, but for the highest of the high in the class structure. As a result, function comes after form with the Gothic aesthetic. These pieces aren’t meant to be used. They’re meant to be admired, preened over, and desired from a distance.

Neogothic furniture myers and monroe.jpg


Below is another photo of the Notre Dame Cathedral, this time from the inside. This image showcases the intricate stonework, beautifully crafted stained glass, and wrought iron components of the aesthetic. Each component is designed in meticulous detail. In addition, nature motifs are used frequently in this aesthetic; note the leaves capping the pillars and the branches and leaves that are smithed into the chandelier.

File:Paris Notre-Dame cathedral interior, chandelier 01.jpg


If I were to remake my project using the Gothic aesthetic, the final product would be vastly different. I would most likely swap the materials used in the lamp to be wrought iron and deep-toned hardwood. As stained glass is also a key component of the Gothic aesthetic, I would swap the folded origami lampshade with an octahedral-shaped stained glass structure with differing scenes on each of the individual faces. In addition, I think I would want to have small florets be the feet of the lamp to keep it off the ground. This design might already seem like a deluge of work, but I would argue: that’s kind of the point? Gothic designs are anointed, almost holy; they represent a lifetime of work from craftsmen who have spent their entire lives honing their skills to create works of decadence. There’s a reason why I didn’t choose it to be my aesthetic to begin with.

[1] Ali Abbagh, February 14th, 2024, https://www.flickr.com/photos/alisabbagh/37447815170/

[2] Myers and Monroe, February 14th, 2024, https://www.myersandmonroe.com/new-gallery-78

[3] Free Penguin, February 14th, 2024, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Paris_Notre-Dame_cathedral_interior,_chandelier_01.jpg

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Hello Trent,
    Thank you for providing such a stark contrast to your intended aesthetic. I can see that there are many differences between mid-century modern and Gothic and I think you made a good choice for your upcycle aesthetic. I agree that a Gothic theme would have been time-consuming. How do you think that the manufacturing process would have been different or more difficult if you chose Gothic? Great post!

    • Trent Bjorkman
      February 19, 2024 8:22 pm

      Hey Ian, thanks for the notes! I think the manufacturing process would be much much more intensive for a gothic style lamp, I’d want to make the shade of the lamp out of stained glass which would require specialized glass cutting tools in addition to copper sheeting to bind the glass and solder to attach each individual piece. I also would need to use black smithing tools to make wrought iron for the base.

  • Hi Trent, I really liked learning about the gothic aesthetic more from your post and it was interesting to hear how you would remake your upcycle project. I was wondering if you did have to make the lamp in the gothic aesthetic, if you could made the stained glass look from origami paper still by just playing with the different colors and patterns?

    • Trent Bjorkman
      February 19, 2024 8:27 pm

      Hi Kyra! Thanks for the comment. That’s a fantastic idea, I didn’t even think about trying to mimic origami with stained glass. I think replicating the aesthetic of the origami paper would be visually extremely interesting and lend well to the gothic aesthetic!


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