INSIDE: Gothic without the horror

Fresh from the catwalk, Gothic style has made it into the home. Humour is the key, says Cayte Williams
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Alexander McQueen sent animal lovers a-twittering when he featured real ravens in his lugubrious Autumn/ Winter show; Dolce e Gabbana's current ad campaign is a skit on Night of the Living Dead, while The Face and Dazed & Confused have embraced mortuary chic with all the enthusiasm of Gomez Addams. All things Gothic have been raised from the dead and proclaimed the height of fashion.

For those who like the Gothic look but live in fear of emulating Lurch, there is hope. If you can't do Gothic on yourself, then do it on your home. But forget matt black and job lots of candles, the new Gothic has a sense of humour - skulls and crucifixes should share a room with Hallowe'en trash and fun fair skeletons.

Josh Collins, film-maker and self-confessed club impresario, lives in what looks like a horror B-movie set with his fashion-designer girlfriend, Babs. In fact, his house is now furnished with props from his latest film, Pervirella, a cross between a Victorian Gothic romp and The Wacky Races, which includes cameo performances by Jonathan Ross and Mark Lamarr.

The four-storey house in Islington is a converted Methodist church hall. Where once boy scouts played and vicars' wives sipped tea, there are now Killer Zombie posters and scull and bone collections. "I suppose it's Victorian Gothic meets Pop Horror. The Victorians were the first to collect knick-knacks and souvenirs from around the world, and I've collected horror trash on my travels. I like old, cheesy, Sixties horror films that are based in a never-never land that's not the Sixties, Seventies or 19th century, but somewhere in between."

Huge wall-length windows are covered with blinds and dusty curtains, while light peeks through the stained glass windows on the other side of the room, a reminder of the building's history. On the table sit two animal horns and a black wooden box carved with white skeletons. "The horns are from Portobello market," says Collins. "The big chair is from a friend who makes props and the box is from Spitalfields market.

"I suppose my favourite thing in the entire house is that big stone chair," he says. We look at a high chair which appears to be made out of petrified bones. "There's not a single nail in it. The stone slabs are all wedged into the wood. It really is an amazing piece of work and it weighs a ton. My mum got that from a sculptor in France."

Other knick-knacks include a nodding vulture (like a nodding dog, but more vicious) and a huge, austere black leather chair which originally came, he says, from the cabinet office of the Minister for Foreign Affairs during the Falklands War. Staring down at it from the other side of the room is what looks like a huge voodoo mask. "My sister found that in a skip in a builder's yard and got it for next to nothing," Collins explains. "It's from the 1951 Festival of Britain's South Sea Island exhibits and some people remember it." Next to it is a very strange animal trophy. "That's a giant stag beetle meets a water buffalo!" says Collins. "The animal heads were so old and mangy, we decided to play around with them. Everything I have I've customised or painted, nothing is kept as bought."

In the hallway stands a shop dummy dressed up like Vampira, complete with slinky frock and jet-black wig. Collins thought it was hysterical when an over-zealous Labour canvasser insisted in talking to her. "He could see her through the doorway and said, `Is that your wife, I want to speak to her.' I tried to explain that she wasn't real but he wouldn't believe me."

On the staircase, a mock-dungeon, complete with black mouldy bricks painted on the walls, chains and shackles, leads up to an Amazonian jungle above. In the bedroom the four-poster bed is like something out of a Transylvanian inn, complete with cracked mirror on the ceiling. "Yes," says Collins in mock-horror, "that mirror's seen some terrible things..."

So is he scared of ghosts? "The only noise you hear at night is from out in the street. You're more at risk from an uncouth yobbo than from a ghost." I'd rather not find out.

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