Interior Decoration: Designing Decadence

Gossling, Jessica. 2021. Interior Decoration: Designing Decadence. In: Jane H. Desmarais and David Weir, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Decadence. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190066956 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

This article explores the role of interior decoration in decadent culture by examining the relationship of decadent lives to decadent writing. The interiors described in decadent fiction often take inspiration from real houses and apartments; those fictional descriptions, in turn, sometimes inspire the decoration of actual homes. The article begins with a discussion of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Philosophy of Furniture,” and then considers the “museum houses” of the Goncourt brothers and Robert de Montesquiou. These real spaces were the ne plus ultra of artistic living in the nineteenth century and influenced the decoration of the interiors in J.-K. Huysmans’s À Rebours (1884). The final section considers the legacy of decadent design in interior decoration by examining Gabriele D’Annunzio’s Vittoriale degli Italiani (Shrine of Italian victories), the hillside estate where the writer lived from 1922 until his death in 1938, and the “dictator chic” aesthetic evident in the design choices of Donald Trump and his rich, famous, and authoritarian contemporaries.

Item Type:

Book Section


collecting, curation, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Goncourt brothers, Joris-Karl Huysmans, individuality, interior decorating, Robert de Montesquiou, Edgar Allan Poe, Donald Trump

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature > Decadence Research Unit


November 2021Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

18 Jan 2022 09:38

Last Modified:

18 Jan 2022 09:39


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