In HBO’s The Gilded Age, the mansions—many of them real homes in Newport, Rhode Island—almost have larger personalities than the catty socialite characters who occupy the show’s historical fictional world. There are grand oil paintings hung on the walls, heavy velvet curtains draped over the windows, jewel-toned ottomans fringed within an inch of their lives. There is no subtlety, no simplicity, no minimalism here—instead, there’s extravagance, elegance, and maximalism.
And, as it turns out, these over-the-top interiors are now inspiring real-life decor. 1stDibs reports a 130 percent increase in Gilded Age searches during January and February as the show aired, specifically for pieces done in Belle Epoque or French Nouveau style. (Some context: During the 1880s and 1890s, wealthy Americans often sourced furniture, and interior inspiration, from Europe.)
At first this might seem surprising: after all, mid-century modern and warm minimalism have dominated contemporary interiors for quite some time, as society as a whole has become less formal. But nostalgia is a powerful emotion when it comes to creative direction: when faced with such elegantly dressed surroundings on TV, it seems, some have begun seeking a more blended space. “Although today’s interiors have taken a different stylistic turn, many of these Gilded Age pieces can work well in contemporary spaces, in moderation and with judicious curation,” Anthony Barzilay Freund, Director of Fine Art for 1stDibs, says. “Beautiful craftsmanship and fine materials, after all, never go out of style and the sculptural nature of many of these furnishings can add some visual drama to a relatively restrained space.”
He also adds that, while some of the more formal and stuffy accents may remain in the past, there are some similarities between 1890s tastes and the preferences of today: “What’s more, much high-end contemporary design is unabashedly sumptuous, with gilding and gleaming surfaces popular among today’s best young designers. It’s interesting to see how top-notch antiques can harmoniously converse with the creations of this current gilded age.”
And it’s not just the lavish interiors of 1890s New York that are inspiring some to switch up their decor. Bridgerton, Netflix’s most-watched series, has brought the style of Regency era England back into the spotlight. Ornamental in nature, with motifs borrowed from antiquity, English Regency style (not to be confused with Hollywood Regency), was the epitome of fanciful—Buckingham Palace, for example, was built by John Nash during this period. Accordingly, the hashtags #regencycore and #royalcore have racked up 23.6 million views and 292.4 million views, respectively, on TikTok.
During the show’s debut in 2021, Etsy reported a 25% increase in searches for regency items including a 34% increase for candelabras and 110% increase for tea sets. More recently, U.K. company Uswitch analyzed Google searches and found that popularity of wisteria grew by 54%, floral wallpaper by 44% and antique furniture by 45% since the Netflix show’s season two premiere. Meanwhile, when Shonda Rhimes’s New York apartment by famed designer Michael Smith graced the cover of Architectural Digest, she exemplified what a modern-day interpretation of regencycore looks like. “I had been immersed in the romanticism of Bridgerton for a while, so that had to influence some of the things that I had been thinking about,” Rhimes says.