Gothic homemaking 101

A coffin-shaped bathtub tray in the home of Aurelio Voltaire in Manhattan on October 19, 2022. (Photos: NYT)
At the Gothic Renaissance store near Union Square in Manhattan, a man clad in all black, with his hair and beard dyed to match, navigated a maze of corsets, steampunk goggles, and winged harnesses to a rack of outerwear. From it he pulled a black velveteen Victorian-style tuxedo jacket. The price on its tag: $220.اضافة اعلان

“People think it costs a lot of money to be Goth,” Aurelio Voltaire, 55, said. “As long as you’re wearing all black, you’re already three-quarters of the way there.”

A few blocks away, at the Evolution Store on Broadway, Voltaire picked up two replica human skulls and paused to admire the shop’s selection of fossils. “This place is almost like a natural-history museum, except the difference is here you get to take home the exhibits,” he said.

Using his phone, he filmed footage for a future episode of “Gothic Homemaking”, the YouTube series he started in 2016. In some 108 episodes to date, which together have been viewed more than 4 million times, Voltaire has established himself as a macabre Martha Stewart, sharing shopping tips, decorating hacks, recipes — even travel destinations — with viewers who refuse to confine spookiness to only one season.

A dark star is born
Much of “Gothic Homemaking” is filmed in the East Village studio apartment Voltaire rents, which he calls the “Lair of Voltaire”. He pays less than $2,000 a month for the rent-stabilized unit, which he moved into 20 years ago.

A taxidermy bird in the home of Aurelio Voltaire in Manhattan on October 19, 2022.

Born in Havana and raised in New Jersey, Voltaire’s boyhood fascination with Universal Studios’ classic Universal Monsters films and other horror movies blossomed into a teenage taste for the moody music of British rock bands including Siouxsie and the Banshees and Bauhaus. Along the way, he said, “I slowly started wearing less and less colors until I had, unbeknown to myself, become a Goth.”

Once in New York, he started working in stop-motion animation, a career that led to gigs with TV networks, and to becoming an instructor at the School of Visual Arts. After 10 years in animation, he started performing as what he calls a “dark cabaret” musician and has released 12 albums.

In 2004, he published a book, “What is Goth?”, using the pen name Voltaire. The next year came a follow-up, “Paint It Black: A Guide to Gothic Homemaking”. A decade or so later, the second book would serve as the blueprint for Voltaire’s “Gothic Homemaking” series, which he started to document his progress transforming his apartment into an occult oasis.

“I want people to walk into my home and think a real vampire lives here, as opposed to a fan of vampire movies,” he said.

The series is essentially a one-man show, with Voltaire both starring in and producing its episodes. His fiancée, Mayumi Toyoda, a singer, occasionally appears on camera and helps with production. Segments that take place inside his apartment are recorded using a camera and a tripod, with a ring light, color changing LED lights, and a smoke machine providing ambiance on set. Episodes begin with a cartoon sequence in which a skeleton sprays blood and bile at a suburban home with a white picket fence to transform it into a haunted house.

The ‘Lair of Voltaire’
With more than 138,000 views, one of the most watched “Gothic Homemaking” episodes chronicles the renovation of Voltaire’s bathroom. In it, he recounts persuading his reluctant landlord’s even more reluctant contractors to install a black toilet and sink from Kohler, and his search for a technician willing to refinish his bathtub in black paint. “Now it’s like a gothic spa,” Voltaire said. The job, he estimated, cost him around $4,000.

Aurelio Voltaire  on October 19, 2022.

But he declined to answer when asked how much he has spent in total on renovating and redecorating the lair.

The color scheme is primarily black and gray, with pops of purple provided by accent lighting, wallpaper, and amethyst crystals. A pair of black thrones hand-carved in Indonesia, one of which is flanked by massive bat wings, anchors the living area. Preserved bats hang from a chandelier and no fewer than a dozen taxidermied ravens, crows, and other corvids decorate the space.

“Some people buy fancy cars,” he said. “The happiness that I derive from feeling good in my own home is worth every cent.”

The series inspired him to launch a “Lair of Voltaire” home décor line featuring “Goblin King” scented candles, gravestone-shaped soap and other items sold online and at “spooky stores around the country”, as he put it, including Gothic Renaissance.

Some fans said his YouTube series has a transportive quality that has helped them forget the doldrums of day-to-day life. Molly Bloomer, 8, who lives in Kansas City, Missouri, called it her “go-to show for the whole pandemic”, adding that she recently made a “cemetery dirt parfait” dessert featured in a 2020 episode. Her mother, Becky Bloomer, 41, said the series was a form of “magical escapism” for her daughter during lockdown.

Superfans of the series might have noticed that there is one thing noticeably absent from its episodes: a bed. A visit to Voltaire’s apartment revealed no trace of one either.

So where does he sleep?
“If you were standing in a vampire’s parlor, it would make the most sense that the denizens of his home sleep hanging upside down in the closet,” Voltaire said. “Which I’m perfectly comfortable having people believe.”

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