Historic Homes Part 3: Victorian Style

What comes to mind when you think of Victorian Style homes? I picture corsets and parasols, dark parlors, lace doilies and loads of decorative detail. Not exactly my personal cup of tea. However, I’m a believer that every style has something to offer and contains ideas that can spark our imagination, so let’s look closer to see what we might be able to find to inspire us today!

In last months post, we looked at Romantic Style Homes. This month, we’re looking at Victorian Homes. Britain’s Queen Victoria reigned from 1837-1901, but in America, what we consider to be Victorian are the styles of homes that were popular during 1860-1900. 

During this time period, the development and growth of the railroad and the advent of mass production led to dramatic changes in American home design and construction.  Components like doors, windows, and decorative detailing were fabricated in factories, which lowered the cost of these decorative features. These products were then distributed across the country via the railroad, allowing more people access to all kinds of architectural ornamentation.

Compared to the earlier Colonial and Romantic Style homes, Victorian homes were less strict in their symmetrical design and layout and more exuberant in their decorative details.

Characteristics of Victorian Style Homes

Asymmetrical front facades with steeply pitched roofs and turrets

Elaborate decorative elements & multi-textured, multi-colored surfaces

Colorful Exteriors

A distinguishing characteristic of many Victorian-style homes is their interesting color combinations. Typically, Victorian houses rely on no fewer than three shades of paint. Some Victorian color schemes are cotton candy pastels, while others are more deep and muted. Our family recently visited San Francisco and we were able to visit some of the more famous Victorian Homes, The Painted Ladies. It was fun to see the unique personality that was created by the color and ornamentation of each home. They would be pretty cookie-cutter without those distinguishing details!

The Painted Ladies in San Francisco

Bay Windows

Interior Colors & Textures

Designers in the Victorian Era weren’t afraid of color. This kitchen displays an analogous color scheme of shades of green and yellow. What I find more interesting is the application of color. The trimwork is a deeper green that compliments the doors and cabinets, while the wall and ceiling are a cheery yellow. Even the floor tile is on-scheme. Here’s a collection of Late Victorian Hues, which is perhaps a bit more muted, but still quite colorful.

Fabrics of the era were typically velvet and heavy silk damask. Furniture was ornately carved and wood stains were typically darker tones, as well.

Takeaways for today

What I see when I look at Victorian Homes is a freedom of expression. Kind of a more-is-more approach to design. I see playfulness and lots of layering of color, texture, and pattern. We could also learn a thing or two about color usage from Victorians, too. Painted surfaces are an opportunity to play! You can always repaint when you tire of it. I think we play it safe a bit too often and miss opportunities for daily joy when we’re afraid of color!

Here are a few Victorian remodels that caught my eye

The project below maintains the historic feel of the Victorian style home, but freshens it up with some lighter colors and painting some of the woodwork. The before and after of this stairway is dramatic!

This project is a remodel of a San Francisco Victorian style home that incorporated a Scandinavian aesthetic. The window casing in this living room is highlighted with contrasting paint. This simplifies some of the detailing and the windows almost mimic famed art in the space.

Another Victorian Style home remodel. The spindle work on the interior (and exterior) have a mid-century feel and it was fun to see them pick up on that and embrace it in the interior!

Like what you see?

Whether you have a historic home that you’d like to renovate for today’s needs or you just want to have some of the warmth and character of historic homes and aren’t sure where to start, I’m here to assist you every step of the way.

Contact me to get the conversation started!