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Victorian Home Styles

Updated on February 7, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Old Houses

Some people have a passion for old houses. There is something magnificent about the smell of the old wood, a stair rail worn smooth by hundreds of hands over the years, the architectural details that were hand crafted so long ago.

As the houses have aged many have not fared well. Some have been split up into apartments, some have been torn down for parking lots, and some have just fallen into disrepair. Some have been brutally torn apart and poorly renovated by an overzealous neophyte.

How can you tell which type of house you are looking at? What is the difference between a Foursquare and a Colonial Revival? If the previous owners lower the ceilings four feet and covered the shingles with vinyl how do you figure out what you are looking at?

Carpenter Gothic/ Gothic Revival

Gothic style home in Galveston, Texas
Gothic style home in Galveston, Texas

The style of Victorian architecture known as Gothic Revival began in England in about 1840. Victorians had begun to have a fascination with Medieval things and sought to create homes that resembled the castles and cathedrals of the Middle Ages.

It will have steeply pitched roof-lines and arched windows. The lines will remind you of a church or a cathedral. The scroll-work that may be on the house will be ornate and arched, in keeping with the rest of the home. Intricate details abound. This is the style of house where you will often find the quatrefoil windows, as well as other unusual shapes.

Board and batten siding is sometimes run vertically rather than horizontally. The architects of the time worked hard to give their designs a strong and unmistakable vertical element. The houses bring the eye up to the topmost point of the roof.

Gables will be steeply pitched. Decorative trusses abound. These are truly homes that are works of art.

Carpenter Gothic describes the Gothic style home that s made from wood, and finely crafted and detailed scroll-work coupled with a vertical look and arched windows will testify to the beautiful style of this home. It is hard to miss.

Gothic Revival refers to the homes in this style that were made from masonry; stone and brick.



The Italianate was inspired by the old world Italian villas. While the Gothic style gives the impression of vertical space the Italianate gives the impression of horizontal space that has been randomly added to over a period of years.

The roof-lines are low pitched and many times they are flat on top. There are often square towers or cupolas. There is normally a wide porch and sometimes even a second-story porch.There are often crowns over the windows, deep eaves,balconies and round tops on windows and doors.

These homes were popular from the 1860s to about the 1880s.

Second Empire


The Second Empire Style of architecture was also inspired by the Italian villas and built in about the same time period. The major differences between the Italianate and the Second Empire were in the roof line and cornices.

Where the Italianate had wide eaves, the Second Empire style had narrow eaves, a more complex design and a mansard roof. Many of the public buildings were very ornate, however private homes maintained the simple lines of the Italianate.

The Second Empire home also was known for it's rounded dormers, brackets and classic pediments.

Greek Revival

Image:  Classic Greek Revival home in Hallowell Maine
Image: Classic Greek Revival home in Hallowell Maine

Greek Revival architecture became very popular in the United States in the early part of the 1800s. Archeological discoveries led to a Victorian fascination with ancient design.

Greek Revival style is made obvious by the large columns on the exterior, giving the house the look of a Greek Temple. Moldings were simple, pediments were narrow and the design was clean and classic.

A Melange of Design

Remember, few houses are a pure style. Many local architects and builders copied the well known architects but added their own special touches as they went along. Sometimes there will be several styles juxtaposed together.

This can happen for several reasons. Perhaps the original owner liked a variety of styles, perhaps the house was added to over the years or perhaps the builder just added on each time he ha a whim. Learn to look at the structure, the lines, the small details so that you can pick out what belongs and what does not for the most accurate, and beautiful restoration.


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    • Miss Lil' Atlanta profile image

      Miss Lil' Atlanta 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Oh, I wish I lived in a Victorian home! That would be a dream come true for me... but I do have one bedroom in my house that is completely done in victorian style and fashion... so at least I have that I suppose! :)

    • Kind Regards profile image

      Kind Regards 

      8 years ago from Missouri Ozarks - Table Rock Lake

      Marye Audet, Your writing has such a beautiful and captivating style. I felt like I was being woven into the imagery. I love old houses and Victorians are such wonderful treasures. You put in a lot of work on this Hub. Kind Regards

    • Lidian profile image


      10 years ago

      Great hub!

    • MortimerWorth profile image


      10 years ago from Germany

      Was always a sucker for architecture...Very nice

    • sminut13 profile image


      10 years ago from singapore

      maybe when my hubby retires frm his work and we go back to my country i shd think of this style but a small one. hehe wonder if it's possible. i have liked these designs for quite long but never looked it up as i didn't have the need to yet. hehe oh, and if you do a hub on maybe japanese decorations for the interior, i'd appreciate. me too lazy. hehe would love to read from another's pt of view. thks

    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      10 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      sminute- thank you. I plan on doing part 2 soon.

      Eilieen- I totally agree! I love the idea of so many stories that have been told in the homes

      Athlyn- I am jealous! I always wanted one of those type

      Rapid- I understand. Our house was completely ravaged in the 7-s and I have spent 5 years (and w9ll spend many more) trying to replace with historically accurate architectural details

    • Rapidwriter profile image


      10 years ago from UK

      Fabulous hub - terrific article and gorgeous pictures. We've just moved out of a rather grand Victorian house with a large garden (huge for London) where we lived for 15-ish years, downsizing to a much smaller, standard, terraced Victorian not far away.  I love these houses - unfortunately, the heart had been savaged from this one.  There was a trend in london in the 60s to remove the bannisters and replace them with hardwood and rip out the fabulous old slate, wood or marble/onyx fireplaves and replace them with ugly, fake tortoise -shell or metal pieces.  Hideous.  Having spent years restoreing the other one (luckily the fabulous corniced ceilings etc were still intact - I was crestfallen by the look of this.  I hesitatingly took a decision to create a really modern, open living area here to get back a sense of space and it seems to be working.  Now for the bit of courtyard that needs turning into a garden. 

    • Athlyn Green profile image

      Athlyn Green 

      10 years ago from West Kootenays

      Hi Mary,

      Thanks for the great Hub. I love Victorian homes and, in fact, grew up in one, with grand staircase and turret. It captured my heart and has never let go. I also live in a Victorian home and love the architectural details.

      These homes have a particular feel and energy about them.

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 

      10 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      Beautiful homes, they have so much more character than homes or should I say houses (because not the same feeling) being built today.

    • sminut13 profile image


      10 years ago from singapore

      this is nice. thks


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