Elements of Victorian Décor
How to Integrate Victorian and Modern Décor Styles
Several years ago I had the experience of owning a Victorian home. They are common in the UK, especially in towns. As with most such properties, it required some work to bring it up to scratch. I was very keen to retain all the original Victorian features and also to introduce the modern comforts we needed. I did a lot of research and discovered that Victorian style sits very well with 21st century living.
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Environmentally Friendly Victorian Home
If you are renovating and remodeling an older property, consider 'greening' your home as you go. Ideas for making your Victorian home more eco-friendly include using recycled insulation, natural plasters, reclaimed floorboards and environmentally-friendly paint. Conserve energy loss by insulating the house to the gills, triple-glaze windows and install heat recovery fans which will return heat normally lost back into the house. More ideas can be found at “Greening Your Victorian Home”.
Furniture – Victorian or Modern?
Victorian furniture was generally heavy and ornate. It was also very dark. Much of it was mass-produced, due to the fact that new machinery was being developed during the Industrial Revolution. The Victorians favored a 'classical' style, and often incorporated marble and wrought iron into their furniture designs. Most of us today, prefer a lighter look to our furniture – if we filled our home with dark, varnished pieces it would feel very oppressive. However, Victorian furniture looks wonderful when stripped back to the wood and/or repainted in a shabby-chic style. Obviously, you wouldn't do this with valuable pieces but it is a way to bring Victorian elegance into your home without the sombre look.
You can also mix Victorian furniture with modern pieces to create an eclectic style. Glass and chrome works well alongside solid wood furniture as long as there is a unifying theme to the room.
If there was one thing the Victorians were really good at it was floors. They re-invented the encaustic tile – a misnomer as they are made from colored clay and not enameled in the true meaning of 'encaustic', – and developed a method of mass production that meant that most Victorian homes featured a brightly tiled hallway. In the lesser rooms, like the kitchen, plain red and red and black checker board quarry tiles were the flooring of choice. The tile floors may have been a little on the chilly side but they were extremely hard-wearing. Many such floors were covered over in the early 20th century but soon people realized that their horrible vinyl flooring was hiding a veritable treasure. On a personal note, it took me five months to scrape dirty green oil-based paint off a red and black quarry tile floor. It wouldn't have been so bad if it was just paint but underneath the paint it was obvious some previous owner had thought the tiles the perfect surface on which to mix cement. Lucky me.
Black and white tiles were also common, but usually in late Victorian/early Edwardian times. They look crisp and clean especially if they run from the hallway, through the porch and down the front garden path.
Other choices of Victorian floors were painted boards, carpet and linoleum. Victorians believed that the more pattern in a room, the better, so carpets were very bright, floral or geometric, often imported from the East. Usually there was a border of painted or varnished boards around the perimeter of the room. Linoleum was invented in 1877 and was laid down with great enthusiasm by the cold-footed Victorians.
Even if you are not looking to bring any other Victorian-style elements into your home, you could do worse than choose Victorian flooring - it will never date. Victorian tiles will work just as well in a modern home as in an old one. It is also possible to emulate the Victorian passion for faux finishes by painting canvas floor cloths or concrete to look like the tile of your choice. Linoleum too, is making a comeback, as it is made from natural materials, including linseed.
Walls & Ceilings – Play the Faux
Like the Romans and Ancient Greeks, Victorians loved marble. If they couldn't afford the real thing then they simply faked it. Faux wall and ceiling finishes were all the rage during Victoria's reign. They marbled and rag-rolled like crazy things... or rather they had skilled artisans in to do the work. These skills were revived once more in the late 1980s and still have a place in modern interiors today.
A faux finish or paint-effect is easily achieved and often takes the same amount of time as a couple of 'normal' coats of paint. Done well, a faux finish can give a room the wow factor.
Later in the Victorian era, an Arts & Crafts designer called William Morris came to prominence. He espoused simplicity matched with good workmanship. He was especially famous for his nature-based wallpaper designs, which can still be purchased today.
Window Treatments – Traditional Victorian or Current Styling
The Victorians liked dark rooms. The main reason for this was because they had open fires in every room and subsequently the room would accumulate a layer of soot. Keeping rooms dark, disguised the fact that they were actually filthy most of the time. You have to feel for the maids who struggled to keep them clean. Another reason is that, probably due to unhealthy city air coupled with tight corsets, Victorian women were a sickly bunch and were often prescribed 'rest in a darkened room'.
Curtains helped keep the dreaded light out. They were usually paired with heavy lace panels. The materials preferred were velvet and damask for the winter, and cotton and chintz for summertime.
Large modern rooms can be enhanced with Victorian window treatments but go easy on the heavy dark velvet. Only a grand room can survive being overwhelmed. However, antique lace and chintz can look utterly charming in a country-style home.
Accessorize Like a Victorian
No, don't. The Victorians filled their homes with porcelain, china, pictures, photographs, ephemera and general clutter. All this stuff collected dust and soot and had to be cleaned constantly. By all means, display a beautiful china tea service on a kitchen or dining room dresser but don't cover every horizontal surface in knick-knacks. Focus, instead, on a few single pieces that create a visual impact.
Do follow the Victorian's fondness for mirrors. Consider hanging antique mirrors, complete with spotting and even cracks, if you are into the Gothic look. Mirrors are wonderful for bringing light and space into a home.
You could introduce an industrial look to your home - old station clocks, antique gramophones and ironware can add a mad scientist/steampunk atmosphere. Or how about creating a Victorian explorer's haven with maps, leather-bound books, an old telescope and other explorer paraphernalia? Display objects in places where they would never normally be found to provide amusement and talking points for your guests.
- Interior decoration - The Victorian Society
- Victorian Décor | Victorian Decorating | Victorian Home Décor
- William Morris Designs
- Architectural Style : Victorian
- Architectural Timeline: Victorian
- BBC - Homes - Design - Victorian
- Period Property UK - listings of period property for sale, tips on renovation, restoration, house bu
- Victorian Era