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architectural visualiser george nicola

By George Nicola (Expert Stager)

While design trends might keep changing, designers often draw inspiration from vintage styles to add a unique touch to each space they design and prevent all homes from beginning cookie-cutter copies of each other.

One such vintage style often the inspiration for homes worldwide is Victorian design.

In this article you will find answer to some of the most common questions which home owners has about how to transform their modern interior into a masterpiece with victorian details, without going overboard.

When did the Victorian design of homes originate?

Between 1801 to 1911, England’s population rose from 9 to 36 million, and with that, the number of houses rose too. The peak of building production occurred between 1860-the 1870s, with small intermediate booms in the 1830s – 40s, and 50s.

To keep the style of the architecture further developing, Victorians kept all brick patterns, building manuals, and the price listed in books. Every builder and architect who wanted to build a house with Victorian features had to use these books to stay in line with the style.

By 1834 the Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London was established, which meant that architecture became even more formalized as a profession. Architects became less involved in housebuilding and materials manufacture; these functions were shifted to their own category of specialists.

traditional victorian livingroom office
Depiction of Traditional Victorian Livingroom - Office

In 1837 victorian architecture was already formed as a style, and a large proportion of its most prominent features were in place. Since that moment, some of the most prominent victorian house features have been developed and refined.

Can you mix modern with victorian style?

Victorian-style homes are perfect for a combination of modernism blended with classic elegance. It has a modern minimalist look combined with gothic artwork and antiques from the era.

An ideal modern Victorian interior not only features the character that the old-world Victorian style brings but also has modern elements that add a sleek touch to the space.

Feel free to check out one of our projects where a Victorian Terraced House was converted into a modern city home.

Elements Of Victorian Interior Design

The Colour Palette

Since old English homes were often heated by coal, homes from the early Victorian period interiors often featured darker colors, such as forest green, deep brown, burgundy, forest green, ruby red, and naval blue.

Typical Victorian house color pallete
Typical Victorian house color pallete

This was done to hide the impact of the coal and ash on the interiors.

Towards the late Victorian period, when gas lighting made headway, pastels and brighter colors gained popularity by leaps and bounds.

original victorian plaster and paint color pallete
original victorian plaster and paint color pallete

This was done to hide the impact of the coal and ash on the interiors.

Towards the late Victorian period, when gas lighting made headway, pastels and brighter colors gained popularity by leaps and bounds.

When one thinks of “Victorian interiors,” one often pictures the darker colors, but the reality is that lighter and brighter colors can be used too – as long as you add the appropriate décor pieces and furniture to the space.

Over The Top Furniture

While there is not a single furniture style that can encompass the entire era, it can safely be said that over ornamentation was (and still is) one of the key features of Victorian furniture.

Victorian furniture usually is overstuffed and is carved in innovative ways.

victorian styles of furniture 1885-6 catalog
Victorian furniture trend 1885-6 (The Cabinet-Maker And Upholsterer's Book)

Furniture pieces are also often inlaid with stuff like mother-of-pearl, have pieces of gilt affixed, or have cloisonné inserts added to add some color and design to the furniture pieces.

Bright Walls And Patterned Floors

Wall decoration was a significant trend in Victorian interior design. Many opted to use wallpapers with garish and elaborate patterns of leaves, vines, and flowers on their walls. People also created faux wood-like or marble look wall finishes with paint.

traditional victorian floor tiles
traditional victorian floor tiles (Young and marten Floor tiles Catalogue - 1889)

As for floors, wood was a widespread choice, and homes often had parquet wood floor patterns. Heavy and colorful woven rugs were usually placed on these floors to add more warmth to the space and add visual interest.

From around the mid-1800s, floor tiles with simple borders and intricate geometric patterns in the center started gaining popularity.

Evolving Décor Pieces

Décor has a great impact on the overall look of the space, and Victorian interiors are no exception. Almost every surface, from fireplace mantels to furniture, used to be engulfed with decorative pieces.

original-victorian-fireplace-mantle-Catalogue
Traditional victorian fireplace designs (Young and marten Catalogue - 1889)

There were doilies on every flat surface, topped by vases with flowers, sofas had embroidered throw pillows, and windows were often shrouded in fancy drapes.

Victorians were also prominent in adding greenery to their homes, with many people adding potted plants to their homes, with ferns and palms being the most popular.

Another impact of the fast advent of technology was the availability of pictures since printing and photography techniques were fast developing.

Suddenly, even commoners found an easy and pocket-friendly way to add portraits to their walls.

Victorian Light Fixtures

Lighting evolved fast in this era. People went from using candles and oil lamps to using gas-powered lights, with electric lighting being developed.

Often wall sconces, chandeliers, table lamps, and even standing lamps had lampshades made of glass (Tiffany lamps) in this era in order to disperse light better and light up a larger area with minimal sources of light.

victorian-styles-of-lighting-1885-6-catalogue
Traditional victorian lighting designs (Henry Conolly Catalogue - 1881)

Pro Tip: If you want to achieve your modern interior with a traditional victorian piece, do not buy reduced copies; instead, visit charity or vintage shops to achieve maximum results.

How To Create A Modern Victorian Space

Add Some Colour And Wood

modern victorian interior
Modern victorian interior - Wood and Color Mix (Credit: NospacelikeHome)

Color is one of the necessities of the Victorian design style – so ditch the boring white walls for richer colors. If you live in a smaller home, it would be best to have a different color scheme for every room.

If you live in a home that has a modern style open floor plan, adding a bright and bold accent wall can help you create the look.
The addition of wood can also help emphasize the Victorian look of the space.

Things such as carved wooden frames for the artwork you add to your walls, a carved wooden frame around the mirror, or even a wooden lampshade can make a difference.

Pro Tip: For even more authentic results try preserving the original details by restoring them instead of replacing them with copies.

Lighting Makes All The Difference

Light is a great way to capture the warmth that Victorian design exudes. While modern homes are all about open windows and natural lights, Victorian interiors were all about layering different sources of light – scones, pendant lights, lamps, and even chandeliers.

According to multiple research papers, the Victorian era began in 1837, and ordinary people used oil and gas candles to light their homes. 

By 1901 electricity was more widespread, and not only rich people were able to afford to have it in use in their homes.

victorian modern ceiling lamps (1)

Since modern electric lighting was still in its infancy in the Victorian era, it is best to go vintage with your light fixtures.

However, old-school chandeliers (with light bulbs in place of candles – we do not want to go that vintage!), wall sconces, and glass lamps can drive the look.

Colored glass, wrought iron, brass, and heavy ornaments are part of the style.

Pro Tip: While you do not need to go overboard with light sources in your home, ensure that your space is well-lit and that the light fixtures you choose reflect that era. A quick way to increase the amount of light in a space without adding additional fixtures is by using mirrors. Bonus points if you use gothic or carved wooden frames.

Bold Wallpaper

Elaborate and patterned wallpaper was a trend then and is a trend even today. Old school patterns with intricate flowers, vines, and leaves can be a striking addition to any space and give it that old Victorian look.

victorian wallpaper modern
Modern victorian wallpaper - Floral motives and Bold colors (Credit: wallpaper-uk)

The wallpaper can be balanced with minimalistic décor pieces and fixtures to keep your modern Victorian home vibe going.

Create A Gallery Wall

The old Victorian style of creating a gallery wall can be a great addition – especially to your living room. To give it a contemporary look, be selective with the art pieces you select.

gallery wall inspiration
Modern victorian gallery wall - 19th Century pencil drawings (Credit: Etsy)

Combining modern and quirky art pieces with old-school abstract art pieces will help create a gallery wall that is modern yet gives off a very Victorian look.

When hiring contractors: To hire the right contractor that matches your budget, select at least three local ones with good reviews or search online for popular ones within your locality. Ask for their bids and timelines then compare their pricing. Don’t go for the lowest bid, but for the bid that fits your price range

The Devil Is In The Details

Victorian homes were loud and exaggerated and full of ornate furniture pieces, heavy textiles, art pieces on each wall, and an abundance of knick-knacks.

modern victorian livingroom
Modern Victorian livingroom - Dark colored scheme

While decorating your home in a modern Victorian style, you need not go overboard, but you need not show too much restraint.

You can add oil paintings to your walls, use heavy silks as drapes and even add brightly colored and patterned Persian rugs on your floors to add layers of detail to your home.

Victorian Style Bathroom

Victorian bathrooms have quite a distinctive look. If you wish to give your bathroom the old Victorian look with a modern twist, here are some luxury bathroom design ideas you can use.

If your bathroom is smaller, you can achieve the Victorian look by adding a claw-footed bathtub. These days these tubs come with hidden modern plumbing, giving the look of an old Victorian tub but with the facilities of a modern tub.

While modern bathrooms often have the splashback extending in all directions, Victorians often preferred to give the upper walls a non-tile wall treatment. Instead, Paisley or floral wallpaper was the material of choice.

victorian bathroom style plan
Modern Victorian Bathroom - Example plan

Today, waterproof wallpapers can not only make your walls look great but are also durable enough to last you longer than traditional wallpapers.

Adding a modern twist to Victorian interiors is all about finding the perfect balance between the two.

Key Takeaways

Since the Victorian era lasted for almost 70 years, you are not confined to a particular design or style – rather, you have a variety of designs to choose from.

You can stick to a particular style or use various pieces from various styles to create a unique space. Do not be afraid to add your personal touch and edit away things that don’t work for you.

Remember, styles are just a guideline, and you can add your own personal style to your space to create a home that is reflective of your personality.

George Nicola

VIRTUAL STAGING EXPERT / After eight years+ working in high-end design and property business I realised that we are missing a critical part of the property business. We were not providing enough value to these old and empty properties. Not every buyer would have the opportunity to see the potential of vacant property or in a bad state. The idea of Virtual Furniture Staging the property gives the buyer and seller an incredible chance in seconds of taking the critical decision.
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