architectural visualiser george nicola

By George Nicola (Expert Stager)

This article is for you if you’re thinking about buying, selling, remodeling, or expanding your Victorian terrace home but need more inspiration. ‘Terraced house design’ stands out as a monolith of British architecture since the 16th century.

We’ve gathered strategies for making a typical Victorian terrace function, bringing all the benefits of modern architecture to a classic home.
If you hire the right interior designer, you can achieve anything literally.

Read on to learn more about the history, differences from other archetypes, how design decisions may affect house’s value and many more.

What is a terraced house?

A terraced house, also known as a townhouse or row house, is a type of residential building typically built in a row with a uniform appearance and shared walls with neighboring homes.

Row homes make the townscape more attractive, striking a proper mix between public and private. In addition, their internal layout offers excellent potential for a smooth transition from public to private spaces.

They are often found in urban areas and are a common type of housing in many countries worldwide. They are typically two or three stories tall and have a small front garden and a front door that leads directly into the house.

The houses in a terraced row are usually connected through a shared wall or a shared foundation. Row houses are a popular choice for people who want to live in a densely populated area, as they often have a smaller footprint and use space efficiently.

It is standard for some homes of this type to have basements. Some may have basements; others may not. The presence of a basement will depend on the design of the house and the specific features and amenities included.

In general, properties of this archetype are more likely to have basements in countries with a cooler climate, as a basement can provide additional living space or storage.

In warmer climates, it is less common for these types of properties to have basements, as they are not typically needed for additional living space.

Who Invented the Victorian Terraced Houses and When?

In the UK, Victorian houses were extensively constructed from 1837 to 1901 during the reign of Queen Victoria as a long-term solution to the mass migration to urban areas.

Nicholas_Barbon_Victorian era property developer
Nicholas Barbon, 1666

Even though they gained more popularity in the 19th century, Victorian houses were already introduced in London in the 1630s from Italy.

Nicholas Barbon, an England economist, and property developer, designed several types of houses to rebuild London after the Great Fire in 1666.

By the early 1950s, the population size in various England towns had risen by at least 25%, and by 1911, the population had increased by about 80%.

During the period, row homes were massively constructed to accommodate large numbers of people in a small, constricted area.

They allowed family members and their servants to live together under one roof, which eliminated the use of servant quarters.

With many people seeing them as a ‘higher form of life, the terraced architecture became an emblem of Georgian architecture in Britain.

Why do some people prefer to live in a terraced home?

In England terraced houses are known for several reasons that make them a popular choice. Some of the benefits of living in such a house are:

Affordability: often more affordable than detached houses, making them a good option for people on a budget.

Compact size: Typically smaller than detached houses, which can be a good option for people who want to live more compactly or don’t need much space.

A community feels: You can integrate with the close-knit community, as neighbors are often near each other.

Low maintenance: The smaller footprint, the easier to maintain than larger houses. This can be a good option for people who don’t have much time to devote to yard work or other maintenance tasks.

Energy efficiency: More energy efficient than larger houses, as they have smaller spaces to heat and cool and often have shared walls that help to insulate the home.

Convenience: Typically located in urban areas, which can be convenient for people who need to be close to work, schools, and other amenities.

What is the difference between Victorian and Georgian Terraced House

While Victorian and Georgian properties share various ancient design features, their architecture differs.

Georgian Terraced Houses

early-georgian-terrace-illustration
Early Georgian Row House / Illustration by Trevor Yorke

Popular from 1714-1830, Georgian row houses greatly contributed to the historic charm of London, Brighton, Leeds, Manchester, Bath, and Newcastle.

Georgian properties tend to boast quite plain, uncomplicated frontages that were often built with brick and stone, windows with smaller panes, and symmetry at the core of the design.

Their main characteristics include

  • Built around garden squares, as they lacked gardens.
  • Entrance add-ons, such as arched tops, pediments, and ogee caps.
  • Hip roofs, sometimes with dormers.
  • Sash windows with smaller panes 
  • Stucco-fronted exterior
  • Flat exterior painted cream or white 
  • Balanced interior layout
  • Window decorative headers
late-georgian-terrace-illustration
Late Georgian Terraced House design / Illustration by Trevor Yorke

Victorian Terraced Houses

Victorian row houses became popular from 1837 to 1901 during the reign of Queen Victoria to accommodate a rapidly growing urban population; new building materials, such as glass and iron, were introduced during the industrial revolution.

This made it possible to decorate the properties with Gothic-styled features, which explicitly identified them as Victorian.

Even though many victorian properties have maintained some classical features in Georgian properties, their main features include:

  • A porch 
  • Bay windows
  • Coloured or decorated bricks
  • Dark furniture 
  • Fireplace in every room 
  • Front door at the side of the property
  • High pitched roofs
  • Vertical sliding windows
  • Narrow hallway
  • Stained glass windows
  • Wooden floors
victorian-terrace-illustration
Victorian Row House design / Illustration by Trevor Yorke

What Original Designs and Layouts Do Terraced Houses Have?

It is not appropriate to say that one type of terraced house architecture is inherently “better” than the other, as it will depend on the individual preferences and needs of the people living in the house. 

The Victorian and Georgian eras have distinct architectural characteristics and features that can make them appealing to different people.

Victorian row houses: typically characterized by their ornate and decorative features, such as bay windows, decorative brickwork, and elaborate cornices. They often have a tall and narrow appearance, with multiple stories and a steeply pitched roof.

Georgian terraced houses: known for their symmetry and balanced design. They often have a more classical appearance, rectangular shape, and evenly spaced windows. Georgian terraced houses may also have decorative elements such as pilasters (flat columns) and entablatures (a horizontal structure above the columns).

Ultimately, which archetype is “better” will depend on the personal preferences and needs of the people living in the house.

For example, some people may prefer the ornate and decorative features, while others may prefer the classical symmetry of Georgian houses.

Even though the Victorian era was associated with mixing a wide range of design styles, the most popular house type was the red brick row house.

They were mass-produced after the Great Fire of London. Their slate roofs and large windows were often built close to the factories and were their most conspicuous fittings.

Unfortunately, the original designs also lacked indoor plumbing.

Initially, the service rooms in the early Gregorian terrace were in the basement.

However, this changed in the late 18th century when many houses were constructed with a half basement, creating space for letting more natural light into the basement rooms.

Unfortunately, this also meant you could access the front door using the stairs.

Victorian House - typical interior room layout / Illustration by Historic England

If you want to buy an old terraced house, you can approximate its age by comparing its description with some necessary historical changes.

For example, the late 17th century saw the introduction of vertical-sliding windows positioned and leveled with the outer wall.

However, in the early 18th century, building regulation changed and forced builders to reposition them four inches towards the rear to minimize the risk of fire spreading along a facade.

By the mid-18th century, rooms on the first floor would be conspicuously taller with more oversized windows and extra beautifications.

What are the Typical Terraced Houses in the UK?

In a country where gardens are treasured, privacy is demanded, the land is too costly, and urban space is shrinking fast, terraced houses have long been the most suitable economical solution to inadequate housing.

Terraced houses have been popular in the UK since the 17th century, which makes them some of the most loved and recognizable housing types.

A typical in the UK has a single wall that connects either side.

This design lines up the houses along streets and saves a lot of space in many urban districts where they are mass-produced because land prices are at a premium.

The terraced street creates a situation where neighbors are highly likely to meet and develops a community spirit for mutual protection.

The exterior of a Terraced House

The majority of terraced houses have two stories, but those with three or more are frequently turned into apartments.

Two to three floors, a steeply pitched roof, a gabled entrance, and a symmetrical door and window arrangement are common exterior features of terraced homes.

Brick, stone, or stucco may be used for the house’s exterior walls, and shutters, railings, and balustrades may be added as decorative accents.
Initially, they had slim roof rafters, but the modern-day versions are bigger.

exterior-of-a-Terraced-House
The exterior of Row Houses / Image source: Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK

Floorplan of a Terraced House

The internal layout often has the living room, dining room, and hallway located on the ground floor to create a considerable amount of space.

Usually, the kitchen, utility room, and bathroom are located at the back. A stairwell opposite the dining room often takes you to the family room and bedrooms on the first floor, where everything is divided into small rooms.

floorplan-and-facade-of-a-Terraced-House
Facade and typical floorplan of a Row Houses / Image source: Pinterest

Why are Terraced Houses More Affordable?

Even though several terraced houses have been demolished over the years, the surviving ones have continued to regain popularity in the 21st century.

The cost of terraced properties is somewhat lower because most designs do not include front or back gardens, but some may have small front yards.
They may look old and worn out, but the average Victorian house in the UK is at least 60% cheaper to purchase and more efficient to maintain than a typical contemporary home.

Consistent with the latest government figures reported in May 2021, the average price for a terraced home is £222,723.

In January of 2023 the average price jumped to £285,579.

Narrowing the affordability in some areas of the country.

Why are End-of-terrace Houses More Expensive?

The end-of-terrace house is often attached to only one neighbor whose house is also attached to the other two neighbors. Their sizes and location make them somewhat more expensive.

They are slightly bigger and lack neighbors on one side. It is also important to note that end houses are as old as the properties attached, which means they may have similar renovation and maintenance needs.

How to Recognize Row House by its Front Façade

While many row houses were wiped out during the modernization period in the 1970s, the surviving ones have been hailed for the high build quality of their original construction.

Generally, the houses reveal a well-defined ‘public front and private back’ development pattern. 

For safety and privacy, there is an open public entrance with a pathway leading to the front door. Other qualities of the front facade that you can easily recognize from the public entrance or the adjacent street are: 

  • A visible and accessible front door 
  • A sheltered porch 
  • A kitchen next to the front entrance
  • A seating area for plants 
  • Windows and balconies 
  • An uncluttered bin area, if applicable 
  • Functional landscaping along boundary interfaces
  • Secondary entrances

A terraced house’s front façade can provide a great way to add some personal style!

Terraced Home Layout Ideas

UK terraced homes are popular because they are well-built and have attractive features like tall skirting boards, cast-iron fireplaces, and vertical double-hung sliding windows.

If you are on a modest budget and want to infuse your house with authentic character, these five layout ideas are ideal for the modern-day.

Preserve Sash Windows

A sash window is one of the fittings that make a Victorian victorian home stand out from the rest.

If your house has original ones, make them more durable by revamping and waterproofing them. Moreover, you can use double uPVC glazing.

Maintain Original Floorboards

A few decades ago, it was so trendy to reveal the floorboards underneath by permanently removing the carpets.

Do you know why? This is because original boards can be effortlessly repaired and patched up even if they are extensively worn out.

Go for Dark, Bold Colours

The extensive use of dark, moody hues in modern-day house designs works well with various features of Victorian houses, especially if the house has decorative tiles.

Choose cloudy grey for the interior, especially around the fireplace, and off-black for the exterior.

Highlight Period Features

These homes are often characterized by striking period features on their front facade, such as decorative door accents!

To make them stand out, commit yourself to a regular maintenance plan by cleaning and repainting them properly to make them stand out.

Add a porch

Adding a porch can be a good way to increase useful internal space, as well as its visual appeal and resale value. 

If your project doesn’t fall outside of the “Permitted Development,” then you don’t need any additional approvals to get it done. 

  • The structure isn’t too big and doesn’t encroach on your neighbor’s land. 
  • Only porches attached to the front wall of a house are allowed to extend into the front yard. 
  • 3 sq.m of exterior space and 3 meters in height is the maximum allowed. 
  • A distance of two meters or more from the nearest road. 

It is best to verify the specifications with your local authority before committing to a porch installation project.

Expose Interior Brick Walls

To modernize the design by resembling the industrial buildings of the Victorian period – simply expose the brickwork.

You don’t need to strip all four walls, but just a section of one wall will bring a rustic atmosphere to your space.

Maximize potential floor space

If your focal point is to add square footage, there is a lot of opportunity to maximize the layout’s comfort, from knocking out walls to contrasting color with crittall-style doors.

There are many fantastic ways to both raise the property’s value and give yourself extra space to spread out.

 Adding on an additional story, transforming your loft, constructing a sunroom, or erecting an extension back of the house are all viable solutions.

There are benefits and drawbacks to each of these options, so it’s important to discuss your situation with a skilled builder before making a final decision. Also, take into account that depending on the local codes, an extension or another level typically require planning approval.

One of the best ways to increase living space in a terraced house is to construct an additional level over the existing one. This will boost the value of your home and provide you with more living space. Just make sure to pair old and new exterior features.

Renovate and Maximize loft space

Another change that you can make is to turn your attic into a functional room by converting the loft. Putting in insulation, drywall, electrical, and plumbing fixtures will make the space usable and comfortable.

Although the answer is that it may be possible to convert your loft if you live in a conservation area, it’s guaranteed that there will be additional, stringent restrictions in place.

Unfortunately, loft conversions within conservation areas are exempt from these relaxations, and you must still go through the necessary channels to obtain full planning permission before any work can begin.

Converting the loft of a house is considered to be permitted development (not requiring planning permission) subject to the following limits and conditions.

Loft-only conversions – covered by permitted development; you do not need planning permission.

Dormer roof conversion – covered by permitted development; you do not need planning permission.

Consider the following:

A loft conversion must not exceed the height of the existing roof under PD rights.

It also can’t extend beyond the existing roof slope on the side elevation.

If your house is listed, you will probably need consent to alter the roof space and timbers, the floor below, and the outside of the roof.

You must submit a full planning application for your schema, and the Council Planning department will have in place planning guidelines that determine what you will and will not be allowed to build.

Conservatory

Consider installing a conservatory, which can serve as a useful extension to your home.
Allowing more light into your home is a simple and ideal method to maximize and brighten your home and make it feel larger.

Rear extension with Open plan

Construct a rear extension. This will be the most costly option, but if you need a lot of extra space, it may be worthwhile.

Most people who take on this option make it as their kitchen diner as the rooflights enhance the sense of space.

Additionally, an open plan kitchen diner is considered to be the best practice to increase value.

If you are thinking about constructing an addition, it is in your best interest to consult a professional builder who can advise you on the most efficient and effective means of accomplishing your goal.

Do terraced houses have a "clear layout"?

A “clear layout” for a terraced house will depend on the size and design, as well as the needs and preferences of the people living in it.

However, most types of this architecture types of the era have common elements and do not have a clear layout; therefore, you can improve that by doing the following:

A clear flow of trafficTypically, clear flow throughout the house requires designated areas for different activities such as cooking, eating, and sleeping.

Separation of private and public spaces: Separate private areas, such as bedrooms and bathrooms, from more public spaces, such as living spaces and kitchens.

Natural light: Use natural light to create a bright and welcoming atmosphere. This can be achieved by using windows, skylights, and other design elements that allow natural light to enter the home.

Storage: Include ample storage space to help keep the home organized and clutter-free. This can consist of built-in storage or dedicated areas for items such as coats, shoes, and other personal belongings.

Flexibility: A clear layout will often be flexible enough to accommodate the changing needs of the people living in the house. This could include rearranging furniture or adding or removing walls to create different spaces as needed.

What to renovate on a Victorian/Georgian Terraced House to Add Value

After World War II, cheap renovation ideas were implemented throughout Britain to facelift Victorian Houses. People who have purchased houses from that era often find themself thinking about how they can potentially add value without overspending by replacing everything.

  1. A large part of the added value comes from the house’s facade.
  2. Repair any major flaws or damage to the structure and facade.
  3. Check that the chimneys, roof, bay roof, and windows are all in good working order.
  4. An original decorative fascia or stained-glass window on the home’s exterior can increase its value if it is preserved and restored.
  5. If you want to make a good first impression on potential buyers in the future, consider refreshing the house’s tired-looking paint parts on the facade (if any).
  6. Lighting is a thing to consider, even if it means knocking down some internal walls to create a well-lit space.
  7. Restore any handcrafted woodwork and light installations to provide more artistic appeal in the interior.
  8. Avoid complementing original features with other expressive features, as the design might clas

Some of the above ideas were implemented in this project here.

Pros and Cons of Terraced Houses

Pros
Cons
More affordable than homes in the same location
Too much noise due to thin walls (no modern sound-proofing standards)
More energy-efficient (shared walls retain heat)
Lack of parking spaces/lots
Have a garden, even though small.
Gardens can only be accessed through the house – no access from the sides
Pet-friendly
Smaller rooms and narrow staircases
Sense of communal living
Limited outdoor space and less privacy

How to Improve and Renovate an Old Victorian Terraced House

While the floorplan of a house often dictates the layout of every room, you can address the above-mentioned cons by renovating each room of an old Victorian terraced house up to the standard of a family, a young couple, or singles. 

Pro Tip: Maintain the character of the terraced house when remodeling the space by complementing its original design.

For a Family

Kitchen 

  • Kitchen extensions – Transform your row house into a family-friendly space by constructing a kitchen extension towards the backyard. This will completely transform the ambiance because row houses lack sufficient space on either side.
  • One-wall kitchen – Ideal for the typical small kitchens of row houses, this layout saves space without surrendering functionality. Install upper and lower cabinets or even shelving against a single wall to create a clean aesthetic.

Recently we’ve published a very extensive post on one-wall kitchen designs here.

Living Room 

  • Pale walls – Pale walls emphasize the full-height ceilings and elaborate moldings of Victorian row houses. Here, opt for fresh whites and light neutrals, such as cream, for a calming interior.
colors to pick for a smaller area kitchen
  • Hanging decorations – To make your living room spacious, you can minimize clutter using hanging decorations which double up as storage options. Hang small baskets on the wall or install a cloth storage tower to keep away loose items, such as toys
soft-lighting-for-bedroom

Bedroom 

  • Soft lighting – To facelift the bedroom of an old Victorian row house, go for soft lighting to invite some warmth. A charming arrangement of incandescent bulbs with a color temperature of 2,700-3,000K produces a much natural light for soothing experiences.
  • Partition walls – Depending on your space, add a partition wall behind the bed in your primary bedroom. This will not only act as a private dressing area but also maximize space for family life.

For Young Couples or Singles

Kitchen 

  • Pale-painted cabinetsModern stainless steel sinks and appliances sit well in vintage kitchen design. 
    Light walls and dark cabinets add visual interest. 
    Tile or stone backsplashes brighten and contrast wood and metal. Use shelves and cupboards to keep countertops clear.
  • Oak/teal countertops – To avoid monotony, you can maintain the oak or teak countertops that are originally installed. 

Living Room 

  • Conceal the floor – Since wooden floorboards are rapidly gaining more popularity today than carpeting, you can partially cover them, not entirely! Use a sizeable rug to cover your polished floorboards, breaking up the floor space and creating more defined spaces.
  • Striking artwork – To draw eyes to specific areas in the living room, such as the fireplace, use striking artwork. This not only adds personal character to the space but also creates your preferred mood.

Bedroom 

  • Custom open spaces – An armchair in the corner of your bedroom will be complete if assembled with a small side table and lamp. This creates an office-like central spot for studying, meditating, or just relaxing.
  • Hanging rails and dressing tables – As an alternative to bulky wardrobes, conserve space in the bedroom by installing hanging rails for clothes storage. With enough space, add a dressing table for makeup and other decorations to make your bedroom tidy.

Low-cost design for terraced houses

If you are selling or buying a terraced house, do this before you commit to large expenses. Generate design ideas virtually at a low cost using virtual makeover.

We can help you prep the house using our online interior design services. You can also use our services to find design ideas for their new space. Reach out to us at george@tallbox.co.uk

Terraced houses are a popular type of housing in some countries, and it can be expensive to renovate them. However, with the help of a virtual makeover, you can improve and renovate them virtually at a low cost.

Virtual makeover allows users to see how their terraced house will look after certain changes and renovations before actually going ahead with them.

This helps to save time and money as it allows you to plan out your renovations better. You can also explore various design options without spending too much money or making physical modifications.

With the virtual makeover, you can easily create a beautiful terraced house that looks great while still being cost-effective.

Key Takeaways

  • Victorian houses were introduced in London in the 1630s.
  • Nicholas Barbon designed terraced architecture to rebuild London after the Great Fire in 1666.
  • Georgian houses were more popular from 1714-1830
  • Victorian homes’ popularity grew from 1837-1901.
  • Affordable housing but most of them lack gardens.
  • End-of-terrace properties are more expensive due to their large sizes and strategic location.
  • When renovating an old Victorian house, maintain its character by complementing its original design.

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.