The Victorian era refers to the period covering the reign of Queen Victoria, from 1837 to 1901, and, as with the Georgian Interior Style, it didn't consist of only one interior style. The Victorians loved mixing different styles in one room.
"Eclecticism is a keynote of Victorian townhouse interiors. A number of different historical styles were popular simultaneously."
- Judith & Martin Miller Period Style
For the Victorians, a bare room showed a lack of taste - more was definitely more, and this could be seen in the cluttered interiors which were designed to show off the family's status and wealth.
The Industrial Revolution
The full effects of the industrial revolution were felt during the Victorian period and it changed daily life for the Victorians. With the advent of mass production, textiles and furniture became more affordable, especially for the rising middle classes.
That which in the previous century was available only to the upper classes was now more easily attainable by those less fortunate. The Victorian middle class homeowner could now show his appreciation of style with displays of wealth and taste previously only practiced by the upper classes in their country homes.
The Victorians saw their homes as a very important part of family life, but they had an obsession with privacy. The spaces within their homes were planned so that children, adults, servants and guests could all be separated and they created as many rooms as possible, each one with its own specific purpose.
Public rooms were decorated very differently to private ones. The parlour was situated at the front of the house and this was where guests could be received and entertained. It was a hugely important formal room and the intention was to show off the family's wealth and standing in society.
With too many rooms and small windows, we find the layouts of Victorian homes outdated and not at all suitable for modern living. But according to the award winning architect Opinder Liddar, this is easily rectified.
If you are changing the arrangement of your dwelling, aim to eliminate corridors wherever possible. If the space is small, consider adopting open-plan living so that you are utilising most areas of your home.
- Opinder Liddar
Victorian terrace houses often have a narrow kitchen and small bathroom at the back of the property with no connection between the inside and the outside.
Fortunately, it is relatively easy to convert such properties into houses suitable for comfortable modern living. Where planning laws allow, it could be possible to add a single storey extension with lots of glass and rooflights so as not to block the natural light.
Creating a Modern, Updated Victorian Style
Be sure to mix different period styles together.
Match traditional printed fabrics and wallpapers with contemporary plain weaves and texture to create a balance.
Avoid having too many antique pieces - mix it up with some modern furniture or rugs.
Take a fresh look at the interesting corners and alcoves in your home. It might be the perfect opportunity for some additional storage to hide the clutter of modern living.
Don't be afraid of using pattern and colour. The Victorians were not shy in decorating their homes and they made bold decorating decisions. Many companies are re-inventing archived patterns by using new colours or different scales for wallpaper and fabric. A perfect example is the new The Queens Square Collection - a collaboration between Ben Pentreath and Morris & Co which resulted in a recolouring of some of the original William Morris designs.
“If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
- William Morris
Include some contemporary furniture with overtones of the past, for example a fabric chair with exposed wooden furniture legs or deep buttoned upholstery.
Upholster antique furniture in a new, fresh way. For example, use contrasting fabrics to upholster a chair
Don't be nervous about using modern lighting in your Victorian home; the contrasting fixtures will accentuate the architectural features.
Victorian Houses to Visit
Please note that, at the time of writing (October 2020), some of these houses are still closed, so please do check before visiting.