Victorian Interior Design

Beth Asaff
Victorian entryway

Victorian interiors feature beautiful colors, lots of ornate details, and skilled fakery to make the home a welcoming and beautiful place. The industrial revolution led to a revolution in interior decorating, and for the Victorians, high style was all about the appearance of luxury, whether real or imitation.

For today's homeowner, Victorian interior design styles may seem out of reach. However, you don't need a huge budget or a beautiful old house to utilize the principles of Victorian interior decorating in your own home; you simply need a little time and creativity.

History of Victorian Interior Design

Victorian interior design is a product of the Industrial Revolution, where machinery made it possible for the middle class to own highly ornate pieces. As the middle class became more affluent, they sought to demonstrate their newfound wealth with items that had previously only belonged to people of the upper classes. These items included architectural features that are common in Victorian decorating, such as tin ceiling panels, wall sconces and tapestries.

For most Victorian households, having lots of decorative items was considered as sign of good taste. Sparse furnishings indicated that the home was owned by someone of a lower class.

Creating a Victorian Inspired Room

Elements of Victorian interior design can be replicated in your own home if you follow a few simple design principles. Keep in mind that making the Victorian look work in your own home will most likely require choosing only a few of these principles to emulate in your own decor.

Lighting

Mood lighting in dining rooms and entryways was considered essential to the Victorians. Most lighting came from wall sconces and candles, while decorative lamps achieved prominence towards the later half of the movement. Tiffany was a popular designer of the time: an authentic Tiffany lamp or a design inspired by Tiffany can help create the Victorian atmosphere in your own home.

Wall Coverings

Victorian interior

Dark, rich paint colors were typical for Victorians, especially in city houses. This characteristic has less to do with the color design philosophy and more to do with the rampant pollution in the city that stained lighter colored walls. Hunter green and deep crimson are both considered authentic to the time period.

At the start of the Victorian era, floral wallpaper was used throughout the home. Most of the wallpaper used red, blue or green with tan accents. In the later Victorian period, these florals gave way to stylized leaf patterns and wallpaper in earth tones, in keeping with the popular Gothic inspired design of the time.

Tapestries were also common and were used in conjunction with both paint and wallpaper. Once again, nature scenes were common.

Window Treatments

Curtains were the preferred window treatment in the Victorian era. Made of rich, heavy fabrics, curtains were pleated and hung over gilded curtain rods. To add further opulence, the curtains were lined with silk or wool to give them an even more luxurious appearance.

Flooring

Several different floor types were common in the Victorian era:

  • Parquet
  • Matting
  • Tiles
  • Drugget
  • Carpeting - broad loom, Venetian and reversible
  • Floor cloths/oil cloths - similar to linoleum

Furniture

The industrial revolution ushered in a whole new age of furniture manufacturing, allowing it to be produced on a large scale and driving the prices of pieces down. In terms of furniture style, Victorians often looked to either the past or to their colonies. Curved edges and scrolls a la 18th century French furniture was the most popular style in the early and middle Victorian period. In the late Victorian period, overstuffed furniture inspired by Eastern designs came into favor.

Bring Affordable Victorian Luxury to Your Home

One lesson that can be learned from the Victorians is that you don't need a great deal of money to have elaborate style in your own home. You can take some cues from Victorian decorating to create beautiful interiors in your own home.

All About the Embellishments

One of the easiest ways to bring Victorian style to your home is to embellish tastefully wherever possible. Don't settle for a simple throw pillow in a pretty color. Instead, make it special with beading, embroidery, or lace. For budget embellishments, scour the remnants bin at your fabric store. You can often find inexpensive trim pieces to bring Victorian style to simple items.

Elegant Walls

Victorian interior

When most of us think of Victorian interiors, elaborate floral wallpaper or faux finishing techniques come to mind. To bring Victorian flair to your walls, look for good deals online. Many online wallpaper retailers offer affordable Victorian style wallpaper.

You can also add Victorian elegance by employing faux finishing techniques. Use gold paint to add a gilded feel to wall treatments, and be sure to try out techniques like faux bois.

Flea Market Flair

Shopping flea markets and garage sales are another inexpensive way to add Victorian style to your home. You can sometimes find actual relics of the Victorian era at these places, and it's easy to embellish accents from other eras to give them a Victorian feel. For instance, a simple dining room chandelier can take on a Victorian feel with some pretty spray paint and the addition of bead and crystals.

Wicker furniture is a great way to provide seating in Victorian interiors. You'll find affordable wicker furniture at many flea markets, and a coat of spray paint will have it looking new again. Add some floral cushions, and you have fun Victorian style on a budget.

Do-It-Yourself Drama

Victorian interiors are dramatic, and it's easy to add drama with some bargain fabric. Look for deals on velvets and brocades, and use these fabrics to create dramatic accents and draperies. Victorian curtains were often made of sumptuous velvet or silk and embellished with ribbons or embroidery. With a little time and careful shopping, you can mimic this look at an affordable price.

Principles to Think About

Although Victorian interiors have been associated with lavishness, the Victorians knew how to carefully spend their money to make the most of the decorative items they could afford. When applying this interior design style in your own home, carefully consider what items will make the largest impact in the room. Other, smaller items can be planner and of lesser quality and still retain the overall appearance of Victorian interior design.

Victorian Interior Design