The iconic “Victorian style” home is one of the most recognizable and most popular styles in both architecture and design.
What is generally referred to as Victorian is not one style, but a collection of many design styles during the Victorian era (1837-1901) including Gothic Revival, Folk Victorian, Italianate, Stick, Second Empire, Romanesque Revival, Queen Anne, and Eastlake.Classic Victorian Style Homes
• What many designers refer to as Early Victorian or Classic Victorian style is characterized by dark wood floors and walls with mahogany and walnut accents and jewel-inspired tones of deep red, green, gold, and purple.
• Drawing its influence from Gothic style, Victorian furniture is heavy with dark finishes and elaborate carvings and ornamentation.
• Classic Victorian style often includes interpretations of historical styles mixed with Middle Eastern and Asian influences.
• Mass production, a byproduct of the Industrial Revolution, lowered costs and made products more affordable. As a result, homes became more ornate with decorative gingerbread trim, scalloped shingles, and wood or metal trim.
Here are the major characteristics of several distinctive architectural styles during the Victorian time period that are collectively referred to as Victorian.
Styles Popular During the Victorian Era
The Gothic Revival (1830-1860) house is a squared structure that resembles a smaller castle. The wooden ornamentation and decorative details suggest architecture of medieval England. A popular style for churches and rural homes in the U.S. in the mid-1800’s, main features include pointed windows, multiple fireplaces, leaded glass, pitched roofs with gables, and asymmetrical floor plans.
Folk Victorian, also called Frontier Victorian and Carpenter Gothic, is more of a farmhouse design with spindles and Gothic windows and some ornate trim. Popular beginning in the 1850s, the homes feature large porches, but lack bay windows and turrets on more ornate Victorian homes. A similar design is the Shingle home (1875-1910) with the main features being wood shingle siding and wooden roofs.
Modeled after an Italian Renaissance villa, the Italianate home (1840-1885) features low roofs with wide eaves and ornamental brackets. Other features include arched windows and doors, corbels along the roof line, cupolas, and often a tower. Many often wrongly refer to this style as Eastlake.
The Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio has one of the largest group of Italianate homes in the United States. The Garden District of New Orleans also features examples of this impressive style.
The Stick style (1860-1890) home, popular in the United States after the Civil War, is a bridge between Gothic Revival and Queen Anne. The classic “Gingerbread House” features intricate half-timbering or stick work. Stick houses are usually two stories with pitched roofs and tall windows.
Second Empire homes, late 18th century and early 19th century, are characterized by a high Mansard roof. The style has French influence with flashy ornamentation. This modern home appealed to the wealthy and was popular in New York and Washington, DC.
Romanesque Revival houses (1870-1890) resemble small castles with corner turrets of brick and large arches. In America, the design was influenced by William Morris and John Ruskin, who were later founders of the Arts and Crafts movement.
Romanesque homes often feature Queen Anne and Single style details. Features include rough-faced square stones, Roman-style arches over doorways, multiple stories, rounded towers, columns and pilasters, and stained glass. There are often characteristics of Gothic architecture as well.
The Samuel Cupples House, 1890, in St. Louis, Missouri is a prime example of this style home. The restored home is now a museum on the campus of St. Louis University.
Eastlake Style (1870-1890) is named after English designer and furniture maker Charles Eastlake. Eastlake furniture moves away from the large carved furniture pieces popular in Victorian style to a simpler style. It features low relief carvings, incised lines, geometric ornaments, and flat surfaces.
Eastlake furniture in oak, cherry, rosewood and walnut wood accentuates the grain with oils and other natural finishes rather than the dark finishes associated with classic Victorian style. Eastlake style also incorporates the use of nature themes, including simple plant and animal designs.
The Eastlake home is often a variation of a Queen Anne or Stick house. The homes feature over-sized porches, perforated gables and pediments, beaded spindles and lattice work.
Curved brackets, scrolls and other embellishments complete the decorative accents. The San Francisco Bay Area features many Eastlake-style homes.
A famous Eastlake home in Los Angeles was used in the TV series “Charmed,” 1999-2006.
Queen Anne homes (1870-1910) are the most common “Victorians” found in the United States. These dollhouse-like homes are what most in this country refer to as Victorian homes. They are usually large with two or three stories, expansive porches, and have asymmetrical shapes with wings and bays. Roof lines are steep with gables and rounded turrets.
San Francisco’s “Painted Ladies,” a block of Queen Anne style townhomes, are painted three or more colors and were featured in the opening of the of popular television series “Full House.”
Authentic Hardware for Period Homes
As the premiere source for unique and hard-to-find vintage and period-based restoration items, Van Dyke’s Restorers has hundreds of hardware and wood options for Victorian home restoration.
This includes a variety of items including :
Resources for Inspiration
There are a number of very good blogs and videos by professional builders and DIY’ers chronicling their Victorian home remodels. These are great for inspiration and instruction. You will find almost 100 blogs and How To’s on the Van Dyke’s web site vandykes.com or blog.vandykes.
Looking for a Victorian to restore? The Instagram site cheapoldhouses features older homes for sale around the country, including Victorians.
Are you remodeling one of these classic homes? Share your photos on our Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/VanDykesRestorers/