Victorian Designs History

When discussing Victorian designs, people refer to the houses and interior décor featured in homes in the Victorian era, which ran from about 1840 to 1900. Many changes occurred during this time, so there is quite a spectrum of designs to discuss. Prior to the emergence of any Victorian style homes as we know them today, the most common architectural style of homes was the Greek Revival style. Wealthier people built Gothic mansions of stone, but the majority of homes were simple Greek Revival homes with separate kitchens and bathrooms.

Building with Wood
In the 1840s, builders began translating the Gothic mansions of stone into houses made of wood. These houses were built a bit haphazardly, with rooms being tacked on as builders and owners saw fit. As the Industrial Revolution brought about financial prosperity, home conveniences and domestic accessories, homes became larger and more complex, with very elaborate ornamentation.

Throughout this period, houses grew in complexity and uniqueness, especially once the Civil War ended. Siding was painted in rich colors, with the jigsaw trim painted in a contrasting color, creating a celebratory feeling in the design. Houses known as "Painted Ladies" took this design trend to its limits, using three or more colors to accent the ornamentation on a home's exterior.

Victorian Furnishings
As the outsides of homes became more elaborate, with gables, varied rooflines, bay windows and intricate trim work, the furnishings inside the home also became more elegant, extravagant and pretentious. Walls were plastered and painted, and ceilings were frescoed. Chandeliers hung from cornices, surrounded by patterned tin ceilings. Gilded mirrors hung on the walls and fireplaces made of imported Italian marble became a staple.

Everything about the Victorian home shouted wealth, excess and luxury. Chairs were upholstered in richly textured materials and furniture was carved decoratively. 

As the Victorian era passed, people turned away from the complex and cluttered Victorian styles and embraced simplicity and open spaces. Victorian homes began to be viewed as impractical and closed off. While there have always been folks who appreciate the intricacy of Victorian architecture and design, the trend towards clean lines and simplicity that would define modern architecture had begun.

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