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Style Spotlight: Victorian

Fill your home with ornate Victorian Era furniture and Victorian design patterns to get a look worthy of royalty.

Amanda Scott
Amanda Scott
victorian dining room with velvet curtains, chandelier, ornate chairs

You love to surround yourself with beauty. Rich colors and textures are your love language. An empty surface is your artist’s canvas. Ornate fixtures are the only type that belong in your home. If these things ring true, you are a lover of Victorian style.  

What is Victorian Design? 

Victorian style gets its name from the reign of Queen Victoria, which lasted from 1837 to 1901. Industrialization during the period allowed for the mass production of home furnishings, making decorative goods affordable for the middle class. We like to think of Victorian style as decorating like a queen, on a bourgeois budget.  

Victorian decor has a wide range of influences including Gothic Revival, rococo, medieval architecture and design, and decorative elements inspired by world travel.  

Rooms are filled with extravagant details and no surface is left unadorned. It’s also a distinct architectural style: Turrets, crown molding, huge archways, bay windows, and large porches are notable elements of Victorian buildings.  

collage of vintage victorian – bedroom, bathroom sink, and toilet
Victorian in every inch of space is possible. Ceiling to toilet.

The Different Victorian Styles   

Before you begin your Victorian adventure, the first thing you’ll need to do is figure out what kind of royalty you are. Are you traditional royalty, of the Vintage Victorian sort? Or more contemporary, sort of a Modern Victorian, a la Harry and Meghan? There is also Country Victorian, for decorating one's more rustic summer home. Any mix of these is acceptable as well, as long as tea is served on time. 

French Country Victorian 

French Victorian is a bit more rustic and flexible, leaning a little on the Edwardian ideas. The Country Victorian, or sometimes French Victorian, palette is much lighter than its traditional Victorian counterpart. Here, you’ll find pastel greens (think seafoam), blues, and pinks, combined with darker shades of mauve and navy.  

Patterns and textures are still common with the Country Victorian styles, but tend toward the floral, less “heavy” details. Country Victorian homes are most often found in the European countryside and the southern and coastal United States. 

collage of country victorian — dining room, bedroom, and bathroom sink
French Victorian is a bit more rustic and flexible.

What Isn’t Victorian Design? 

There is a correct way to design with the Victorian style. History plays a royal role in the proper aesthetic of your chosen Victorian design, so it’s important to keep in mind that the Victorian Era is in general reference to the time period between the 1830s and 1901. There was some overlap in styles between 1701 to 1910 but they were all distinct time periods with different design ideas. 

Georgian Era and Regency Designs  

Georgian interior design style emphasizes high drama and sophistication. If you’re a fan of modern television, you’ll recognize this style in the drama of Bridgerton and Regency London. The architecture influenced the style, creating high ceilings and intricate, elegant trim around rooms and doorways and walls. Georgian interiors were adorned with Classical-inspired elements, from ornate columns to artwork and motifs with Greek and Roman influences.  

Walls became the artists’ canvas and the most intriguing ways to decorate, with paint, plasterwork, and rich tapestry. Subtle, delicate aesthetics were accented by a pale, muted color palette. The use of color was interesting and elite without being bold. Detail work was done in deeper shades. Murals and plasterwork were painted and balanced out with the focal points created by the architecture of the space to avoid the appearance of clutter.  

The rooms were made to feel large by wood facades on floor and ceiling moldings and around window, door, and fireplace trims. The surfaces and floor spaces were simple and sparsely adorned with urns, candelabra, and functional, ornate artwork. There is a focus on minimalism and symmetry with Georgian interior design. This plain harmonious decor gave way to the more eclectic, extravagant looks inherent in Victorian design. 

The Edwardian Design Era 

Named for King Edward VII, the Edwardian design style draws influences from the popular designs from 1901 to 1914. To contrast the rigid formality of the Regency and Victorian design eras, the Edwardian style developed something more playful without losing any of the elegance.  

Architecture of the time was heavily influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, and the interior décor often features the curves and loops from Art Nouveau. Natural themes were represented indoors, with more creative, less intricate focus. For an Edwardian look, pay special attention to the front porch or any attached outdoor spaces. These were used to announce social status, with rich materials and highly decorative windows and window seats.  

Inside the home was brighter, with creative, unique lighting fixtures and large plate glass mirrors replacing art paintings. Pastel colored walls became once again popular. Natural colors like terracotta and greens were brought in, with black or metallic painted trims, and the designs, colors, and contrasts simplified and decluttered without losing the maximalism brought in with Victorian design. 

Today’s Victorian Interior Design 

The style choices available today are much broader and more complex than their origins. Because of this, you will often find similar Georgian, Regency, and Edwardian flair in Victorian home designs.  

Though they are grouped under the Victorian label, you aren’t as likely to find Victorian influence in Georgian- or Regency-specific interiors. Even Edwardian design, which followed the Victorian design, has marked differences.  

While history and time periods aren’t as interesting as, say, the color of the wall in your living room, it can be useful to know exactly what style you’re looking for when you start planning the look of your space. 

collage of modern victorian — large formal bathroom + small, light bathroom
Modern Victorian is more grounded and incorporates contemporary elements.

What Is Modern Victorian? 

Modern Victorian homes are sometimes updated traditional Victorian homes. They are often in the older parts of cities and are sometimes row homes. While it overlaps with Georgian interior design styles, Modern Victorian is a more grounded design and incorporates contemporary elements. 

In the Modern Victorian style, heavy textures made of natural materials such as wood, cotton, and stone are replaced by contemporary materials such as synthetic fiber and brushed metal.  

The mood is grounded rather than grandiose, as in classic Victorian homes. Dark, dramatic color contrasts are dialed down, and replaced with neutrals such as cream, grey, and beige. This chic style is often centered on grey, ivory, and similar neutral shades, with the use of bold pops being limited to accent walls, decor, and statement furniture.  

The Vintage Victorian 

This is Victorian in its classic form. Vintage Victorian homes can often be found in European cities and in the northeast United States. A Victorian design house could be described as the opposite of minimalism.  

From ceiling to toilet, Victorian design incorporates every inch of a home. Heavy ornamentation, a lavish mix of patterns and textures, and loads of accessories characterize the look.  

The Vintage Victorian color palette tends toward bold and dark colors, particularly jewel tones. This strong foundation is a great place to start and return to, when in doubt.

Vintage Victorian Decor Style

How to Use Victorian Style Fabrics 

Covering an entire room in a dark paint color can be stifling, but using dark wallpaper doesn’t have the same effect. A patterned wallpaper creates character and texture, so it feels interesting instead of stifling. Explore chinoiserie, damask, paisley, or cameo wallcoverings for your Victorian style house. 

Window drapery is typical of traditional Victorian decor, with no shortage of tassels and fringe. If you go this route, opt for luxurious velvet or silk. Of course, architectural elements such as crown molding, wall trims, and chair rails are very common in this style as well. 

Another option is to choose a stained glass Tiffany window. These are available in any number of shapes, sizes, and designs. We love how these can provide privacy without blocking light the way heavy curtains have a tendency to do. 

Country Victorian Wallcoverings & Window Treatments 

Fabrics are lighter in French Country Victorian styles. There is less emphasis on heavy drapery, and more on lace or gauzy window coverings to allow sunlight in. 

Modern Victorian Wallcoverings & Window Treatments 

Modern Victorian decor often forgoes draperies altogether in favor of blinds, shutters, and shades in chic white, brown, or black. In the contemporary Victorian home, walls less often feature dramatic patterns. Many leave walls neutrally painted, but we love tone-on-tone prints in beige, cream, grey, and soft metallic look.   

Choosing the Right Lighting 

A Victorian home wouldn’t be complete without a grand chandelier, ornate sconces, or a Tiffany lamp.  

Welcome guests in your entry with a crystal or iron candle-style chandelier. These are also beautiful, in appropriate sizes, in living areas, dining areas, bathrooms, and even in bedrooms. 

Light a hallway with sconces, staggered to provide ample illumination. Use them to flank an entry doorway as well. They look lovely on both sides of a bathroom vanity mirror or a decorative mirror in any living space. 

Tiffany lamps are light and art simultaneously. Place them on end tables, entry tables, desks, or use a Tiffany shade on a pendant light. 

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Country Victorian Lighting 

Pewter and brass light fixtures will suit the country best, as they are less formal than crystal. Linear pendants work quite well in kitchens and entry spaces. 

Modern Victorian Lighting 

Seek out pendants that make a statement, and chandeliers that are made from modern materials set in vintage designs. 

Choosing the Right Finishes 

An easy Victorian update is door and cabinet hardware. There was a time when you could tell the age of a home by the style of its doorknobs. No longer is this true, as many decor styles have come and gone and come again.  

However, Victorian hardware, because of its ornate, old-world look, is very distinctive. Take this opportunity to embrace Victorian style wholeheartedly by replacing and/or installing entry hardware and interior knobs.  

Victorian cabinet hardware, too, is easy to spot and available in many gilded styles. 

Your faucet is often the focal point of your kitchen. With an elegant Victorian-style faucet with a complementary sink, your guests won’t be able to take their eyes off of it! In the bathroom, a freestanding tub with opulent tub filler is the perfect option. 

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Country Victorian Fixtures 

Choose fixtures that are more rustic in appearance for your Country Victorian home, as it is meant to be less formal. Lighting fixtures and hardware for cabinets or plumbing are excellent opportunities to add shine and contrast to a room without distracting from it. Add some Victorian Glam to your project and choose a bright gold or a moody black to bring out the natural design of the space. 

Modern Victorian Fixtures 

Choose an elegant look for your fixtures, in sleek or ornate designs. Your finishes needn’t match one another, but complementary metals are best. We love mixing and matching metals to create a unique, designer look. 

Victorian Furnishings 

Obviously, antique furniture would be ideal. But there isn’t an abundance of well-preserved Victorian-era furniture sitting around. (And if there were, it wouldn’t be very comfortable, we can assure you!) Luckily, because the decor style has come back into fashion, there are lovely sofas, accent chairs, and tables that will fit the bill.  

Furniture should feature ornately carved wood with tufted upholstery in rich velvet or patterned fabrics. Look for sofas with curving edges. Tassels and fringe should be embraced wholeheartedly. Accent chairs should be of the wingback sort, and accompanied by an ottoman, preferably with gilded legs. Furniture should be as intricately detailed as possible, and end tables should be adorned with statuettes and lamps.  

Consider adding a mantle fireplace, with a candelabra, to complete the traditional Victorian look. 

Country Victorian Furnishings 

Tassels and ribbons should be fully embraced in the country style. Furniture can be a lighter finish, with a woodgrain finish that feels a bit more rustic. It’s also not uncommon to see wicker in Country Victorian homes. Upholstered chairs and sofas should be more plump and less formal than traditional Victorian. 

Modern Victorian Furnishings 

Sofas in this style can be of a more casual sort. A lower profile is allowable, bordering on Mid-century modern.  

Upholstery can range from pastel to striped, and more bohemian fabric patterns are acceptable as accents here as well. Consider painted furniture that is ornately carved. We love metallic accents that are mixed with wooden furnishings. 

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Choosing the Right Decor 

Use mirrors, picture frames, clocks, serving ware, and accessories to highly adorn your space. Soft goods — like pillows, lampshades, draperies, and linens — are perfect for showcasing detailed needlework, tassels, beaded trim, and fringe. The palette is deep and rich, and it is acceptable to use at least three colors in a single space. 

Country Victorian Decor 

If you’re not careful, the busy presence of Victorian decor can become a somewhat cluttered look. Place antique-inspired items and Victorian era artwork throughout the home. Landscapes and seascapes are perfect for your Country Victorian home. Dried flowers are extremely common in this style, as are other nature-inspired items such as seashells. 

Modern Victorian Decor 

Add modern art pieces, floral paintings, bold colors, decorative vases, and playful patterns to keep the feel of the Victorian era, while adding a modern twist. Add a bold area rug in a traditional or vintage print for more color and personality in the space.  

Begin Your Reign 

Even if you can’t live in a palace, there's no reason you can’t decorate your home like one! Choose your style, or mix and match, and begin your royal redecorating! 

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