Of all of the periods of properties we work on, from thatched cottages to new builds, Victorian homes are one of our favourites. A whole thesis could be written on Victorian design, but here we’re going to highlight some of the joys of living in a Victorian home by looking at some of the period’s most defining details.
The Victorians built homes from 1837-1901 in Britain’s cities, to accommodate those grafting in newly industrialised factories, and elsewhere to capitalize on increased mobility, thanks to the expansion of the railway, and increasing prosperity. These red brick terraces with their sash windows are familiar and widespread throughout the country.
Typically laid out in the classic ‘two-up, two-down’ fashion and often back-to-back, entire communities were built around the city terrace and its convenient commute distance. Saltaire, a UNESCO World Heritage site is a fabulous example – built in 1851 by mill owner Sir Titus Salt, who constructed an entire Victorian terraced village, specifically for his workforce – what an enlightened employer.
But the Victorians weren’t all work and no play. They also built along Britain’s coastline, developing seaside resorts, as taking the fresh air and visiting the beach became fashionable. From the modest terrace to the grand, detached villa, rich and detailed Victorian design can be seen across the length and breadth of the country.
Industrialised glass production enabled tall sash windows to be made, and generous bay windows are one of the era’s defining features. With electricity not yet widely available in domestic homes, this wasn’t simply a case of pleasing aesthetics; flooding the home with as much natural light as possible, was of huge practical benefit.
Sashes also allowed for the industrial smokey air to flow out at the top opening while fresher air could be welcomed in below. Stained glass typical features in and around the front door, allowing light in whilst maintaining privacy, while outside, charming tiled-pathways often lead through modest front gardens.
Victorian homes usually have well-proportioned rooms, with generous high ceilings. Often referred to as having beautiful ‘bones’, larger Victorian properties would feature a front parlour which was kept for ‘best’ with a dining room behind. By contrast, today’s interiors see large open-plan living spaces and live-in kitchens rather than the smaller, separated scullery of old.
Thankfully, many Victorian homes today still have their original features intact; plaster ceiling roses, cornicing, picture and dado rails. Panelled doors, architraves, skirtings and stair balusters all feature detailed mouldings, which are such key elements of the Victorian interior that we look to replace any that are missing.
A brand new replacement plaster ceiling rose in our Victorian Townhouse project
The colour scheme traditionally favoured by the Victorians featured deep shades of maroon, burgundy and bottle green. To modern eyes, these shades such can feel a little too dark and heavy, but rather than paint everything pale and neutral, consider meeting in the middle with walls lightened and kitchen cabinetry painted in plum for example, to give you the best of both worlds.
The best Victorian properties are those that keep the best of old (reinstating where possible), lift and lighten the colour palette, and feature well-engineered fittings sympathetic to the period. The result? A time-honoured home that’s beautiful, practical and a modernised doorway to the past.