Jeff GreenbergGetty PhotosIt seems like our love affair Victorian homes is just as strong as our love of the Queen. While she no longer sits on the British throne but the houses built during her reign are still popular monuments from that bygone era.
Molly McClain, University of San Diego history professor, says that Victorian houses appeal to little girls. They are a romantic piece from America’s past, because they are colorful and eclectic.
These charming structures, in all their many variations, can be restored to their original form or updated in a contemporary way to suit modern needs. But they all share one thing in common: there is no shortage of character. Victorian-style homes offer occupants a unique opportunity to own a piece history, from the majestic stately mansions to the charming cottages.
So what’s the history of Victorian Houses?
The Victorian aesthetic exploded during Queen Victoria’s reign in U.K., the mid-to late 1800s. The U.S. mirrored the Victorian aesthetic 50 years later. This was after the development of the railway which opened up land for suburban development and the Industrial Revolution which allowed the mass production of house parts. People could build houses anywhere they wanted, and they could look exactly how they wanted.
A row of Victorian homes in San Francisco.franckreporterGetty Images”That’s the glory of the Victorians–that mere function was no longer the sole purpose of this architecture,” says McClain. McClain says that people would browse magazines like American Home and Good Housekeeping and choose from these diverse house designs. It was their way to express their individuality, their social aspirations and taste.
New chemical dyes have made it possible to create different colors for your house. McClain says, “It was an amazing revolution in color.” McClain says that it was impossible to do this before 1830s so people tried bolder, more vibrant colors. They would choose natural, moss-colored homes or grays later in the century.
Are You Looking for Victorian Houses?
There are many Victorian-era homes in America, Canada, Australia, and the U.K. These historic treasures make up around one-sixth of all homes in the U.K. Robin Guild, author The Victorian House Book, says that despite early conservation efforts in 1930s, many Victorian homes were destroyed in the name urban renewal. It began in 1950s. Millions of these houses still exist, and current residents are beginning to get used to their outdated idiosyncrasies, whether they be charming or not.
A charming Victorian cottage on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. John Greim via Getty Images. “In general, the materials used to build houses during the Victorian Era were of higher quality that what is usually used in new construction today,” Scott T. Hanson, author, Restoring Your Historic House, The Comprehensive Guide for Homeowners. “Even after long periods neglect or abuse, these materials are often restored to their original function, beauty, and beauty.”
Hanson states that any house can be difficult to maintain. This can include updating mechanical systems to improve comfort and efficiency, dealing hazardous materials, and complying with historic preservation regulations and local building codes.
The Features of a Victorian House
Although there have been many styles that have dominated over the centuries, there are common characteristics that link these architectural styles together. These houses are usually two- to three-story with tall gabled roofs and towers. The exterior features include towers, dormers, and turrets. These roof lines are complex as architects tried to make designs that draw the eye up to the top of each house. You can’t forget the distinctive stained glass, decorative woodwork and bright paint colors. These are often framed by a wraparound porch with spindlework and gingerbread cutouts. Think dollhouse.
Mad River Woodworks. Inside, you’ll see high ceilings, walls with unusual shapes (sorry to those who apply wallpaper), and closed-off rooms with added nooks. These homes were known for their intricate trim work, which included decorative wooden staircases and ornate fireplace mantels as well as gilded wainscoting. A glittering chandelier was the hallmark of a Victorian home. The Victorians are well-known for their love for luxury.
McClain says that open-concept layout was impossible during this time. She says that there were specific rooms for certain activities. “There were rooms for specific activities, such as a music room with a piano and a library for reading. There was also a parlor that received visitors.” These homes are known for having detailed floor plans, which often lead to complex interiors.
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