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Victorian Homes: Real-Life Dollhouses from the Gilded Age

November 16 2018
by Leisl Bailey

The front of a Victorian home

Victorian homes reflect a sense of royalty wherever you find them. Maybe it’s due to the large, pointed roofs of the towers or the winding staircases. But the Victorian homes are the stuff of dreams for every little child who believes they are royalty.

How did these majestic homes get their name and what are the pros and cons of these mystical Victorian homes? Dive in to find out.

Where does the Victorian get its name?

The history of the Victorian home reflects its architectural style from when Queen Victoria ruled England during the 1800s to the 1900s. Inspired by a montage of other house designs throughout the medieval times, you can see the Victorian style home throughout European history.

This ostentatious design was also encouraged by Victorian women’s clothing designers who helped shape fashion during that era. The elaborate fashion pieces included corsets, hoop skirts, and dresses made with many yards of fabric. The Victorian era was a time of excess and this is reflected in the Victorian homes built during this time.

The History of the Victorian Home

The vast rule of the British Empire gave life to Victorian architecture and its inspiration spread throughout the UK, North America, Australia, and New Zealand. Throughout this period, architects would travel to different areas transforming the landscape by constructing Victorian homes. Traveling architects gave validity to the Victorian home by planting them in several countries around the world.

Victorian Home Types

There are several types of Victorian homes that got their influence from different nationalities.

The Gothic

The Gothic Revival occurred during the industrial revolution (between 1830—1860). The revolution enabled builders to produce the Gothic style Victorian faster and cheaper. This allowed lower income families the option of buying a Victorian home with all the highlights, such as a steeply pitched roof with a vergeboard trim along the edges, pointed arch windows, high dormers (a rooftop window), lancet windows (arched window), and vertical boards with batten siding (solid piece of wood). You can find these features in Victorian homes today, and they give the house a unique connection with history.

The Italianate

Built between 1840-1870 and the architects of the Italianate saw the Renaissance villas of Italy as their romantic models. This style of home consisted of two stories and hosted an elaborate display of ornamental brackets.

The Second Empire Design

The Second Empire design was erected between 1852–1870 during the reign of Napoleon the III. This style home, built in France had a simple square base that incorporated mansard roofs. The roof has a strong pitch on all sides and there is also embellished millwork on the roofline of the home.

The Stick-Eastlake

Built between 1860–1890, the Stick-Eastlake Victorian gets its name from the main material of the home: wood.

Stick Eastlake Victorian home

This style of home includes angled wood frames and wooden decorative trim known as “stick work” on the overlay. These homes also feature beautifully pitched roofs with shingles and double hung windows.

The Folk Victorian

Built between 1870–1910, many know the Folk Victorian as folksy and as the more simplistic version of a Victorian home. Because they built it with the everyday person in mind, it lacks the traditional outward extravagant appearance of the other Victorians. However, the interior is nothing short of elaborate with turned spindles, lace-like detailing, and beveled corners.

The Richardsonian Romanesque Revival Style

Inspired by the ancient Romans, the Romanesque design includes inclined hipped roofs, wide rounded arch windows, and arched doorways.

The Queen Anne

Built between 1875–1905, many view the Queen Anne as the most famous of all the Victorian homes.

Queen Anne style Victorian home

The heavy ornamentation of the Queen Ann makes it easy to recognize with its gabled roofs, rounded towers, and large windows that are highly decorative but surprisingly functional.

Colors Used in Victorian Homes

Prior to the Victorian age, most homes were white or beige. The dawn of the Victorian age brought the world into color with its bright earth tones like burnt sienna and mustard yellow. These colors made homes stand out and gave highlight to the many unique characteristics of the architecture.

Victorian Home Floors

Wood flooring was common during the Victorian era and the wood of choice was pine. Some homes would have mahogany or oak and can still be found in some Victorians today. Some homes mimic that of churches with tile like wood floors.

Victorian Homes Today

The famous “Painted Ladies” of San Francisco is a style that means having three or more colors on a Victorian home to embellish the architectural detail. The painted ladies were built between 1892 to 1896 and even survived the 1906 earthquake. These architectural styles aren’t the only living relics in the country. The Gingerbread House, in Savannah, GA was built in 1889 and represents Gothic architecture.

The Painted Ladies Victorian homes in San Francisco, California

The Wedding Cake House, found in Kennebunk, Maine, has a building date of 1826. This Victorian home was inspired by Gothic design giving it an array of wood decorations which reflect the 1850s style. The Rosson House, built in 1895 in Phoenix, is a true testament of the Queen Anne style and has been transformed into a museum.

Pros of Owning a Victorian Home

With such a montage of design elements added throughout history, there are a few defining features that collectively make a Victorian home. The exterior of a Victorian home may have features like steep gabled roofs, round angles, towers, large shapely windows, stained glass, decorative woodwork, and bright color. The interior of a Victorian home usually includes two or threes stories. The floor plans boast nooks, high ceilings, intricate wood trim, and ornate staircases. All these features can mean only one thing: jaw-dropping beauty wherever you look.

Cons of Victorian Homes

Victorians homes are historic and because they are from a different time, but this also means many lack modern features needed today. Rooms are smaller, there’s less closet space, and many homes need complete rewiring. Additionally, the plaster walls may need replacing if “settling” occurs.

Another thing to be aware of with your Victorian is their elaborate exterior and interior trim can be costly to update or replace because the architectural styles unique to Victorians are not widely available. This means hiring a woodworker to customize the trim and modeling to fit the home.

You’ll also need to check the home for asbestos and lead paint as these two issues lead to serious health issues. Asbestos and lead paint toxins can lead to cancer because of the carcinogens they release into the air.

Related: Interested in Buying a Shotgun House?

Modernize for 2018 Without Losing the Victorian Heritage

Velvet, fringe, and tuft can give an elaborately elegant look to an already luxurious feeling home.

It’s the details of a Victorian that make the home stand out in any neighborhood. Maintaining the bold colors, the elegant woodwork and carefully crafted roofing will help maintain the je ne sais quoi your Victorian home deserves.

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Looking for a Victorian home to make your dreams come true? Use a Clever agent to make it happen. Call us today at  1-833-2-CLEVER or fill out our online form to get started.