Built between 1837 and 1901 during the reign of Queen Victoria, the aesthetics of Victorian-era houses and architecture have inspired books, films, and homeowners for more than a century. Want to know how to bring these vibes to your new home? Let’s dive in to understand what, exactly, makes a Victorian-era home.
What are the Features of a Victorian House?
There are 10 home styles that spawned during the Victorian era, and while each has unique characteristics, there are a few features that are included across the board.
Form is Greater Than Function
These homes were not about having the most efficient and functional space. In fact, Victorian era homes are completely against that. These multi-story homes are sprawling, layouts driven by the idea that each room should have one dedicated activity and no more. The ostentatious décor, both inside and out, and the overall imposing nature of these homes combine to create structures that are meant to visually impress.
Whether you’re thinking of the haunted house look of Gothic Revival Victorian homes or the cottage-like comfort of Folk-Victorians, the intricate trim around entryways, windows, and along rooflines is hard to miss. As mentioned above, these homes were built in a way that made it clear to neighbors and visitors how much money someone had; in addition to sheer size, this was also expressed in the extensive detailing of decoration.
Another common factor among Victorian era homes is the inclusion of a porch. Even if it’s just a slightly recessed main entrance that creates a portico, there is almost always a wide porch included on the front façade of these houses that encourages homeowners to spend time outdoors.
Looking at Victorian era homes, you’ll notice lots of columns, highly placed windows, and turrets or towers. These touches encourage the eye to naturally travel upward when viewing the home, aiding in the larger-than-life vibe.
Bright and Unique Exterior Colors
The Industrial Revolution produced significant discoveries, chemical pigmentation in paint being one of them. As a result, it became very common for Victorian homes to be painted a wide range of colors, adding to the overall visual effect for which these structures strived.
What are the Types of Victorian Homes?
For more specifics on each style, here’s a quick rundown of the various design styles that are housed under the term Victorian.
Inspired by designer Charles Eastlake, these homes are a calmer version of Victorian homes. The ornamentations are airier and lighter, driven by Eastlake’s focus on moving away from ostentatious designs in favor of visually appealing items of which creators – artisans and machines alike – were proud.
These are a common sight in America, in part because they were designed as the cost-friendly option of Victorian style homes for everyday homeowners. With simple trim, gabled roofs, and dormers, Folk Victorian houses are picturesque cottage homes.
The home you picture when a story begins with, “On a dark and stormy night” is probably a Gothic Revival Victorian. This classic haunted house aesthetic features ornamental cornices (exterior crown molding) and tall, pointed windows. And while it’s not a requirement, no Gothic Revival is complete without an ominous turret to give it a distinct profile.
Want a Victorian home that’s less Victorian and more Italian villa? Weirdly specific request, but Italianate has you covered. These rectangular or square homes are more flat-faced than their peers, and have a much more balanced appearance compared to the asymmetry present in other Victorian-era houses.
Unique even among Victorian homes, Octagonal Victorians are easily identified by their – you guessed it – octagonal shape. These eight-sided homes tend to have low, hipped roofs and a partial or full wraparound porch.
These are pinnacle Victorian style homes, even though they became popular later during the era. They are exceptionally ornate with bay windows and turrets, in addition to delicately designed trim along the porch and balconies.
Stately and castle-like, Richardsonians are often made of stone or brick with at least one tower. They’re sturdy but retain the whimsical nature of Victorian homes with their asymmetrical façades. Perhaps the most well-known example of this style isn’t a home, but rather, Trinity Church in Boston.
Easy to spot with their Mansard, boxy roofs, Second Empire homes are fairly similar in design to Italianate style. Their flat-faced façades are curved at the top to form the square Mansard roof for which they are known. While asymmetrical, they’re not as unbalanced as most of the other styles.
Despite what their name leads you to believe, Shingle Victorian homes are made from other materials, not just shingles. Rather than the materials making them easy to spot, Shingles actually stand out for their simplicity. Turrets, bay windows, and large porches might all be included, but the minimalism of their design makes Shingles a bit more difficult to pick out of a lineup.
Remember how Victorian homes are quick to sacrifice function for form? Stick Victorians are a perfect example with the diagonal, horizontal, and vertical planks that are laid over the exterior walls. While in traditional Tudor homes these planks are integral to the structure’s integrity, with Stick Victorians, they’re simply there for aesthetics. Pair this habit with gabled roofs and wraparound porches and it’s easy to see how Sticks are just as over-the-top as their peers, just in a unique way.
Design Your Own Victorian Escape
From Addams Family enthusiasts to Full House fans, the multiple styles of Victorian homes guarantees there’s something for everyone. This timeless design is going to be around for quite a while, so what are you waiting for? Find and design your new home today!
Mia Zozobrado joined Builders Digital Experience (BDX) in 2019 as a content writer. A graduate of Southwestern University with a degree in English, Mia is passionate about the written word and making connections. Outside of work, Mia also serves on the Board of Directors for the Writers’ League of Texas.