Everything You Need to Know About Victorian Style Houses

Victorian-style living room

Tyler Karu Design + Interiors

The era of royal highnesses and residing in castles may—for the most part—be behind us, but if you're set on emulating a lifestyle like that of a king or queen, there is a particular type of design and architecture that will allow you to do so, at least in terms of your living quarters.

Victorian-style homes may sound archaic, but despite the general set of features that mark them as such, these homes can be styled and finessed in a multitude of ways that make them feel unique and personalized. This perfect blend often makes them a popular pick for buyers and renters.

Even if you're partial to a Craftsman style or love the idea of a super-modern abode, Victorian homes can be designed to your liking and still maintain that old world flair. Here's what you should know about them and the pros and cons of living within their walls.

What is Victorian Style?

Victorian houses in San Francisco
Getty Images / maybefalse

This look began to become increasingly popular starting in the mid to late 1800s.

"A Victorian-style house is something in between a colorful dollhouse and a great English remnant," Thomas Jepsen, CEO of Passion Plans, says. "While the style refers to a period of time in history, it is generally associated with certain characteristics."

Original Victorian houses have a list of indicators that make them fall into this category, but these days people are beginning to blend them with more modern styles, too.

Types of Victorian Houses

Victorian entryway
Tyler Karu Design + Interiors

There are a handful of different subcategories of Victorian houses that you may come across.

"The most popular in America are Queen Anne and Italianate," Jaye Anna Mize, the vice president of the home and interior design space for Fashion Snoops, says."The Queen Anne, with its asymmetrical feel, often showcases wrap-around porches, steeply pitched roofs, a turret, and are usually two-three stories tall."

They're also notably distinct thanks to the complexities dotted about their structures.

"They have the ornate dressings, such as wall textures and grandeur trim, that make them feel like gingerbread houses," Mize says.

She adds that Italianate versions more closely resemble villas from the namesake country. They have more of a rectangular structure and narrower windows and columns that are "all ornately adorned with trim, complementing the design scheme throughout."

These are only a sampling of what people tend to gravitate towards, though, as Phillip Ash, the founder of Pro Paint Corner explains, this style can also include "Gothic Revival, Second Empire, Stick-Eastlake, Folk Victorian, Romanesque Revival, and Shingle Style."

Features of Victorian House Exteriors

what's a victorian home - victorian exterior with porch and blue paint

Douglas Keister/Getty Images

It's fairly easy to spot a Victorian home and its almost castle-like silhouette.

"A typical Victorian home would be large and imposing, two or three stories, constructed of stone and wood, with a highly ornate wooden exterior consisting of steep, gabled roofs, towers, turrets, and highly decorative woodwork," says Ash.

The paint colors slathered onto the exteriors also used to be quite telling and ranged from bold, vibrant hues to darker shades.

"Many of the features of the home—such as its somber color palette—are a nod to Queen Victoria," says Sarabeth Asaff South, a former interior designer and home design expert at Fixr. "All colors have some amount of black added to them in a nod to the mourning of Queen Victoria for her late husband."

Ash also adds that the original occupants of these homes weren't shy when it came to playing with colors though either.

"The exterior of many Victorian homes were generally quite brightly painted, as the Victorians were experimenting with paint color, and were always looking to be the height of fashion." While the outsides may be stunning, what can you expect in terms of features when it comes to their insides?

Features of Victorian House Interiors

Blue Victorian living room
Getty Images / nicolamargaret

Though you may be blown away by the brilliant exteriors, these kinds of homes have insides to boot.

"The house plans are as ornate as the exterior," South says. "They often have verandas, turrets, and multiple rooms that can be used for various purposes. For example, you will likely have a living room, a den, and a library in a Victorian."

These nooks, crannies, and spacious living spaces are part of what makes a Victorian, well, a Victorian.

"Open concept would have been an appalling suggestion," Ash says. "Homes were built to create public and private areas, as most Victorian families would entertain multiple times a week. Houses had elaborate floor plans with each room sectioned off for a specific function."

Doorways and molding are often intricate, too and the ceilings are usually high and sometimes decked out in their own unique designs or framing.

Pros of Victorian-Style Houses

Open airy Victorian home
Rikki Snyder

Those dreaming of statement chandeliers or ornate molding and detailing will deeply appreciate Victorian-style homes' high ceilings and thoughtful architecture. They're a far cry from the sleek modernist houses many people have taken a liking to in the past several years and boast plenty of intricate features made of wood or stone.

"If you're looking at purchasing an original Victorian you'll be steeped in the history of the building and the many people and families that have made it their home. If it's already been renovated you may not have to deal with any issues," Ash says.

South also mentions that while the rooms may feel formal and prim, they make for a super usable space with plenty of functionality. Not to mention, the windows and high ceilings oftentimes are contributors to sun-soaked rooms that feel larger than life.

Cons of Victorian-Style Houses

Victorian-style living room
Tyler Karu Design + Interiors

Those high ceilings come back into play when it comes to the cons of Victorian houses, too. Because of their tendency to be more vertical leaning, Victorian-style houses may offer high ceilings, but might have rooms that lack in horizontal space depending on how big it is. This isn't always the case, but it's not going to be as wide as, say, a ranch-style home.

If you have an affinity for open floor plans, you probably won't want to be looking at a Victorian home either as an array of rooms with doors, or at least thick walls, separate most. You may also feel overwhelmed by the outdated infrastructures of some.

And as Ash explained previously, if your home has received updates you're in luck—if not, you may want to plan for a high renovation bill.

"Victorian homes can contain hazardous materials, and need significant wiring and plumbing upgrades," he says. "If the home has been designated historic, you may also have rules about what you can and cannot change."

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