Victorian homes are wonderfully unique, full of character and open to a world of interior design possibilities. Well-built and usually full of lofty ceilings and large rooms, they are many people’s idea of the dream home. However, these historic beauties aren’t without their difficulties, the main sticking point being modernization. If you’re lucky enough to own a Victorian cottage or Victorian terraced house, you’re probably constantly working out how to bring your home into the 21st Century whilst retaining the beautiful period features that made you fall in love with it in the first place. Here, we’ve gathered our top tips for making sure your Victorian home decor looks fresh and modern whilst still paying tribute to its most enviable features.
1. Keep it Light
Victorian houses are chameleons. Those expansive walls can hold nearly any shade with finesse but there are a few modern color schemes that look particularly sleek in Victorian homes. Fresh whites and light neutrals should be the choice for fans of calming interior looks. They make the most of the natural light in the homes, give the rooms a bright, airy feel and can be dressed up or down depending on the season and your style tastes.
2. Or Embrace the Dark Side
If you’re a color fan, however, it might be time to join the dark side. Traditional Victorian interiors were usually dark and ornate, so your Victorian home was made for the rich inky shades that lend your 19th-century home a 21st-century feel. From cool navy to forest green and even plush plum, these rich shades are perfect for whole rooms and feature walls or, if you want, to just dip your toes in the dark side, as accent colors.
3. Sympathetically Update Windows
Victorian houses are known for their windows, and they will usually be one of their biggest design features (literally), especially if you’re lucky enough to have bay or sash windows. Original Victorian windows need careful maintenance to keep them in good condition, and if they have already reached the point of no return, you’ll need to look at updating them. Choosing new windows is one of the most important jobs when you’re updating a Victorian home. Adding standard UPVC double glazing can instantly ruin the home’s aesthetic, so do your research before you get started to make sure any changes won't alter the building’s character. It is possible to keep eco-friendly while retaining the Victorian look, and spending a little more on specialty windows will pay dividends, both aesthetically and in terms of market value.
4. Dress Them Well Too
Once you have your new windows (or you’ve restored the originals), it’s time to dress them. The high ceilings of Victorian properties combined with large windows tend to draw the eye, so make sure they’re interesting to look at. Wooden shutters are a popular choice for period homes and they look even more dramatic paired with floor-length curtains to add a touch of texture to the area.
5. Keep Up with Cornicing
Ornate cornicing is also a staple feature of Victorian house decor. These decorative touches around the edge of a room can also extend to surround lighting fixtures and are one of the most iconic design elements of period homes. If your home still has these touches then try to lovingly restore them, or if you’d like a different design, you can add new ones (check out salvage yards as well as DIY stores). Just whatever you do, don’t get rid of it entirely.
6. Draw the Eyes Up
With your beautiful cornicing in place, you’ll want to make sure it gets its time in the limelight. There are a few tricks you can use to draw the eyes up never-ending Victorian walls. Picture rails are a strip of molding which usually sits level with the top of the windows in a room. Traditionally used to hang pictures from, they’re now a stylish design feature for period homes. They can be used to break up wall colors by adding another color above them, or the wall could be a uniform color with the rail being different, which can do the job just as well. However they’re painted, they instantly take your eyes skyward. Another great trick is to paint fitted or tall free-standing furniture in the same color as the walls to create a continuous look straight up to the ceiling.
7. Repair Original Flooring Where You Can
Timeless hardwood flooring and Victorian homes go hand in hand. If you’ve got old carpet in your home, now’s the time to peel this back and take a look underneath. You might be lucky and find flooring you can lovingly restore, or you could hit the jackpot and find ornate parquetry designs. Beautiful paired with a few cozy rugs, you can’t go wrong with classic wooden flooring.
8. Make Your Flooring Make a Statement
Certain areas in Victorian homes were more likely to have tiles rather than wooden flooring, with hallways, bathrooms and kitchens being popular. Boldly patterned Victorian-inspired tiling is highly sought-after at the moment, so there are endless options to choose from if you don’t have original tiling to work with. More modern geometric designs are also fabulous in these areas to create a contemporary contrast to the home’s period features.
9. Make the Most of High Ceilings with Large Scale Art
Those high ceilings are of course a blessing, particularly because they mean your windows will probably be enormous to let natural light flood in. But their surface area can sometimes be overwhelming and can dwarf even quite large furniture. The trick here is to add art to the walls – quirky wall art and clusters of photos always work a treat, but there’s no reason why you can’t go large with some art that hides the wall almost completely.
10. Reflect the Light
Mirrors are a must for any home and in particular for period properties. Whilst most rooms in Victorian houses are usually large with windows to match, certain areas like hallways and back bedrooms can be lacking in natural light, so help reflect what little light there is with mirrors in strategic places.
11. Mix Modern Elements with the Traditional
Chances are if you’ve bought a Victorian home, you’re a fan of traditional design but when modernizing, bringing in contemporary touches will create an effortlessly sophisticated feel. It’s a fabulous way to personalize the space. Modern and traditional design can sit harmoniously together; why not choose an ornate sideboard styled with contemporary decorative accessories. Don’t discount the details you love just because they’re not in the same style as your period home.
12. Fix and Make Fireplaces a Feature
Victorian fireplaces are the epitome of dream home features for period property owners. If you’ve got one, don’t ever let it go. If you can, restore yours to its former glory with a fresh lick of paint, polish and new tiles and it will instantly become your favorite feature in that room, not to mention a new best friend for chilly winter nights.
13. Bold Lighting
High ceilings (we’ll stop talking about them soon, promise) mean you can be much more creative with your lighting, so now’s the time to invest in some statement lighting. From large single pendants to multi-light features, whatever style you fancy, traditional or modern, think big.
14. Maximize Storage
Period properties are full of alcoves and other nooks and crannies which mean it’s unlikely any room will be a perfect square or rectangle. Make the most of these nooks by creating some much-needed storage. If you have a fireplace, the alcoves either side of the chimney breast are the perfect spots for built-in shelving, cupboards, or wardrobes.
15. Don’t Get Lost in Space
Large rooms and high ceilings can make filling these rooms harder than those with more standard dimensions. Make sure furniture is large enough to fill the space and don’t be afraid to set items away from the walls if you have particularly big rooms. Roll-top baths are an excellent example of this as not only do they beautifully match Victorian house decor, but they will also grandly fill big bathrooms.
16. Make the Walls Themselves a Feature
In many stylish Victorian homes, the walls themselves are the main feature, and not just because of their height. Decorative wall finishes like laid back wooden tongue and groove, formal paneling or even more ornate textures are right at home in Victorian homes and are a great choice if you want to add some drama to a certain space.