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 the dream home for many of us, however these historic beauties aren’t without their difficulties. The main sticking point being modernisation. If you are lucky enough to own a Victorian cottage or Victorian terraced house, you’re probably constantly on the lookout for 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 gathered together 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 colour schemes which 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 colour fan however, it might be time to join the dark side. Traditional Victoria interiors were usually dark and ornate, so your Victorian home was made for the rich inky shades which are currently taking the interior world by storm. From cool navy, to forest green and even plush plum, these rich shades are perfect for whole rooms and features walls, or if you want to just dip your toes in the dark side, as accent colours.
3. Sympathetically Update Windows
Victorian houses are known for their windows and will usually be one of their biggest design features, 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 of updating a Victorian home, as adding standard modern 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.
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 often 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 usually 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. 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 moulding 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 colours by adding another colour above it, painted in the same shade as the walls, or even in an accent colour. 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 colour as the walls to create a continuous look straight up to the ceiling.
7. Repair Original Flooring Where You Can
Timeless hard wood 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 hit the jackpot and find flooring you can lovingly restore and if you’re really lucky you might find more ornate parquetry designs. Beautiful paired with a few cosy 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
The aforementioned high ceilings in your Victorian home are something to celebrate. However these lofty spaces can be tricky to style if you don’t want to leave them bare. Our advice for wall decoration is go big, but sparingly. Large scale mirrors, art pieces and gallery walls all look super stylish on Victorian home walls, just make sure to stick to key vocal points and spaces where you need an extra point of interest so you don’t overload the room.
10. Reflect the Light
Mirrors are a must for any home and in particular period properties. Whilst most Victorian house rooms 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 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 modernising, bringing in contemporary touches will create an effortlessly sophisticated feel and are a fabulous way personalise the space. Modern and traditional design sits harmoniously together as you can see with the ornate sideboard styled with more contemporary elements above. So 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 favourite feature in that room. Not to mention a new best friend for chilly winter nights.
13. Bold Lighting
14. Maximise 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 space either side of the chimney breast is the perfect spot for built-in shelving, cupboards or wardrobes.
15. Don’t Get Lost in Space
Large rooms and high ceilings are a blessing, however filling these rooms can be 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 grandly fill big bathrooms too.
16. Make the Walls Themselves a Feature
In many stylish Victorian homes, the walls themselves are actually the main feature, and not just because of their height. Decorative wall finishes like laid back wooden tongue and groove, formal panelling or even more ornate textures like in the image above are right at home in Victorian homes and are a great choice if you want to add some drama to a certain space.