For intricate detailing and lovingly crafted furniture you need look no further than Victorian interior design. Despite originating over a hundred years ago, the Victorian style remains as popular as ever amongst British homeowners who are drawn to its sense of grandeur and ornate surfaces.
A product of the Industrial Revolution, where advances in technology suddenly it possible to mass produce highly ornate furniture and fabric, the style we now refer to as Victorian was an instant hit with the middle class of the period. As they became more affluent, they sought to demonstrate their newfound wealth with items that had previously belonged only to the very upper classes. These items included- now classic- architectural features such as tin ceiling panels, wall sconces, friezes, wall panelling, tiered wall sections and tapestries. In complete contrast to today’s minimal loving modernist, a home crammed with lots of decorative items was a sign of good taste according to the Victorian gentry. In fact, sparse furnishings indicated that the home was owned by someone of a lower class.
Mood lighting in dining rooms and entryways was considered essential to the Victorians. Most lighting came from wall sconces and candles, while decorative table lamps achieved prominence towards the latter half of the movement. Tiffany was a popular designer of the time and it is well worth a look around your local antique dealers or online as items by this famous brand can often be found at bargain prices and would add real authenticity to any recreation scheme.
Dark, rich paint colours like hunter green and burgundy were typical for Victorians, especially in city houses. This characteristic has less to do with the colour design philosophy and more to do with masking the soot and dirt created by industry methods. For a more lavish setting you could use wallpaper as an alternative to a paint finish. Patterns mimicking designs found in nature were common, although the designs became more geometric and heavily influenced by the East as the style progressed. Tapestries were also common wall features and also featured strong themes of nature and wildlife.
In a time electric tinted windows and metal blinds, curtains were the championed window treatment of the Victorian era. Made of rich, heavy fabrics, curtains were pleated and hung over gilded curtain rods. For further decorative effect, the curtains were lined with silk or wool to give them an even more luxurious appearance. The better Victorian homes had bay windows which allowed the whole window area to be turned into a real feature- often containing built-in seating or a side cabinet.
Parquet floors combined with Oriental rugs were common in the Victorian period. The expense of parquet was too great for many families, so most homes would only have a decorative parquet border around a softwood floor. Then a rug would be placed over the floor to cover all but the parquet border.
Furniture was big and bold. Wood was dark and detailed whilst fabric was rich and heavily patterned. Typical drawing room furniture would include- a three piece suite, side tables, coffee tables, side cabinets, chests of drawers, futons, display cabinets and room dividers.