If we had to pick the most polarizing architectural style for homes it would have to be Victorians. Victorians homes are extremely distinguishable, but its old-world feel is either loved or hated. When people hear “Victorian” they typically picture a dollhouse with detailed trim and bright colors, and this image isn’t wrong although not all Victorian homes look that way. A key element of the Victorian style of architectural design can be summed up as beauty over practicality, which goes strongly against modern ideas of what a home should be. Even though these homes don’t fit into modern living, they are still architecturally stunning.
Victorian homes are commonly referred to as Victorian Style, but this “style” is really an era in history. The Victorian era, unsurprisingly given the name, corresponds roughly with the period when Queen Victoria ruled Britain (1837-1901). This period also saw an influx of industrialization that led to many innovations in architecture.
There are actually a few styles of Victorian homes, Second Empire, Queen Anne, Stick, Shingle, and Richardsonian Romanesque. Each has its own distinct features, but in North America, they often get lumped together. Victorian architecture evolved from the more elaborate Gothic style, which appealed to the romantic nature of Victorian ideas that fashion, furnishings, and architecture should be beautiful rather than practical.
This style of home is easily recognizable from its exterior. They’re typically two to three stories and quite large and imposing. Most Victorian homes used wood or stone siding that featured decorative trim that’s responsible for giving Victorian’s their “gingerbread” look. The roof is also a distinctive element of Victorian homes, featuring steep, multi-faceted roofs lines with gables and towers. Victorian homes are also easy to spot by their vibrant colors, which were hugely popular at the time.
While the exterior charm of Victorian’s can win over most people (who wouldn’t want to live in a castle or gingerbread house?), the interiors are often where people get turned off. Victorian’s were all about pretty over practicality, which meant small rooms. The layouts are often choppy and closed off in Victorians, underscoring how people lived back then. They also raved about asbestos back then, using it (and lead paint) in almost everything. Today we know it’s fibers are bad to inhale, so if you buy a Victorian removing and sealing these elements might be necessary.
The sheer level of details and items in Victorian homes can be overwhelming. But all of that was in style with the era. Victorian homes came around when industrialization was booming; so common household items were now widely available and affordable. That means people were buying whatever to put in their homes. Having bare rooms was viewed as having no taste. That’s why Victorian homes have no shortage of details from elaborate trim, woodwork, and stunning hardwood floors.
The living spaces, such as living rooms and dining rooms, were the highlight of Victorian homes. Often there were multiple sitting rooms, each for a different type of guest. It was in style back then to show off one’s wealth, typically in the manner of having the most amount of stuff, so these rooms were the most intricate in the house. Marble, hardwood floors, wainscoting, wallpaper, chandeliers, trim, and tons of furniture and accessories were stuffed into these living spaces. Hey, if you’ve got it, flaunt it.
Victorian homes aren’t for everyone. You have to be ready to embrace the dizzying level of clutter and detail that comes with this architectural style. But these homes have a vintage charm to them and are oozing with beautiful details. Toronto actually has a large number of original Victorians and is one of the few cities where these homes remain popular. To learn more about this style, or how you can integrate Victorian elements into your new dream custom home feel free to contact us!