So what is it that gets people so enthused about Victorian era houses? For me and probably all other admirers of the era, it is a combination of things. Firstly it is as I’ve previously mentioned, the space and light. It is also the expensive materials, craftsmanship and often scale that you rarely with more modern housing. Or don’t see on anything other than the most expensive houses. The high ceilings, larger doorways and huge bay windows that are fairly typical of these properties are also really attractive. Victorian homes have a certain feel about that. If you like it then you just like it!
There is also the variety. Houses of just about any shape, size and style was built in this era. There is a house for any budget. Always with the same attention to detail and quality that is synonymous with Victorian houses. Then there are the details.
If you are really lucky you might find deep, intricate woodwork, elaborate plaster designs and beautiful stained glass windows in your Victorian home. If your not that lucky then it probably means that all of those lovely features have been previously ripped out. It is also going to cost a small fortune to put them all back! Sadly so often the case. It is however well worth reinstating them all. Lets have a quick look at some of those features.
Firstly the front garden. If it’s a terrace design of any type with a small front garden, then there could well be some wrought iron railings. These can be so beautiful, especially if all of the other houses in the row have the same design. They look lovely in unison. They also come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Wrought iron became really popular in the 15th century as a result of the development of the blast furnace and continued to be the material of choice for railings and gates but was at its peek in popularity in Victorian times. They were later replaced by steel designs.
A typical grand Victorian terrace on the right of the street in Toxteth, Liverpool.
Once you are safely through the front gate, you may be greeted by some Victorian style floor tiles. Before Victorian times tiles were made in batches, by hand and whilst popular were a luxury that few could afford in any great quantity. Fortunately the industrial revolution meant that tiles were now massed produced and could be delivered cheaply and quickly to the home builder of the day. These really are beautiful and I would definitely add them to any front pathway, space permitted. They look so colourful and lift any front garden. Just watch them when it gets icy! It’s best not to get smooth tiles for outside spaces but there are a number of designs that will do the job.
If you are lucky enough to find original tiles (very lucky, not many left now) then treat them with care! You should also find similar tiles when you open the door, if you have a porch then they would have almost certainly have been in there. They could well extend to the hallway but I’ll get to this later. Follow this link to see a fantastic gallery of Victorian era tiles at their best
Victorian tiles at their absolute best!
After the front pathway has been carefully traversed, then there is the front door. This is where the real fun starts! There are so many different types of Victorian front door that it would be almost impossible to go through them all. The standard design is four panels of either wood construction or wood and glass. My particular favourite are panelled with stained glass.
They look great in most colours. They are usually very heavy, well detailed and do a fantastic job of securing your front entrance, once they are back to their full glory. The front door was a status symbol in Victorian England so expect very good quality if you can find a house with an original piece. They can come with an number of different adornments and although at the start of the Victorian era the look would have been quite conservative by the latter days the doors were painted bright colours and could be really flambouyant.
Once through the front door there are so many features to catch the eye. There is the woodwork and when its good its exquisite. The deep skirting and door frames are fantastic and there is lots of variation in the designs. They look fantastic whatever the colour. Deep rich colours are really popular again and they look wonderful.
Then there are the internal paneled doors. I remember my Nana had covered all of the beautiful period doors in her 1930’s property with flat and pretty ugly pieces of wood. This practice was common in the 1960’s. Home owners didn’t like the look of the period doors anymore and had decided that a flat length of plywood nailed onto to both sides of the door looked so much better! Hopefully never to be repeated. Victorian era doors are fantastic and a real feature.
Beautiful stained glass in this Victorian mansion
The balustrades are another great feature of Victorian properties and there are again quite a large variety of different sizes and shapes. The early designs are more rounded and delicate. They look very similar to Georgian designs. As time went on and early regent styles morphed into any number of Victorian styles the look changed considerably. These design also differs from country to country. In America and Canada the look is often bigger and bolder, with incredible carving in some cases. The craftsmanship is unbelievable. The time and effort it would have taken for these houses to be constructed is probably never to be repeated. Unless you have pockets deeper than the grand canyon!
Aside from all of the other Victorian era niceties, if you are really lucky then you are going to find some really ornate plaster work, both on the tops of the walls and the ceiling in the form of a rose. Now nearly everyone I have ever known who has bought a Victorian house has not been so lucky and have had to buy reproduction plaster work and have them fitted.
In fact, I can’t think of anybody who has been lucky enough to find all of the original features. The plaster work isn’t massively expensive for each individual piece. This obviously adds up if you want them in a few rooms but compared to how much people spend on luxury kitchens and bathrooms, this will be a small outlay for a big reward. Money well spent!
In my next post I’m going to run through the basics of restoring a Victorian house. The order and the budget are crucial to fixing up your new home.
See you next time!