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The 4 Basics of Victorian Interior Design and Home Décor

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Chazz is an Interior Decorator/Consultant/Retailer, amateur photographer, cook, gardener, handyman, currently restoring an 1880 Victorian.

Portrait of Queen Victoria in 1843

Portrait of Queen Victoria in 1843

An Introduction to Victorian Style Interior Design

This page provides an introduction to Victorian interior design and home decorating. This easy-to-follow guide is organized into the four essential design basics of Victorian interior décor: Color, Pattern, Opulence and, of course, Romance -- the quintessential hallmark of the Victorian era.

Learn how to incorporate these four principles of Victorian décor with ease and confidence to create the room or entire home of your dreams.

You'll also find some specially selected resources to help you achieve a historically sensitive Victorian interior decorating style that suits your home's architecture as well as your own lifestyle and taste preferences.

The Classic Book on Victorian Decor

What is Victorian Style?

Victorian stye is a broad term that generally is used to refer to characteristics of design (architectural, fashion, home décor, etc.) from the latter period of Queen Victoria's reign, from 1837 until her death in 1901.

This style draws inspiration from nature, geometry, theory, and many other resources. It also encompasses a wide range of sub-styles including

  • Eastlake, named after Charles Eastlake
  • Aesthetic or Anglo-Japanese, reflecting the influence of Japanese design
  • Gothic Revival, which harkens back to a romanticized notion of the Medieval era
  • Renaissance Revival, inspired by c. 15th century Florence and the palazzi of such wealthy families as the Medici
  • Greek Revival (Neo-classical), takes the symmetrical forms and columns of ancient Greek temples as its inspiration
  • Egyptian Revival features the imagery of ancient Egypt
  • "Exotica" includes other styles based on Turkish and Persian design

The Four Design Basics of Victorian Home Decor

oldhouseinteriors_victorian

The Victorian Color Palette

The picture above shows a basic Victorian color palette. However, since computer monitors do not accurately and consistently depict color, the photo should be considered an approximation.

The picture above shows a basic Victorian color palette. However, since computer monitors do not accurately and consistently depict color, the photo should be considered an approximation.

The Victorian Home Decorating palette was actually quite sophisticated, with a particular emphasis on tertiary colors.

Tertiary colors are those created by mixing equal amounts of primary and secondary colors. (See Choosing and Using Color in Your Home for more details.)

The dark colors that are usually associated with Victorian décor are more the result of poor lighting than of color choice.

Early Victorian homes featured lighter colored walls with richer colors in the dining room and library. Later Victorians turned to deeper tones, which were used to emphasize the importance of a room. In more urban areas, colors like gray, darker green, and a grayer blue were often chosen to minimize the effect of grime and soot from coal dust and stains from gas and oil lamps.

Victorian colors are warm and subdued, and included soft colors on gray or cream backgrounds, deep rich walnut and mahogany browns, black, and shades of teal, plum, aubergine, mustardy yellows and golds, burgundy, rust, blue, green (think sage and olive, not mint and kelly) and "dusty" hues like "ashes of roses" and a subdued shade of lavender.

The colors chosen by individual homeowners also reflected the organic pigments that were available and what their local merchant had in stock. The brighter shades of white we have today, for example, were not available as a paint color in the 1800s and were not seen in any home then or prior to that era.

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Please note that many paint companies, such as Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore, offer "Victorian" paint colors, but they are not necessarily historically accurate. If that is your goal, it is best to not rely on those products alone for information. Whether you decide to choose historically accurate colors or use a combination of old and new hues, consider the limited technologies and pigments as well as the Victorian lifestyle when selecting your color scheme.
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Victorian Home Decorating Fabrics to Inspire Your Color Palette

Choose from a wide variety of sumptuous period reproduction and vintage fabrics & trims from printed floral chintzes and toiles to silk damasks and velvets from the Victorian Decor Specialists, Restoration Fabrics & Trims

Choose from a wide variety of sumptuous period reproduction and vintage fabrics & trims from printed floral chintzes and toiles to silk damasks and velvets from the Victorian Decor Specialists, Restoration Fabrics & Trims

oldhouseinteriors_victorian
A Victorian room with its plethora of patterns

A Victorian room with its plethora of patterns

Complex patterns covered every surface of the Victorian home. From multiple wallpapers that covered walls and ceilings to luxurious fabrics trimmed with silk tassels and embroideries as well as intricately woven Oriental and Persian rugs, Victorians loved pattern and used it lavishly throughout their homes.

Although it may look excessive to the modern eye (as it did to some toward the end of the 1800s), Victorian style is nonetheless a very comfortable decorating style, with plush fabrics for layered window treatments and upholstered furniture, elaborately designed rugs, and a warm and welcoming ambience that is cozy and romantic.

Favorite patterns ranged from flora and fauna to geometric designs, stripes, damasks, and intricate combinations of those.

Depending on the tastes and talents of the residents, results ranged from a mish-mash bordering on horrendous or a skillfully created, balanced and pleasing environment.

A Typical Victorian Interior

A period photo of a Victorian interior. Note the numerous framed pictures on the wall and the decorative objects on every available surface. Scroll down to see more room settings in our gallery of Victorian interiors.

A period photo of a Victorian interior. Note the numerous framed pictures on the wall and the decorative objects on every available surface. Scroll down to see more room settings in our gallery of Victorian interiors.

More Victorian Style Wallcoverings

Shown above are just two of the Victorian style designer Wallpapers available from

Shown above are just two of the Victorian style designer Wallpapers available from

oldhouseinteriors_victorian
The custom of elaborately decorated Christmas trees was popularized in the U.S. by the Victorians and epitomizes the exhuberant Victorian love of opulence.

The custom of elaborately decorated Christmas trees was popularized in the U.S. by the Victorians and epitomizes the exhuberant Victorian love of opulence.


Excessive can often be considered synonymous with Victorian. The upper class flaunted their wealth and those who aspired to their status found ways to mimic it.

If one could not afford fine woods to panel walls and marble fireplaces for "public" rooms like the dining room and parlor, less expensive materials would be painted to imitate them.

Mass production helped make "the look" available to the middle class via heavy textured wallcoverings like lincrusta and anaglypta and trompe l'oeil ("fool-the-eye") wallpapers.

Furniture and accessories were elaborate and ranged from delicate to massive. Extravagantly ornate decorations, china, lace, stained glass, flowers, knick-knacks, busts, souvenirs, framed paintings or prints, multi-layered window treatments, richly patterned fabrics, and accessories galore were used liberally throughout the house. Restraint was not part of Victorian interior decorating. The results varied, as one can imagine, from a cluttered and stiffling space to, in the hands of the more skillful, a refined, sophisticated, complex, and warmly romantic room.

The custom of elaborately decorated Christmas trees was popularized in the United States by the Victorians and epitomizes the exhuberant Victorian love of opulence. This illlustration is in the Public Domain*.

Shop for Authentic Victorian Antiques

Add a unique Victorian touch to your home décor with period antique furnishings and decorative accents.

From original Victorian furniture and lighting (electrified or not) to the perfect accessories for your desk, mantel, or dresser, many period Victorian antiques are still available and affordable.

In addition to eBay, you may also want to check the shops on Bonanza for more great items and prices.

oldhouseinteriors_victorian
oldhouseinteriors_victorian

Romanticism is perhaps the strongest reason for the persistent popularity of Victorian décor. Victorian style evokes now, as it did then, the imagery of European fairy tales with its turrets and gargoyles.

Lush layers of luxurious fabrics begging to be touched, sensuously carved furnishings, and exotic trimmings added to the seductive appeal belied by Victorian mores and rules of etiquette.

Simply put, Victorian décor without the romance is simply fussiness and clutter.

This Page is A Victorian Era Lovers Top Site!

Like Interior Decorating Tips and/or Old Houses?

oldhouseinteriors_victorian

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Historic Period Interior Design and Home Decor

oldhouseinteriors_victorian

Please linger a little longer - and sign our guestbook

Kamelah Babar on July 25, 2020:

I love this page. Thank you for wonderful information.

Chazz (author) from New York on May 04, 2020:

Thanks for the support and your kind words, Kevin. Restoring an old house is a labor of love.

Kevin Lindsey on May 02, 2020:

Thanks! Dont be concerned about not being finished. Weve been working on our house since the 90's! Its a labor of love but its a job that's never finished .Were still working on making things better. It sites like yours that give us more info to refine things.

Chazz (author) from New York on April 25, 2020:

Hi Kevin

Thanks and congrats on having restored an 1850s home! We're still not finished......

Kevin Lindsey on April 21, 2020:

Enjoyed your site lots of good info. We own an 1850’s farmhouse we’ve restored, so we’re always looking for more ideas. Thanks

Chazz (author) from New York on March 11, 2020:

thank you. Glad you enjoyed it, Ann

Ann on March 10, 2020:

I loved the information and the photographs.

COTTAGE INTERIOR on March 01, 2020:

Nice

Chazz (author) from New York on January 19, 2020:

Thanks for letting me know you liked it.

Alex on January 07, 2020:

'Twas a very pleasant time spent with your page. Superb photos and notable research.

Chazz (author) from New York on March 23, 2019:

Thank you, Ruth!

Ruth on March 23, 2019:

Love your site.

Chazz (author) from New York on April 21, 2018:

Glad you found it helpful.

anon on April 15, 2018:

wonderful website! Helped me with my history project so much

Chazz (author) from New York on February 13, 2018:

Thank you!

mexatkblog on February 11, 2018:

Wow this is so nice

Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on December 25, 2016:

What a wealth of information. So very thorough and informative.

Chazz (author) from New York on November 04, 2016:

Thank you Po Ku, Jane, Donna, Peter, and VioletteRose. Appreciate your taking the time to let us know you found this article helpful.

Po Ku from Toronto on September 14, 2016:

Wow, this a great guide to Victorian style making. We have many beautiful red brick Victorian houses in Toronto. I hope the renovators and custom builders will read your blog before gutting the interiors.

jane digby on August 14, 2016:

Thanks for the great focus on Victorian Style. The steampunk movement had really helped it stay in step with the 21st century. However what about Rococo Revival ( or Old French, the the Louis' revivals)? To many they are the essence of victorian decor. From Godey's Lady Book to Gone with the wind- this style was one of the first used in the early days of Victorian Revival (picture medallion back sofa in cotton print next to ferns). Hope to see Rococo Revival in future posts. thanks

Donna on August 13, 2016:

This information on the Victorian Style home was very insightful in my research of this era for an assignment in school.

Thank you

VioletteRose LM on June 05, 2014:

Wow this is so nice, thanks so much for sharing :)

Chazz (author) from New York on April 15, 2014:

@marie-churchman: Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it!

marie-churchman on April 14, 2014:

I grew up in old houses and loved them so! Victorian décor is lovely!! Very nice article

2envelopparadox on April 14, 2014:

nice lens

Chazz (author) from New York on March 19, 2014:

@Designery: For what purpose and what room? There are great antique gas fixtures that have been wired for electricity available as well as reproduction Victorian style lighting. If you can be more specific I'd be happy to give you a more specific answer.

VanessaPrieto on March 15, 2014:

Fantastic lens. Great information! :)

Donna Cook on February 27, 2014:

Great lens! I love all things Victorian and Baroque.

Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on February 16, 2014:

There is a lot about Victorian decorating that I like. So many intricately designed things.

Chazz (author) from New York on December 04, 2013:

@dellgirl: thank you

Chazz (author) from New York on December 04, 2013:

@Mary_Hart: Me too. Glad you enjoyed it.

Chazz (author) from New York on December 04, 2013:

@Colin323: Hope I get to see them in person someday.

Mary_Hart on December 04, 2013:

This is exactly the type of stuff I joined squidoo for. Thanks!

Colin323 on November 13, 2013:

Always facinating to see an original Victorian house - the Bronte house at Haworth near to my home, and the Red House at Dewsbury, Yorkshire - are wonderfully preseved or restored examples.

dellgirl on September 23, 2013:

Thanks for sharing this information and these ideas, its really helpful! I learned something new.

seodress on July 29, 2013:

Very awesome lens !!!

Ben Reed from Redcar on May 09, 2013:

Such an elegant portrayal of Victorian décor.

Ibidii on April 03, 2013:

I could use your lens for my computer desktop wallpaper! Very awesome lens! :D

Alessandro Zamboni from Italy on February 27, 2013:

After checking some of your lens, I must confess you are an expert of interior design and home decoration. But this Victorian style is the best one I've ever saw, for my humble opinion. Thanks so much and see you soon!

WriterJanis2 on February 24, 2013:

So elegant.

JeffGilbert on February 22, 2013:

Chazz, you definitely have these period decorating techniques down! Great lens... :)

anonymous on February 20, 2013:

I love the Victorian style: the homes, furniture, fashions, movies filmed during that era. I love it all! I think I was born in that era, just got here late.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on February 16, 2013:

I love the Victorian style and you have presented it really well.

JessStone on February 13, 2013:

Love your lens! I have been looking everywhere for good tips on this décor style. Thanks!

dunky400 on January 14, 2013:

Love your work.

anonymous on January 07, 2013:

I like the victorian style especially the gardens.

myspace9 on December 25, 2012:

Merry Christmas, happy holiday and have a wonderful day. Thanks a lot for taking your time and squid liking my lens.

myspace9 on December 25, 2012:

Merry Christmas, happy holiday and have a wonderful day. Thanks a lot for taking your time and squid liking my lens.

bjesparza on December 18, 2012:

Great lens!

Hal Gall from Bloomington, IN on December 17, 2012:

I like Victorian style and the influence it has on the Steampunk movement!

Judith Nazarewicz from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada on December 05, 2012:

Wonderful lens!

Bestbuyguide on December 05, 2012:

Such a beautiful lens. You really do create magic.x

laurenrich on December 01, 2012:

This is a beautiful lens. It is very informative. I love the Victorian era. Thanks for sharing.

CoolFool83 on November 28, 2012:

This is such a cool lense! Really nice.

Vikki from US on November 25, 2012:

Just came over here from another design page of your's. One of my rooms is going to be this theme...somewhat a Victorian Romantic feel. Bookmarking this page too. Thanks so much for these décor help and tips pages.

PearlieD on November 11, 2012:

what a splendid Lens. I dind't know much about Victorian Interior Design before but now I know a lot more :)

Chazz (author) from New York on November 02, 2012:

@Entrance Mats: Hi. Thank you for your kind comments. This lens uses the Purple People Eater theme. Hope that helps.

Entrance Mats on November 02, 2012:

Fabulous Lens. Everything, from the historical information to the typeface / coloring of the design, is fantastic. May I ask what theme you are using?

Essentially Ind on September 27, 2012:

Beautiful LENS...........:)

Shalalagirl on September 24, 2012:

Love this lens - nice photos, great information! I will add it to my home décor themed lens called "Vintage Glass and China - Green Décor", to provide everyone with interesting decorating ideas. Thanks

VspaBotanicals on September 22, 2012:

This lens is absolutely wonderful. I just love the victorian era.

nickybutler on August 25, 2012:

Absolutely lovely lens - definitely looks the part! Some handy tips there too :)

Kristen from Boston on August 21, 2012:

Very nicely done. I enjoyed your lens.

LouiseKirkpatrick from Lincolnshire, United Kingdom on August 06, 2012:

Gorgeous...just love this and all things Victorian! I remember my Grandma's rooms when I was a tiny person...all the walls had "picture rails" and they were absolutely covered in paintings and photographs and what we'd now call "knick-knacks" on every surface - it must have been a nightmare to dust!

anonymous on July 15, 2012:

amazing article!!!

KevinFrank on July 11, 2012:

Great lens!

Annette_corie on July 01, 2012:

Homes are decorated through interior design ideas thus turned into a place that invites and helps relaxing. Such ideas assist you on your way to designing a modern interior.

lilynice231 on June 22, 2012:

Nice sharing for home decoration. Every one has its own experience and work regarding Interior

MaryThereseBenn on June 16, 2012:

Had a lovely visit!

anonymous on June 05, 2012:

@anonymous: Ten years ago we were at the same place as you are now. We purchased a grand old Victorian that was in deplorable condition with the same idea to bring her back to life! She is now the Queen of the city and talk of the town, but it took 8 of the 10 years to fully bring her back to life as she originally was.

I would do it again but must admit that there were times I honestly thought we had lost our minds for taking on such a task. My only advice is to be prepared for long hours, many years of work, and lots of disagreements.

GOOD LUCK!!!

Annette_corie on May 10, 2012:

Home Décor are good think and i like to decorate the hone and it is good idea

AlleyCatLane on May 04, 2012:

I like a lot of the Victorian décor, particulary the patterns and paint colors. Don't think I could live in a totally Victorian environment though. Great article. Blessed!

WhiteOak50 on April 21, 2012:

I was letting you know that I have featured this page on my: The Victorian Era lens. This is a beautifully done page so of course I had to drop off a sprinkle of "Victorian Angel Dust".

Lauriej1 on April 18, 2012:

Beautiful lens!

anonymous on April 17, 2012:

My husband and I are looking at purchasing a run down Victorian period house and trying to restoreit to its former glory, Some great information to start, Thank you.

norma-holt on April 14, 2012:

Another of your well done highly informative lenses. Featured on Blessed by Skiesgreen 2012. Hugs

smarthomes lm on April 04, 2012:

great information. Totally agree. the historic wallpaper on bid is gorgeous, hard to resist lol .

goo2eyes lm on April 02, 2012:

victorian houses and gardens bring nostalgia with them. lots of stories and histories behind them. as much as i admire the houses, i would not want to own one. first of all, very expensive and secondly, i am afraid of big rooms with big doors. angelblessings.

Ahdilarum on April 01, 2012:

Great insight about interiors. Liked ..

anonymous on March 20, 2012:

I love the Victorian period! Gathered some new ideas and information here! Thanks for sharing!

Margaret Schindel from Massachusetts on March 17, 2012:

Thank you for making this romantic style so accessible and easy to understand!

sweethomemaker on March 10, 2012:

Your lenses are so inviting and give so much pleasure to read I am sure I will be back soon, maybe I put some ideas into action in my home. Very inspirational

AJ from Australia on February 12, 2012:

It certainly as a pleasure visiting this lens.

macsquared on January 30, 2012:

I never thought about the fact that older paint would have to use organic pigments. I don't know why this never occurred to me! Nice informative lens!

Bob Zau on January 24, 2012:

Excellent lens and @ oxfordian . The wife and I are hooked on "Downton Abbey".

Chazz (author) from New York on January 22, 2012:

@oxfordian: Don't watch much tv but I recently discovered Downton Abbey and have been watching the earlier episodes to catch up.

oxfordian on January 21, 2012:

P.S. Have you seen the British tv series "Downton Abbey"? Absolutely oppulent. I highly recommend!

oxfordian on January 21, 2012:

As always, so very beautiful and I can always count on learning something very useful. I'm restoring a Greek Revival plantation home in Georgia and I always get wonderful ideas from your lenses.

Civil_Disobedience on December 20, 2011:

My favourite era!

TheCheshireCat on November 02, 2011:

I like the later victorian style better when it was becoming arts and crafts, but you do such a great job on all of your pages I really enjoy the ideas and pictures.

efcruzarts on October 25, 2011:

wow lens for some past era

hamshi5433 on October 02, 2011:

Victorian and Vintage go well together! and i love them both. Beautiful Victorian home décor ideas!

ScareYouDiva on September 28, 2011:

Victorian style is so charming and elegant. Thanks.

anonymous on September 26, 2011:

I love Victorian design, beautiful lens :)

RUUnique on September 13, 2011:

Victorian art and sculptures are timeless. They tend to get lost in today's styles. Thanks for your lens,

boutiqueshops on September 10, 2011:

I love the Victorian period & its dress & décor. Thanks for the treat!

Toni Grundstrom from Minneapolis, MN on September 09, 2011:

Victorian decorating is innocent and romantic. Thanks for all the information.

Showpup LM on September 09, 2011:

Beautiful lens. Love this romantic, flirty style.

Ann Hinds from So Cal on September 09, 2011:

This is truly wonderful. Our other house was decorated in the Victorian Style that moved into the backyard with an opulent garden and 40 or more rose bushes. Unfortunately, we moved and have not recaptured the style. Makes me want to bring out all that stuff and start over. Must have lived in the Victorian times in a past life. Great lens, Angel blessed.

Chazz (author) from New York on September 01, 2011:

@Heatherseesthel: Hi Heather - Yes. We will be adding more about many styles of historic interior decorating. Follow us on twitter (see link below) for the latest updates.