All About Victorian Style Homes
If you are toying with the idea of purchasing a Victorian home, you should be aware of the history and characteristics of this beloved architectural style. Committing to a Victorian means you will be part of the romance and history of a by-gone era. So, it’s best to have as much knowledge as possible before you embark on this magical lifestyle change.
First of all, when you think of a Victorian style home, what comes to mind? Lots of gingerbread woodwork and bright colors might be the image you associate with this early to late 19th century home style. You’re partially right -- however there are a number of other architectural elements that represent this iconic style. Let’s take a look back in time to see just what influenced Victorian style homes.
Victorian style is a reference to architectural trends that were born during the reign of England’s Queen Victoria. This era between 1830 and 1910, witnessed the popularity of a number of elaborate home styles that included Gothic Revival, Italianate, Romanesque, Queen Anne, Second Empire and Eastlake.
Victorian homes combined features of each of these styles, and then some. That is why we see so many variations within this genre. The combination of styles and unbridled imagination of architects of the time ensured that very few Victorian homes looked alike.
This intricate and romantic architecture can be directly attributed to the burgeoning Industrial Revolution, which brought with it a love for using the latest materials and technologies to build homes unique to that time period. Mass production, steam-driven sawmills and new transportation methods gave architects and builders a sense of design freedom they had never experienced.
Queen Anne style homes became popular during the 1880s, taking full advantage of the mechanization of the time. These elaborately decked out homes reveled in their bright colors and flourishes of ornamental trim. In fact, this is the style most of us associate with being truly Victorian. But remember, when you look at any Victorian, you are actually witnessing a convergence of many 19th century architectural styles.
Unfortunately, this over-the-top style quickly fell from favor with the emergence of the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th century. Arts and Crafts stalwarts preached simplicity in design and hand craftsmanship. However, you can still find fine examples of Victorian architecture in every corner of the country.
By the latter part of the 19th century, vibrant colors were all the rage for home exteriors.
You will see no evidence of single-story Victorian homes. They are imposing and are always at least two to three stories in height.
Upscale Victorians take it up a notch with regal towers and turrets, complete with a cone-shaped roof.
Wood or Stone Facade
Most Victorians feature wood siding, but those rooted in Second Empire or Romanesque architecture will have stone exteriors.
Many Victorian homes have a large, wraparound porch. Some feature the familiar fancy wooden brackets and spindles that we attribute to the style.
Victorian homes abandoned the standard box shape by incorporating bays and wings at every turn.
Exterior details included ornamental touches like half-timbering, scalloped shingles and decorative masonry siding.
This decorative trim is what we lovingly refer to as “gingerbread”. In most cases it is crafted from wood and features intricate scrolls and turned balusters.
A Victorian will most likely have steep, multi-gabled roofline. One exception are those that mimic Second Empire style. Those homes have a flat Mansard roof with side windows.
When thinking about investing in a Victorian home, you must first determine how much time and work you want to devote to a structure of this age. Many have been restored and modernized, but you will pay a premium for that luxury. Others are available in an as-is state, which will require a great deal of DIY work, commitment or the expense of outside contractors.
Also remember that historic homes in their original state have choppy, small rooms and a very limited amount of closet and storage space. Interior walls are typically lathe and plaster, which will require maintenance to repair cracks due to settling. Plumbing and electrical wiring can also pose problems unless they are brought up to modern code requirements.
Exterior maintenance can prove a drain on your patience and pocketbook as well. Repairs to intricate trim pieces and siding may not be easy to source. This may mean hiring a craftsman to create replacement ornamentation. And don’t forget the paint. Heritage neighborhoods often require strict adherence to original exterior color schemes.
You should also be aware of lead paint and asbestos used on or inside the structure. Removal and disposal of these hazardous materials can be time consuming and expensive.
Your best bet is to hire a home inspector familiar with the idiosyncrasies and construction issues associated with Victorian homes.
Notable Example of Victorian Homes
The moniker “painted ladies” was coined in 1978 and describes the city’s rows of Victorian homes painted in multiple colors.
Finding a Victorian
Check with public and private organizations when searching for a Victorian style home. Some municipalities have information on historic home organizations in the area. Real estate brokerage firms in major cities often specialize in heritage properties. Do online research on websites, like historic home magazines, for listings.
Since this style was extremely popular for several decades, there are many Victorian homes available in cities and towns throughout the country. If you are in love with this grand and quirky style, you should have no problem finding the Victorian of your dreams!
Questions & Answers
© 2013 Linda Chechar