Bring on the Drama
Victorian Style Interior Design Tips for an Ornate Home
Victorian homes are one of the most unique home styles out there – gingerbread house details, pastel colored exteriors, and maybe even a turret if you’re lucky. If you’ve recently purchased a Queen Anne Victorian home style in San Francisco, CA or a Gothic Revival Victorian house in New Orleans, LA, you may be wondering just how to design the interior.
To help you get started, we’ve reached out to Victorian-era design experts for their best Victorian style interior design tips. Read on to see what they had to say so you can start designing your ornate home with drama and grandeur.
Feature rich and dark colors
To truly achieve the authentic Victorian style interior design, you need to start with décor that features rich and dark colors. Choose furniture in deep burgundy or ruby red, that’s also heavily decoratively finished with lots of intricate carvings and plenty of frills. Go opulent. Go bold. Go lavish, and go for lots of variety. But most of all, have fun creating the Victorian style – it’s designed for opulence.
– Marc Murphy, Hunt Vintage
Victorian style is moody maximalism
Bold floral wallpaper or murals, layers of cozy textiles, and natural elements like plants, wicker, copper and brass to keep it warm. For major drama, I’d paint the walls and trim a dark shade like Caviar from Sherwin Williams which is a really great murky black, or Down Pipe from Farrow & Ball. It makes a perfect backdrop for art and vintage collections.
– Kristen Grandi, Junk Hippy
Layer on the character and remember that more is more
Work with multiple fabrics and add several styles of historically appropriate wallpaper, like those from Bradbury and Bradbury, on the walls and ceiling. Arrange your antique furniture in the room to draw the eye, which allows more modern pieces to blend into the background. And remember that a Victorian room will get better with time, and can be built one thoughtful investment at a time.
– Leslie James, Denver Squared
Layer textures and colors
With Victorian era interior design, more is always more! Layer lush textures and rich colors with wallpaper and tapestry, drapey curtains, and vintage art and objects – most of which you can thrift and shop second-hand for a truly authentic feel.
– Amanda Rose Halkias Founder, Creative Director of Helen the Brand
Now is the time to set the stage, so go bold
Go for a themed Victorian room. The era was defined by rich colours (the invention of aniline dyes) such as burgundy, emerald greens, and navy blues. Brighter hues and pastels appeared later. They were used on walls or as wallpaper in the case of popular William Morris patterns with show-stopping floral, leaf, or vine motifs. Fabrics were luxurious heavy silks and wool for drapes and upholstery, making the home a definition of status and wealth. Paint walls, doors, skirting rails, built-in bookcases, and even ceilings with these fantastic colours. Take dramatic floral wallpaper and create an accent gallery wall, filled with gold Rococo frames, in the hallway, for example, or wallpaper the rear panel of your built-in bookcase.
– Grace & Holmes
Accentuate tall ceilings
Victorian-era rooms in San Francisco are typically small in terms of square footage, but often come with disproportionally high ceilings. You can eliminate that cramped feeling and create conceptual headroom by accentuating the room’s vertical volume by using tall dramatic curtains, colorful wallpaper, and showcasing art, (sculptures, antiques and reproductions, antique glass pieces, or mirrors) by using the walls as a backdrop. Finally, use jewel-tone colors to give the room an authentic Victorian feel.
– DWM | MALOOS (DWM Interiors, Inc.)
Highlight the walls
The first thing I think of when I design Victorian style homes would be the walls. Dramatic drapery and elegant wallpaper along the walls will effortlessly sweep you into this era. Textures in rich linens and silk align perfectly with this style. – Crystal Bright, Lead Designer, 3D Bright Designs
Invest in high-quality wood furniture to highlight a Victorian home
When it comes time to furnish your space, we suggest you purchase only the highest quality, sustainable wood furniture made in the USA. High-quality wood products made in America will look great in your Victorian home and last for decades.
– Eustis Chair
Mix contemporary with Victorian
What better way to highlight ornate Victorian pieces than to tastefully juxtapose them with contemporary treasures? We love combining original antique and vintage furniture with contemporary designer pieces to dramatic effect. Consider accenting the dark wood of Victorian furniture with pieces featuring light fabrics, colors, or materials to create a sense of opposition that makes your home feel ornate in completely unique ways.
– Silke Berlinghof-Nielsen, CEO & Founder of Styylish
Courtesy of Redfin
Contrast intricate details with clean and simple decor
Victorian style interior design is typically heavy on the details, like intricate woodwork and William Morris’ popular floral wallpaper, so contrasting these elements with clean lines, simple silhouettes, and light colors like pastels can give the style the breathing room to really be appreciated. To blend dark wood tones in old Victorian antiques, use tone-on-tone neutrals to ease them more gently into a contemporary home.
– Kevin Francis O’Gara, Kevin Francis Design
Less can be more
The living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms in Victorian homes can be small and narrow. To make the home contemporary, don’t blow up the beautiful interior architecture which is what I see so often. However, don’t be afraid to scale up the furniture and have less. Oversized comfortable furniture and art in a classical Victorian is a beautiful combo. In a project we did in a classical Victorian, we made a custom sofa that took up the whole wall of the living room. The sofa seats 7 comfortably and gives a killer loungy vibe. We also had a custom rug that was cut and went from the living room around the interior architectural frame into the dining room. The expansive rug connected the two rooms and made the space feel huge.
– Homan Rajai, Principal Designer, Studio Ahead
Reupholster and paint your space
As I’ve traveled the South searching for homes to include in my books, I’ve discovered several interesting ways to integrate Victorian furniture into rooms. My favorite is to cover the wood frame of upholstered furniture with high-gloss paint and reupholster them with simple fabrics, such as un-figured linen, or more modern patterned textiles. I find that the paint accentuates the ornate forms of Victorian chairs and settees while also modernizing them. This approach works wonderfully in both traditionally decorated rooms, infusing a whimsical touch, as well as in contemporary settings, adding eclectic appeal.
– Susan Sully
Embrace nature in your space
During the romantic movement of the 1870s, Victorians were drawn to nature, and so they spent time outdoors, climbed mountains, and started Zoos. But in their homes, they truly went wild. They filled cabinets with pretty seashells, grew ferns in indoor planters, and hung their walls with taxidermy and frames of butterflies and moths. Natural history was all the rage. Go forth and do likewise.
– Keith Funston of Funston Antiques
Great design is great design no matter the period
The Victorians loved classic design and incorporating ancient Greek and Roman elements as well as Japanese aesthetics into their pieces. Now, the market is still depressed on Victorian design, which means it is all on sale and the perfect time to buy. My suggestion is to join an online auction platform and follow the various auctions around the country. It is the best way to learn what is available and what prices you should have to pay. You will be amazed at the fantastic things you will find for an incredibly good price.
– Gary Germer, Gary Germer & Associates
In cooperation with and originally published by Redfin