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Defining the Design: Victorian-Style Architecture

Written by Kelly Weimert on Friday, October 26th, 2018 at 4:08am.

Image credit: bobvila.com

When you think of Victorian Style architecture, a distinctive, dollhouse-like style may come to mind, but the Victorian movement actually encompasses many different architectural styles. The name “Victorian” stems from the time period when Queen Victoria reigned supreme, from 1837 to 1901. This more than 50-year period resulted in many popular styles, including Gothic Revival, Second Empire, Italianate, Queen Anne, and Romanesque, all of which fall under the Victorian umbrella.

Gothic architecture had a major influence on Victorian styles, as many adopted the Gothic notion of ornate, imposing designs that favored beauty over function. In addition to a Gothic influence, Victorian styles also incorporated French, Italian, and Tudor details, resulting in romantic and elaborate constructions that are often quite unique from one another.

Features of Victorian Architecture

Victorian Style Architecture Home in Wilmington NC
Image credit: shepherdartwork.com

Multiple Stories

Grand design is the name of the Victorian game, so most Victorian houses are large and imposing with multiple stories.

Decorative Trim

The gingerbread-esque feel of Victorian homes is largely attributed to the decorative trim most of them feature.

Asymmetrical

Function was not a priority during the Victorian era; these homes were built with ornate beauty in mind, so most are asymmetrical due to the elaborate design features and details.

Textured Siding

Speaking of ornate, many Victorian homes come with siding details, like patterned masonry, half-timbering, and scalloped shingles.

Steep Roof

Adding to their grand and elegant design, Victorian homes typically feature multiple steep rooflines with multi-directional gables.

Vibrant Hues

Many Victorian homes boast vibrant exterior hues, like burnt sienna and mustard yellow, in lieu of traditional white or beige.

Famous Victorian Style Homes

Gingerbread House

Victorian Style Architecture Gingerbread House Savannah Georgia
Image credit: gingerbreadhouseevents.com

This real-life gingerbread house in Savannah, Georgia, was built by Cord Asendorf in 1889. These days, it’s an event venue for special occasions, like wedding ceremonies.  

Wedding Cake House

Wedding Cake House Victorian Style Home
Image credit: trekearth.com

Located in Kennebuck, Maine, this Victorian home was originally built in 1826 by shipbuilder George W. Bourne.

Painted Ladies

Painted Ladies Victorian Style Architecture San Francisco
Image credit: fireclaytile.com

“Painted Ladies” refers to row homes that were built in the 1890s by Matthew Kavanaugh in San Francisco. They feature the uniquely vibrant hues often associated with this style.

Saitta House

Saitta House Victorian Style Home
Image credit: brooklyneagle.com

Designed by John J. Petit and built in 1899, this Queen Anne-style home mixes elements of Medieval and Tudor styles. You can find it impressively intact in the Dyker Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Fun Facts About Victorian Architecture

    • Victorian homes were among the first to use vibrant exterior colors. Prior to the Victorian era, nearly all homes were painted white or beige.
    • The home featured in the opening montage of Full House is the largest and oldest of the Painted Ladies in San Francisco. It sold for $3.1 million in 2014.
    • Thanks to the industrial revolution, the Victorian era was responsible for giving commoners (rather than just the wealthy) access to hot and cold water in the home.
    • Similarly to hot and cold water, the industrial revolution also resulted in more homes with gas-powered lights during the Victorian era.

Considering a move into a Victorian of your own? Check out all Victorian Style homes for sale, or use Nook's innovative Search With Style® tool to find homes for sale in your favorite architectural style.

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