A Definitive Guide to Victorian-Style Homes (2024)

When you picture a Victorian house, you might envision a colorful dollhouse, or maybe an imposing haunted or abandoned house comes to mind (like the Creel House from Stranger Things). Both are quintessential Victorian-style homes, but Victorian architecture technically refers to the era and not a specific style. That era was, of course, the time when Queen Victoria reigned in Great Britain, from 1837 to 1901. As Grant Marani, a partner at New York’s Robert A.M. Stern Architects, explains it: “Victorian means different things to different people.” But generally, the styles that are most strongly associated with this time period “emphasize verticality, decoration, and a mix of materials and colors,” Grant says.

So what exactly falls under the Victorian category?

Many architectural styles came out of the Victorian era, but the two Grant notes to be the most famous of the Victorian period—Italianate and Queen Anne—are both technically revivals of earlier architecture styles, though both took on lives of their own and were “often exuberantly decorative without much concern for historical accuracy,” Grant says. Each has distinct characteristics (noted below), but what they have in common is an emphasis on vertical elements—homes often stood at two or three stories with tall windows and porches—and detailed ornamentation that almost bordered on over-the-top. After all, a running theme throughout the Victorian era was a prioritization of form over function. Here are the differences and some of the other most notable style variations:

  • Italianate: These homes were popularized first, beginning in the 1840s and lasting until after the Civil War, drawing inspiration from 16th-century Italian villas. The main structures were fairly simple, rectangular-shaped houses with low sloping or sometimes flat roofs that protrude quite far out from the exterior walls. The windows are tall and skinny, often rounded at the top, and there is trim, trim, and more trim. Some Italianate homes even feature a square tower or cupola that rises out of the center of the house, adding to the Tuscan villa feel.
  • Queen Anne: These homes, which were popular in the U.S. from the 1880s until around 1920, are theoretically a revival of the style du jour during the actual reign of Queen Anne (1702 to 1714), but there is very little resemblance in practice. Queen Anne homes are the quintessential Victorian home: They are asymmetrical, two or three (or more) stories tall, have steeply pitched roofs, and feature large wrap-around porches. They are often adorned with differing wall textures and ornate trim—which gives them the “gingerbread” effect commonly associated with Victorian homes—that is typically painted in a variety of accent colors. Some Queen Anne homes also have octagonal towers (topped with a round pointed roof) and ornate bay windows—in short, nothing about these homes is subtle.
  • Stick style: A precursor to Shingle style, Stick style includes steeply pitched roofs, half-timber framing, open stickwork verandas, and flat ornamentation.
  • Shingle style: With shingles covering the entire building, this style also features open porches and an irregular roofline.
  • Second Empire: Also called Napoleon III, this style features a mansard roof (with two slopes on all sides and the lower slope steeper than the upper one), dormer windows, molded cornices, and some pavilions.
  • Folk Victorian: This style is a more basic version of Victorian architecture that's symmetrical and includes ornate trim, porches with spindlework, and a gable roof.

Why did Victorian homes surge in popularity?

Queen Anne and Italianate homes surged in popularity in the United States in the mid-to late-19th century, spurred on by the 1876 Centennial International Exposition (the first official World’s Fair). The advancement of building techniques, the increased accessibility of diverse materials and ideas via new railroad systems, and more widespread house pattern books also further popularized these home styles as well.

Where can you find Victorian homes today?

Italianate homes are seen in the greatest number in the American cities that experienced exponential growth during the mid-19th century: Cincinnati, Ohio; New Orleans’ Garden District, and parts of San Francisco, and Brooklyn, New York.

Queen Anne homes, along with Italianate homes, are widely seen in San Francisco—a result of it being a “boom town” during this time period. The city’s most famous are undoubtedly the “Painted Ladies,” a block of Queen Anne-style townhouses painted three or more colors (you know them from the opening credits of Full House).

A Definitive Guide to Victorian-Style Homes (2)

They’ve had good—and bad—reputations over the years.

While the Victorian era officially ended in 1901, its accompanying architecture styles stuck around for another decade or so until the Colonial Revival movement surpassed them in popularity in the 1920s. But instead of just falling out of style, Victorian homes actually became disliked in the following decades. “There was a time when the Victorian house was considered an unwelcome presence in many neighborhoods,” Grant says. “Indeed, it became the stereotype for the ‘haunted house.’” But as Grant also notes, “Victorians' quirky charm has endeared them to new generations more recently.”

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A Definitive Guide to Victorian-Style Homes (2024)


A Definitive Guide to Victorian-Style Homes? ›

Features of a Victorian House

What is the typical layout of a Victorian house? ›

What are the typical floor plan layouts of Victorian homes? Victorian homes often have irregular floor plans with rooms branching off hallways. There may be multiple stories, towers, and bay windows, contributing to the asymmetrical design.

What were key features of a Victorian home? ›

Key Elements
  • Two to three stories. Victorian homes are usually large and imposing.
  • Wood or stone exterior. ...
  • Complicated, asymmetrical shape. ...
  • Decorative trim. ...
  • Textured wall surfaces. ...
  • Steep, multi-faceted roof or Mansard roof. ...
  • One-story porch. ...
  • Towers.

What are the hallmarks of Victorian houses? ›

“Recognizable characteristics are steep, tiled roofs, painted brick, bay windows, and asymmetrical design,” Dadswell says. “Wooden floorboards, plaster cornicing, sweeping staircases, wooden sash windows, and tiled entrance hallways would have been incorporated into most Victorian homes.”

How much would it cost to build a Victorian house? ›

In the U.S., it costs, on average, $350,000 to build a Victorian-style house. Typically, most homeowners spend between $250,000 and $600,000. The average cost per square foot to build a Victorian-style home is $100 to $200.

What was considered beautiful in Victorian era? ›

Clear faces, bright eyes and tinted lips were desirable, but everything had to look natural. It was believed that cheeks painted with blush had to look flushed, and lips had to look bitten rather than painted.

What windows for a Victorian house? ›

Victorian homes often use traditional-style double hung windows in combination with half round windows on top. Tall and narrow windows give the illusion of a taller home which was the traditional style. Round circular windows accent the half round tops and complete the look of the home.

Where are Victorian houses most common in the US? ›

Old Louisville in Kentucky has the highest concentration of restored Victorian homes in the US. Originally called the Southern Extension, Old Louisville was built in the 1870s as a suburb, which was 48 city blocks long and filled with Victorian mansions.

Why did they stop making Victorian houses? ›

First, Victorian architecture just isn't en vogue anymore. U.S. architectural styles have consistently tended toward simpler, less ornate styles since the end of the Victorian era and doesn't seem to be changing. Second, Victorian houses are really expensive to maintain.

What is the difference between Edwardian and Victorian homes? ›

So, unlike the smaller, darker Victorian homes, Edwardian houses were more squat, wider and roomy, with bigger hallways and more windows. It's common for an Edwardian property to have a front garden and be set back from the pavement, as there was an ever-increasing desire for privacy at that time.

What color were most Victorian houses? ›

Darker & highly saturated colors are some of the most popular and most traditional with Victorian-style homes. Traditionally quite dark, olives, browns, greens, dark reds and maroon were all quite common.

How many colors should a Victorian house have? ›

A distinguishing characteristic of many Victorian-style homes is their interesting color combinations. Typically, Victorian house paint colors rely on no fewer than three shades of paint.

What are traditional Victorian house colors? ›

Dark green, deep chocolate browns and dark blue were also design staples of the Victorian era. Although these darker colours were effective at concealing rough and uneven walls, they did have a tendency to leave rooms looking gloomy. However, you can still embrace these richer hues when decorating a more modern space.

Do people still build Victorian style homes? ›

Can you still build Victorian houses? Yes, you can still build Victorian houses. As stated earlier on this page, Victorian technically refers to a period rather than a style, so any home built in the present day would be in the style of a Victorian house.

Why are Victorian houses so big? ›

Balloon framing replaced the costly and cumbersome post-and-beam construction in use since Colonial times with relatively thin, light pieces of lumber–today's familiar two-by-fours. These expedients made it possible to build houses faster, cheaper, and also larger and more elaborate than ever before.

How many floors does a Victorian house have? ›

How many floors do Victorian houses have? A typical Victorian house usually includes two to three stories. Each floor housed a number of rooms with definitive functions - more on that further into this post. Two to three stories was fairly standard, with a basem*nt or cellar as well.

How many rooms were in a Victorian house? ›

Unfortunately, this did not reduce overcrowding or improve building standards. The houses were cheap, most had between two and four rooms – one or two rooms downstairs, and one or two rooms upstairs, but Victorian families were big with perhaps four or five children. There was no water, and no toilet.

How many floors are in a Victorian house? ›

How many floors do Victorian houses have? A typical Victorian house usually includes two to three stories. Each floor housed a number of rooms with definitive functions - more on that further into this post. Two to three stories was fairly standard, with a basem*nt or cellar as well.

What is Victorian design style? ›

Victorian interior design is a style that originated in the United Kingdom during the Victorian era. Known for its abundance of pattern (in wall coverings and in textiles), ornamentation, and use of jewel tones, the interior decoration style absorbs the visitor in its rich world.

What did Victorian architecture look like? ›

Victorian-era architecture is marked by its unapologetic devotion to ornament and flourish and its ornate maximalist interior design. While there are many different styles encompassed in Victorian-era architecture, some common features that will help you spot a Victorian from the outside include: Steeply pitched roofs.

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