Victorian House: Everything You Need to Know (2024)

Though the United States declared independence from the British crown in 1776, British influence, especially in architecture, has continued for hundreds of years. Victorian houses, for example, originated in the United Kingdom in the 19th century and are named after Queen Victoria, but are also found all over the United States. This ornate English architectural style goes so far as to even define certain American neighborhoods.

But what is a Victorian house exactly? According to London-based interior designer Beth Dadswell of Imperfect Interiors, “the Victorian period of architecture refers to the reign of Queen Victoria, between 1837 and 1901.” However, Victorian-style homes were still being constructed in the US for a couple decades after the death of the monarch. It’s the iconic architecture—the gable roofs, gingerbread trim, and bay windows—that makes a Victorian house Victorian. In the US, at least.

For more about this distinctive style, here’s everything you need to know about Victorian houses.

What is a Victorian house?

Strictly speaking, a Victorian house is a home built during the Victorian era, when Queen Victoria ruled, between 1837 and 1901. But, while Brits tend to refer to those dates rigidly to determine what is and is not a Victorian house, Americans are a bit more fluid. “A lot of the homes we deal with [in the US] that are considered Victorian in terms of the exterior architecture would be late 1800s to early 1900s, especially in California,” explains San Francisco–based interior designer Clara Jung of Banner Day Interiors.

More than anything, a Victorian home is defined by its distinguishable aesthetic. And though there are a handful of types of Victorian houses, there are typical features that they all tend to share. “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.”

Photo: Getty Images

Jung agrees that asymmetry is integral to Victorian homes. “I actually really appreciate the fact that it’s often not symmetrical in architecture,” she says. “It’s definitely stately, but there are wings and turrets that are just off. It feels all balanced as a whole, but it’s not die-hard symmetry, which I think is really fun. It gives it that whimsical nature. And crazy detail went into Victorian homes, like radius trim detail and arches. I really appreciate that because I just know how much that would cost to replicate in today’s labor market with a carpenter.”

What are the defining elements and characteristics of Victorian houses?

External features

  • Asymmetrical design
  • Wood cladding in the US
  • Brick or stone façades in the UK
  • Two to three stories
  • Steep gable roofs
  • Bay windows
  • Wraparound porches
  • Turrets
  • Towers
  • Dormers
  • Corbels
  • Chimneys
  • Decorative gingerbread trim
  • Iron railings
  • Stained glass
  • Colorful paint

Internal features

  • Hardwood floors
  • High ceilings
  • Wood sash windows
  • Sweeping staircases
  • Grand wood railings with turned spindles
  • Tiled entryways
  • Arches
  • Ornate fireplace mantels
  • Plaster molding
  • Wainscoting
  • Floral or gothic wallpaper
  • Closed-off floor plans with lots of small rooms
  • Butler’s pantries and servants’ quarters

What is the history of Victorian houses?

Photo: Getty Images

The prominence of Victorian houses in the US and UK is largely thanks to the industrial revolution. For the first time, construction materials were being manufactured at a massive scale, while newly built railways allowed for a boom of development throughout cities and suburbs. “The arrival of the railways gave building firms such as Thomas Cubitt a national reach and meant that, for example, Welsh slates largely replaced tiles in many parts of Britain,” Dadswell shares. “Other technical developments included iron-framed construction, plate glass, terra-cotta, and polished granite commercially available for the first time thanks to steam power.”

What are the different types of Victorian houses?

Folk Victorian

The most common type of Victorian home found in the US, Folk Victorians have relatively plain architecture compared to other Victorian-style houses but do include the quintessential Victorian embellishments like gingerbread trim. Folk Victorians are less elaborate because they were often built on a tight budget.

Gothic Revival

Photo: Getty Images

Though it wasn’t extremely popular, Gothic Revival style is a notable type of Victorian home, with its medieval features like pointed arches and vertical proportions. “Gothic Revival was chosen for the design of the Houses of Parliament in London,” Dadswell says. “Partly because it had such unshakeable religious overtones, Gothic Revival failed to become a universal style.”


Photo: Getty Images/Douglas Keister

Italianate is one of the earliest styles of Victorian house, first appearing in the early 1800s and taking its inspiration from 16th-century Italian renaissance architecture. It’s known for being rectangular or L-shaped and having low-pitched or flat roofs, round-arched windows, overhanging eaves, corbels, and columned porticoes. Italianate homes are much more symmetrical than other Victorians.

Queen Anne

Photo: Getty Images/Ariel Skelley

In the late 1800s, the Queen Anne Victorian home emerged in the US. The style is unrelated to the Queen Anne architecture in the UK from the early 1700s, which is English Baroque. Instead, this festive type of Victorian house is characterized by asymmetrical façades, wraparound porches, corner towers, pitched roofs with cross gables, colorful shingles, and gingerbread trim. Queen Anne–style homes often resemble dollhouses and are what many people think of when they hear “Victorian house.”

Second Empire

Second Empire is another late 1800s type of Victorian house. The style was developed in Paris during Napoleon III’s Second Empire of France, then brought to the United States. Its most recognizable element is the mansard roof, a four-sided, gambrel-style hip roof that is named for the 17th-century French architect François Mansart, who popularized it. This type of roof allows for an extra level inside the home, like a functional attic.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of living in a Victorian house?


One of the biggest perks of living in a Victorian house is the history. A historic home like a Victorian often has beautiful original features that cannot be found in new construction. “Some of my favorite projects are Victorian homes,” Jung shares. “I actually love them. We try to maintain the integrity of the old foundational pieces, so the millwork and all of those details. And the fireplaces are really key features.”

Victorian House: Everything You Need to Know (2024)


Victorian House: Everything You Need to Know? ›

“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.”

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 makes a house a Victorian style? ›

Features of a Victorian House

The houses usually have two to three stories with steep, gabled roofs and round towers. On the exterior, there are towers, turrets, and dormers, forming complex roof lines as architects sought to create designs that would pull the eye to the top of the house.

How much would it cost to build a Victorian 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. For homes with high levels of intricate Victorian architecture in their plans, the price can reach as high as $500 per square foot.

What is the typical layout in a Victorian house? ›

One of the most common Victorian layout ideas is to have the living space at the front of the house, opening up a large kitchen at the back of the house, most likely with an ample kitchen island, open-plan dining area and glazed or bi-fold doors that open out onto the garden.

What state has the best Victorian houses? ›

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.

What characterizes a Victorian house? ›

“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 do I make my house feel Victorian? ›

As previously mentioned, the Victorians loved a little drama. Make your home a bit more dramatic by adding elaborate decor such as a crystal chandelier above the dining table, living room or entryway. Another option is to embrace statement lighting by adding candelabras, fringe-shaded lamps or intricate sconces.

What are Victorian colors? ›

The classic Victorian colour palette was dark and consisted of dark, rich, deep colours of maroon, red, burgundy, chestnut, dark green, brown, and blue.

Why are Victorian houses so expensive? ›

Victorian homes tend to be more expensive than other simpler homes such as Cape Cods and ranches. They're typically bigger in size, because they have more floors, and the architectural details increase the price as well.

Can Victorian homes still be built? ›

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.

How many floors does a Victorian house have? ›

This is one of the easiest ways to define a Victorian house. They will generally be two to three stories. A single story building is not usually classified as Victorian architecture. The roofs of the homes are typically steeply pitched and triangular.

Are Victorian houses sought after? ›

Victorian homes remain particularly popular, characterised by their historic charm, solid construction, and spacious interiors. You'll often find Victorian houses in some of the most desirable locations which include convenient access to schools and transport links.”

What type of roof do Victorian houses have? ›

Wood, clay and the beginning of the Victorian era

When the architectural design choices that have grown to be known as the Victorian style emerged, wood and clay tiles were the roofing materials of choice. For higher end buildings, clay was typically used, whereas wood was sought as a less expensive alternative.

How did Victorians decorate their bedrooms? ›

Furniture of the Victorian age was heavily ornamented and generally large with vibrant colors and curved shapes. Popular pieces included ottomans, buttoned and draped pieces, and intricate wood-carved works. Floors were most commonly wood with various elaborately decorated patterned rugs.

What are the prominent features of Victorian age? ›

Key themes include the following:
  • The Industrial Revolution.
  • Population growth and migration.
  • Social reforms.
  • The rise of the middle classes.
  • The growth of democracy.
  • Expansion of Empire.
  • Idealisation of the family.
  • The growth of leisure pursuits.

What are 2 significant features or ideas of the Victorian Age? ›

Important political events during this period included the abolition of slavery in the British Empire; the expansions of the franchise; working-class political activism, most notably Chartism; the rise of liberalism as the dominant political ideology, especially of the middle class; and the nationalization of ...

What are five characteristics of the Victorian era? ›

The five characteristics of the Victorian Era​ are- social and political reform, economic progress, poverty, and exploitation were also equally present, The gap between the rich and poor increased, and material and commercial success was there.

What are the key features of Victorian art? ›

A standard scenery theme in Victorian art is usually of very intricately painted farmland or hilly landscapes. Victorians loved dramatic contrasts. This can be seen in both single and group portraits; the paintings with people could often be reflected by the colours they wore.

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