Right Style, Right Remodel: Victorian Homes

From on February 25, 2008 in General Remodel

Victorian Homes

Victorian homes are easily recognized for their bright colors and architectural embellishments. Homes built during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) were in development for the better part of a century. Beginning with a departure from the simple dignity of Classicism, it’s not surprising that the dramatic Gothic Revival was among the first Victorian styles to emerge. From there, the homes continued to evolve, from Italianate to Shingle to Queen Ann, reflecting the many influences that define Victorian architecture. The changing Victorian model also shows that even the most theatrical home makes way for the homeowners’ lifestyle, which shifts from decade to decade.

For instance, the grand interiors that characterized Italianate or Renaissance Victorians of 1870 to 1906 made a big deal out of the parlor, then considered the main room of the house. Typical elements in a Victorian parlor included marble fireplaces, fancy chandeliers, and detailed ceiling work with frescoes and surrounding cornices. Between 1895 to 1915, however, middle class tastes began to influence the Victorian parlor. The closed room gave way to a bigger, more livable space utilizing a lot more of this practical material: wood.

Some homeowners who own older Victorians with small rooms may be tempted to tear down walls to extend the living spaces. Be careful, though, as many of these walls are load bearing, and upper levels may sag without them. Victorian ArchFortunately, Victorian homes naturally suit creative archways and columns. By cutting openings instead, you can leave an existing wall intact and add decorative textures, fretwork or pediments above your archway.

Despite the many types of Victorian homes, the same overarching details will come up again and again in unique combinations. Some of these features include wraparound balconies, elaborate wallpaper, geometric motifs, and ornamented windows. To help you get on track with your remodeling contractor, we’ve provided a list of terms below that can come handy while making plans for your Victorian gem. They are sure to come up in this week’s blogs. Look out for tomorrow’s article on the Victorian Kitchen.

Popular Victorian Features

Balusters: Spaced closely together, these railing pieces decoratively enclose stairways, porches, or decks. Though they can be made in stone or iron, Victorian balusters were frequently made from wood.

Bay Windows: These large windows often come in a series, projecting outward from the wall to create a small interior “bay.” The windows are popular in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Victorian homes have flourished since the late 1800s.

Beveled Glass: Beveled glass windows and doors are created with a thin glass edge, or bevel, around their periphery. These interact with the sun like prisms, further highlighting the color of the stained or lead glass centers so frequently found on the Victorian home.

Cornices: Decorative molding or framework located between the ceiling and wall or above window casings. Used to crown the wall, adding visual importance to the room or to its individual features.

Dormer: The protruding portion within a gable, designed to accommodate a window.

Frescoe: These are essentially wall paintings consisting of watercolor on plaster. Many Victorians feature ceiling frescoes.

Fretwork: An architectural design made from strips of wood or metal. Fretwork trim above windows or doors is a popular exterior embellishment on Victorian homes. Inside, decorative timberwork is often utilized along doorways, archways, or mantels.

Gable: The triangular portion of a wall, located along the sloping ends of a roof.

Gingerbread trim: Handcarved wooden latticework that can manifest in moldings, spindlework, shingles, gable finials or the like. Gingerbread bevels consist of wavy-edge siding with textured edges.

Pediments: This triangular crown of a horizontal roof is typically decorated with intricate cornice molding. Pediments can also be featured above doors and windows.

Rosettes: Accessories made from a pattern or cut imitating the image of a rose. These ornamental embossments are found on wall pieces, doorknobs, and other hardware.

Scrolls: Generally speaking, scrolls consist of a curving design made when concentric circles surround a round shape. In Victorian homes, scrolls can be found on decorative metal hardware pieces, such as handsets, floor registers, or a variety architectural wall flourishes made from lighter materials.

Spandrel: When two arches are located side by side, a spandrel is the triangular space between them. In Victorian homes, spandrels also refer to the decorative ceiling elements above columns or railings.

Turrets: Towers that extend over the top of a house. Victorian turrets are often rounded, with spindle tops.

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