Victorian interior design has proven to have quite the shelf life. Originating in the 19th century, the style that epitomizes opulence stills has plenty of faithfuls, perhaps because it feels slightly more approachable than the glitz of Art Deco. To break down all the ins and outs of Victorian interior design, from its origins to modern Victorian iterations, we called in two experts. Susie Atkinson, interior designer and founder of Studio Atkinson, has worked with Victorian homes and with Victorian styles many times during her career. Hannah Cecil Gurney is the director of global marketing and development at de Gournay, the British brand known for its handmade wall coverings. Read on for a full Victorian home crash course!
What is Victorian interior design?
Victorian interior design is a style that originated in the United Kingdom during the Victorian era. Known for its abundance of patterns (in wall coverings and in textiles), ornamentation, and use of jewel tones, the interior decoration style absorbs the visitor in its rich world. The Victorian era produced both a distinct interior design style and a distinct architectural style.
“My favorite elements [of Victorian spaces] are the proportions of the rooms, the height of the ceilings, the scale of the windows, and the architectural detailing, be it ceilings, architraves, or cornices,” Atkinson says. “Internally, tiled floors—either black and white, terra-cotta, or patterns—characterize the entrance, high-proportion rooms have large fireplaces. It was a time when floral or patterned wallpapers, heavier curtains, carpets, and rugs were introduced. Colors were often rich and dark: reds, greens, blues, and browns.”
“My husband and I bought a Victorian property that had been extensively remodeled by its previous owner,” Gurney, who grew up surrounded by the imaginative wallpapers of de Gournay, tells AD. “For us, the joy was reinstating all the period details that had been taken out! Victorian is often unfairly labeled as fussy and ostentatious, ie Victoriana, but I find many of the architectural details have their origins in the crisp elegance of the Georgian era.”
History and origins of Victorian interior design
Economic prosperity in England during the Victorian period—when Queen Victoria was in power, that is—is the central factor behind the Victorian interior design style. The advent of mass production during the industrial revolution in the 19th century led to an influx of cash for the middle class and plenty of more affordable decorative products that would have previously taken much longer (and much more money) to produce. These mass produced decorations were far from subtle and have left us with a style today that some find overpowering, but others find to be a persuasive counterpoint to the minimalist interior design of the early aughts.