By Lia Blanchard
If you’re like me, there are many aspects of Victorian décor that appeal to you, but you wouldn’t want to decorate an entire room in that style. What can you do to bring in a few elements of Victorian décor without making the room appear too heavy or cluttered?
What is ‘the Victorian look’?
The first thing you need to do is identify which part of the ‘Victorian era’ most appeals to you, and why. While aficionados of historical fashion can wax poetic about the many movements within the Victorian years, the average layperson will easily recognize two: early and late.
Early Victorian décor stressed Gothic Revivalism, décor with a medieval feel. Early Victorian decorators drew inspiration from the 12th century and filled their parlors with tapestries, stained glass windows, statuary, pointed arches, gargoyles, and heraldic imagery. A sparse room was considered in poor taste!
By the Late Victorian era, a relatively wealthy middle class had been born in England, and decorating emphasis shifted to a more feminine, yet forward-thinking flair. Collections and exotic items spoke of the owners’ ability to travel, books emphasized higher education, and living plants and taxidermal animals indicated an interest in the advancing sciences. This is the look most people think of today when thinking “Victorian”: walls of deep and warm-toned colors, accents of ivory or white in lace, silk, damask and embroidery, a mix of patterns, ornate photo frames, heavy tasseled drapes, crown molding, paintings, Oriental rugs, china, silver, crystal.
What do you like?
Once you have identified which elements of the era are most attractive to you, it is easy to add them to your modern décor without overwhelming what you already have – just a touch here and there will bring Victorian romanticism into the room. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Fabrics: Discount and thrift stores are a great resource for vintage or vintage-look fabrics. Look for anything with embroidery, lace, beadwork, or ribbons and patterns of damask, stripes, flora, fauna, or geometric shapes. Use these fabrics for seat covers, throw pillows, tablecloths, or curtains.
- Incidentals: Ornate, mismatched photo frames are easily found in garage sales. Collections of china, silver, and crystal – whether matching sets or not – arranged on a sideboard or mantelpiece are very Victorian. Try the clearance sale at your local garden shop for busts or other statuary.
- Color: Nothing changes a room like a coat of paint! Victorian colors are warm and restrained, with grey or cream-colored backgrounds. City homes often used dark green and grayish-blue to hide the grime from soot and oil lamps.