With its roots in the British royal family, Victorian architecture found expression in a wide variety of architectural styles, according to broker Gerard Splendore. Today, you will recognize Victorian homes by their grand scale, exteriors and interiors adorned with fine craftsmanship.

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American housing styles have changed and continue to change across the country and as homeowner tastes and lifestyles have evolved. As the country has undergone industrial and economic changes, both good and not so good, housing styles have adapted out of necessity.

In this new series, I will guide you through the predominant housing styles of the last 12 decades, starting in 1900. A basic understanding of each architectural style that defines a decade will position you as a knowledgeable agent to your clients and make finding a home with your buyers easier for everyone..

Lifestyle changes, such as multiple generations living in the same house and the need and desire for servants and the obligation to provide them with housing, were typical of American housing in 1900.

The influence of a queen

Because Queen Victoria of England was on the throne for so long – from 1837 to 1901 – her influences on lifestyle, fashion, art, interiors and architecture have been deep and lasting. By 1900, the Victorian style home, in many different sizes, styles and levels of ornamentation, was at its peak.

The desire to emulate Queen Victoria’s taste in housing could be attributed to increased social mobility and the new wealthy tastes of Americans taking advantage of the Industrial Revolution.

Victorian-style homes are characterized by steeply pitched roofs, ornate gables and trim, bay windows, two-over-two sash windows (suspended by a single astragal bar on each sash), decorative brickwork, stained glass windows, towers and turrets, intricate millwork and rich colors. Excess is a hallmark of Victorian architecture.

While the style can be traced to Britain’s royal family, modest houses and even farmhouses were built in the Victorian style. Even row houses for factory workers were built in the Victorian style.

Different styles of Victorian architecture

The different types of Victorian styles include:

  • Queen Ann Victorian, characterized by wrap-around porches
  • Italianate Victorian style, which echoes the villa style of Italy and features columns, narrow windows and ornate trim
  • Victorian Gothic revival, inspired by medieval churches, with pointed arches.

Farmhouses designed in the Victorian style were named Folk Victorian and, as the name suggests, were smaller, less ornate and located in rural areas. The Romanesque Revival Victorians were also influenced by historic churches built in the Italian style.

Victorian Home Interior Features

Victorian home interiors had many separate spaces and a strict separation of public and private spaces from utilitarian spaces such as kitchens and laundry rooms. Pocket doors—often with stained glass, ornate carvings, and intricately crafted hardware—allowed residents to separate rooms and areas from other parts of the house. The duplication of rooms is evidenced by several salons, dens, libraries and billiard rooms in the same house.

The Victorian lifestyle was formal, with servants relegated to back stairs and hallways not used by family or guests. Meals in formal dining rooms and breakfast rooms were the norm, with tea taken in drawing rooms, garden rooms or tea rooms, further evidence of the duplication of spaces.

Old houses inhabited in modern times

Estate agents in 2022 will recognize Victorian homes by their grand scale, ornate exteriors and interiors with fine craftsmanship. Carved railings, moldings, ceilings, built-in dressers, and glass-fronted bookcases are sure signs that a home is vintage or Victorian-influenced.

Hopefully Victorian homes will be updated with modern heating and cooling, newer bathrooms and kitchens, and ideally modern insulation. The large floor plan, high ceilings and stained glass windows will attract buyers who desire this style.

Victorian homes tend to be clustered in certain neighborhoods. Be aware that some of the effort over the past 100 years to modernize and update these homes may have resulted in less than ideal renovations.

Gerard Splendore is a Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker with Warburg Realty in New York. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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