Whilst many of the UK’s Victorian residences remain intact, still more are languishing in a state of disrepair. If you’ve got your eye on a new home that dates from the Victorian period and requires more than a little TLC, read on for a quick outline of how to restore it to its former glory without ruining that period charm:
Many period features were ripped out of Victorian houses in a rush to modernise during the early 1970s and through to the 1980s. If you have period features left intact, it’s so important that you keep them. Common items include fireplaces, hall tiles and pine floor coverings. Anything that hints at the home’s age should be kept and restored.
Firstly, the Victorian bathroom didn’t resemble anything we’d recognise today until well into the 1880s. Even then, it would have been the preserve of rich city families. If you do want to go for a complete Victorian bathroom experience with original bathtub, sink and toilet, you’ll have to be willing to pay. Those original bathtubs with the lions feet can cost anything up to £3,000.
Likewise, an original Victorian toilet and cistern can cost a fortune. If it’s any consolation, a period Victorian bathroom won’t require much in the way of further decoration: The fashion leaned toward a more utilitarian and clean style, rather than decorative.
Just like the bathroom, a Victorian kitchen won’t be something that you’d instantly recognise today. Kitchen units are most definitely out, and for that reason, the vast majority of people simply ignore the kitchen entirely and fit something sleek and modern instead.
It’s possible to achieve a “Victoria feel” to the kitchen by having a large, scrubbed, central table for food preparation, and a built in dresser on one of the walls. If you are lucky enough to have an intact scullery or larder room, definitely keep it intact.
Whilst kitchen flooring would have been mostly bare stone or polished wood (or linoleum after 1877) the rest of the house would likely have been carpeted if the owners were middle class or above. This is the one area where you can achieve a truly authentic look in your home:
Curiously by today’s standards, Victorian carpets didn’t reach the edges of the room, and instead a 2 foot gap was left around the perimeter, with the exposed floorboards often being stencilled in various patterns and then stained over the top. The carpets themselves were often in heavy green colours or featured red or pink patterning. Parquet flooring became affordable and fashionable around the time of Queen Victoria’s coronation.
Hallways often retain their tiled finishes to this day, and whilst they’re often hard to match when chipped or broken, they should definitely be left exposed and on full show.
Victorian stair cases with their elaborate designs and complex patterning should be repaired rather than replaced. It’s important to remember that wood (especially pine) would always be painted and never left on show unless it was of an exotic or sought after type.
Interior doors may need some attention too. www.ahmarra.co.uk, a company who provide heritage door installations, note that, “Often, the original Victorian doors were covered over with cheap panelling during the 60s and 70s. It’s always best to repair them where possible, but often, you’ll need to start afresh with an accurate period recreation”.
Decorations and Wallpaper
The Dado rail made its first appearance in Victorian times, especially on stairs and hallway walls. This, in combination with your choice of wallpaper, can have a dramatic effect towards creating a period look. You’ll have a fairly free reign here, as there were hundreds, if not thousands of designs on offer to Victorian interior designers. Many are still available today and make this part of the restoration a fairly easy one.
So there you have it. An introduction to Victorian interior decorating. Hopefully you’ll become one of the people dedicated to preserving a little piece of Britain’s Victorian past!
Wendy Lin is an entrepreneur and freelance writer. She enjoys painting in nature and hiking on their private hiking trail in the countryside.