Victorian Home Architecture

Victorian Home Architectural Style Bespeaks a Bygone Era

You’ve heard the terms before – Early American, Ranch Style, Post Modern, Tudor Revival, Antebellum, and Ranch Style to name a few. And, perhaps, you’ve acquired the ability to easily differentiate between these home architectural styles as they are applied to residential homes. If so, that’s great — you’re becoming more astute in your knowledge of real estate matters.

However, there’s one style that, by merely hearing the magical word spoken, resonates in the core of your brain – Victorian. It even sounds magical. Simply by hearing its name, images of English royalty, romance in all its grandeur, Jane Austen novels, and lovely long-gowned ladies sitting regally in lavishly-detailed parlors waiting for their suitors to visit come to mind.

First off — for the sake of accuracy — it should be noted that “Victorian” isn’t really an architectural style, but a period of history – usually known as the Victorian Era — lasting from about 1840 to 1900. It borrows its name from Britain’s Queen Victoria, who ruled from 1837 until her death in 1901. But for our purposes, and, since the real estate world at large uses it to describe a home style, we will stick with that protocol.

As a whole, though, it should be noted that Victorian style architecture is symbolized by a blend of bold, colorful, elaborate, design features which makes this kind of home quite unique when compared to homes of other design styles.

The widespread mass production of building supplies and hardware – due to industrial revolution advances during the Victorian period – made it possible for builders to explore more options and allow their creative juices to flow. Builders of the Victorian period were finally free to design homes breaking away from uninteresting box-like dwellings which had prevailed for so long.

The Victorian period, in general, saw the emergence of intricate design patterns and audacious shapes which, beforehand, were impractical to implement. Asymmetrical shapes, ostentatious exterior facades, and massive porches are a common thread, when describing Victorian style.

Perhaps you’re someone, who, from the moment you laid eyes on a Victorian style home, couldn’t picture yourself settling down in any other type of home. If so, then it’s time to take the next step – by delving into some of the subcategories of Victorian home styles.

These include:

  • Gothic Revival: A style prevalent in the early Victorian period, and borrows design patterns from medieval Western European structures. Characterized by multi-colored walls, steeply-pitched roofs, asymmetrical outer facades, and pointed windows, as well as elaborate vergeboard (also known as gingerbread) below the gables.
  • Second Empire: A style which dominated the Victorian period from 1855 to 1885. Marked by high, flat exterior facades, rising to meet dual-pitched (Mansard) roofs with molded cornices above and below. Originating from some of the ornate architecture prevalent in Paris at the time, Second Empire architecture is also distinctive for its double entry doors, patterned roofs, and dormer windows (a gable and vertical window projecting out from a sloping roof).
  • Stick/Eastlake: Popular from 1860 to 1890, this style is marked by steeply-pitched roofs, cross gables, overhanging eaves, and decorative truss work. An intermingling of vertical, horizontal, and diagonal boards is, perhaps, its most distinctive feature — hence, the origination of its name. This style became particularly common in California.
  • Richardson Romanesque: This style had its heyday from 1880 to 1900, and was marked by decorative arches rounded at the top, and positioned above the windows and doors, and along the porches. The most prominent feature of this style is a tower – normally round – with a conical roof.
  • Queen Anne: Widespread from 1880 to 1910, this style probably epitomizes Victorian architecture in the public’s collective consciousness. It’s roots sprung from the designs of English architect Richard Norman Shaw, who blended the quaint countryside English cottage idea with the decorative flair embodied by the Victorian era. Noted for its multiple steeply-pitched gabled roofs, angled bay windows, irregular floor plans, porches with decorative gables, octagonal or circular towers, ornate windows and entry doors, and corbelled chimneys. A corbel is a triangular bracket – usually brick or stone – protruding from the wall face, and normally used to support an arch or cornice.
  • Folk Victorian: Most often found in rural areas, this style was a merging of the traditional English cottage, the American homestead, and the romanticism of the era. These homes were built by working class families instead of professional builders. Although, a bit simpler in overall design, Folk Victorian homes also project a decorative flair. One of the distinctive elements of this design is its use of colorful gingerbread around large wrap-around porches,
  • Shingle: This style is notable for its unique use of then newly-affordable and abundant wood shingles – resulting from new manufacturing techniques. Builders not only used the shingle as a roofing material, but as a siding material, as well, oftentimes covering their complete exterior. This style of home with rambling and austere qualities is often seen in coastal areas.

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