08 Mar Victorian is the most popular interior design style in Wales and this is how you can do it
The most searched-for interior design term on Google in Wales is ‘Victorian’.
Although this result might be a surprise to some people the major elements of interiors from this era have been influencing trends in decor for decades.
The Victorian era covers the years 1837 to 1901 so there is a vast timeline of interior design trends to consider but the main elements from that period are instantly recognisable.
How far you let Victorian through your front door is up to you. You could be surrounded by it or opt for more subtle accents from the era.
It’s an interior design style that transcends the age of your house and can bring drama and elegance to any space.
From dark colours to opulent lighting, there are ways to introduce a touch of dramatic Victorian design into your modern home without making it feel like a museum.
Design within a Victorian home
The Victorian period spans many decades and, as with any passing of time in the design world, trends came and went but there are a few key features that define the era.
Architecturally there was a heavy influence from past styles, especially medieval, and this saw a wave of new buildings that included turrets, towers, and decorative stone carvings.
This style is known as Gothic Revival.
Inside the homes of the rich Gothic Revival influences could be seen via vaulted ceilings, carved wooden structures, stone columns, gold-leaf opulence, and stained glass.
The rich and upper-middle classes used these elements to great effect as an indication of their wealth.
Unless you have a Victorian home that can boast some of these features it’s not suggested that you need to start constructing a tower ‘wing’ on the back of your semi or a turret on top of your terrace!
But the Gothic Revival style illustrates how Victorian interior design was all about showing off and demonstrating your wealth.
This boasting was most prevalent in the ‘public’ rooms of a Victorian house such as the parlour.
The Victorians liked a dramatic parlour, a room with a bit of posh to entertain guests and showcase their wealth and the latest interior design trends.
The formal space was usually decorated with grand and opulent touches and, due to the increase of foreign travel, many items within the room were sourced from India and Asia.
But the Victorians craved separation once the entertaining and dining was done.
Of course the servants and the children had their own quarters but even the adults would retire to a gender-specific room.
Off the women would go to a room gently decorated in feminine tones and patterns while the men retired to a more masculine space with wood panelling, dark colours and heavy furniture.
But not every designer within the Victorian era bought into all the main interiors trends – especially the development of new, mass-produced furniture.
Now-legendary designer William Morris was key in creating the equally legendary Arts and Crafts movement as direct opposition to what the group saw as the erosion of local and skilled craftsmanship.
The movement promoted and encouraged beautifully designed and handmade interiors, furniture and fabrics.
So step back in time, decide which elements of Victoriana you love, and create your own ‘modern Victorian’ design.
Arguably the most influential design statement from the era is the use of rich and dark colours, setting a dramatic backdrop for stunning fabrics, bold patterns, statement ornaments and solid, often ornate, furniture.
Think dark navy, rich tones of berry, and deep bottle green.
The more recent and popular trend for dark colours shows no sign of abating and is also not confined to the more limited range available over a hundred years ago.
As with the Victorian house, dark tones creates for a dramatic stage on which to place statement furniture and key accessories.
Arguably the shades that have emerged most over the last few years as the strongest contemporary choices are dark grey, navy, and bottle green.
For an even more contemporary look go for something a bit more edgy like hot pink or combine the dark shade with a lighter tone.
For the most dramatic look, if you’re brave enough, try painting the walls, ceiling, coving, skirting, door and floor the same dark shade.
The easiest way to add some rich and dramatic Victorian-inspired dark shades is by using it as an accent colour(s) within a lighter colour scheme.
A combination of feature walls, a statement piece of furniture, accessories and soft furnishings are all useful ways to welcome the darkness – how much you allow in is up to you.
Maybe the most recent and noticeable trend for introducing a dark colour as an accent is in the kitchen, with dark navy and rich bottle green cupboards and/or island units being the main choices.
Coupled with a Belfast sink, wood or stone effect worktops, open shelving and a dresser unit with plate rack, the kitchen becomes a contemporary space but with classic design touches of the past – the Victorians would definitely approve.
Plenty of patterns
There’s nothing plain about Victorian interior design so pattern was key.
Floral, foliage, damask and fleur-de-lis are arguably the most popular at the current time.
All these patterns have survived through time offering different versions appropriate to the decade but pattern, and especially layering patterns, is a key look to a Victorian-inspired space.
For a more modern version of the classic Victorian use of pattern consider layering different sizes of the same theme like small buds with big blooms or mixing themes and colours.
To create a more modern look just use one statement pattern in more contemporary, bold colours.
William Morris designs are a visual documentation of patterns based on nature at that time and are still incredibly popular in homes today so you could just start with a few Morris accessories to build your confidence.
A feature wall, new bedding, upholstery and soft furnishings can all be used to allow patterns to run riot or you can contain it to key areas of a room and key pieces, depending on how far down the Victorian pattern road you are travelling.
Opulence and glamour
The Victorians craved opulence to the optimum in as many public rooms as possible.
Think gold accents, brass fixtures and fittings, crystals, and rich and tactile fabrics such as velvet and silk combining with those dramatic colour choices.
In your modern home how much Victorian-inspired bling you want to bring is up to you – even just a statement brass or gold and crystal chandelier or a metallic traditional style bath will add Victorian glamour to a space.
A large, gold gilt mirror will also add eye-catching opulence – the only challenge you might have is trying to choose one.
From online auction and recycling sites, local furniture auctions and charity shops to new products, there’s an ornate mirror out there for your room, whatever your budget, you just have to hunt it down.
Upholstery and soft furnishings
One of the main and easiest ways to add opulence to a Victorian-inspired space is via tactile and sumptuous soft furnishings and fabrics.
One of the key elements of upholstery use was creating an eye-catching and ‘over-the-top’ window treatment.
Swags, swishes and swathes of fabric framed each window and were used as a way to tie patterns and colour together as well as a way to keep draughts out.
Whatever your windows end up wearing, don’t dismiss the value of thinking how curtains can combine the main elements of your interior design and tie your scheme together – just as the Victorians did.
With a conscious display of wealth important within a home over 100 years ago, the opulent and rich fabrics also featured on furniture and this is a fantastic way to create a dramatic area within a modern room.
A statement chair in sumptuous and dramatic fabric will make an ignored corner space feel like the star of the show.
Change the bedding, the cushions, the rug or a lampshade or two and your upholstery can work harder for you to create a Victorian vibe.
Of course, the cheapest and arguably most effective way to bring sumptuous upholstery to a room is via new cushions in rich tones and tactile materials, maybe even sporting classic Victorian patterns.
Another way to add Victorian to your home is via a canopy over a bed, from a vast, ceiling wafting wave of fabric to a pelmet attached to the wall.
A more modern and less structured version of this would be using a sheer fabric in pale tones and even using copper pipes as the fabric rods.
If heavy and thick fabrics are not your style but you still want a nod back to upholstery from the past then opt for introducing elements of lace or sheer, floaty fabrics.
Coupled with florals, this will create a modern version of a classic Victorian ladies’ drawing room.
Thinking of furniture dating back to Victorian times probably brings to mind images of dark and heavy predominantly wooden pieces, from a formal dining table and chairs to substantial writing desks.
But the era also showcased soft and fluid sofas armchairs and even chaise-lounges boasting opulent upholstery.
If a room of antique style furniture is not what you want in your modern home then maybe a standalone piece such as an iron bed, roll-top bath, walnut wardrobe, or ornate wooden sideboard is all that’s required to add that classic design from the past.
An original washstand in a bathroom can be modified to incorporate modern plumbing to create an authentic piece within a modern environment.
No room scheme paying homage to the Victorians would be complete without the finishing touches via accessories and statement features.
Accessories such as rugs, cushions, vases, ornaments and mirrors can all play their part in bringing the icing to the Victorian-style cake within a modern home.
Use a few well-chosen items to create an eye-catching composition or bring them all in – the Victorians were all about excess!
And you could also consider going further into the heart of the style with wood wall paneling, collections of traditional wall pictures and paintings, adding traditional bathroom and kitchen fixtures and fittings and replacing modern radiators with their Victorian column predecessors.
Whatever you decide to do, enjoy creating a modern Victorian style that suits your taste and then invite the neighbours in for a posh afternoon tea in the parlour.