Exterior Features of Victorian Style Architecture

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Exterior Features of Victorian Style Architecture
Opulence was a hallmark of a Victorian style home. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Victorian style architecture refers to a number of home designs common between 1860 and 1900. Named after Queen Victoria of England, this style home tended toward showy, opulent structures that were intended to serve as a symbol of prosperity. While each Victorian style has its own individual design, asymmetry and a steeply pitched roof are characteristics shared by all.

Gothic Revival

Gothic Revival was built in the 1840s as one of the first residential Victorian styles. Architects, in an attempt to replicate the drama of Medieval society, borrowed elements from churches and other public buildings in Europe built between 1100 and 1500. Gothic Revival is easy to recognise by its deeply pitched roofs, pointed arch windows with hood moulds over them, gingerbread trim along the eaves and gable edges, high dormers, lancet windows, polygonal chimney pots and board and batten siding set vertically.

Second Empire

The Second Empire style is inspired by French architecture and is distinguished by a mansard roof, coloured tile patterns, heavily ornate dormer windows and iron cresting. Old French building codes limited the number of stories that buildings were permitted. To get around the code, builders would use the area directly under the deeply-pitched roof as extra living space. Early Victorians enjoyed the sense that they were "getting away" with something unlawful as they embraced the Second Empire style.


Built from 1860 to 1880, Italianate style Victorian homes are recognised by their rectangular shape, tall narrow windows in the shape of an L or U, low pitched roofs, exterior wood scored and painted to resemble stone and sliding doors that open onto verandas. In the Northeast region of the U.S. large eave brackets were added under the roof.

Stick Style

The Stick Style is considered a transitional style that falls between Gothic Revival and Queen Anne styles. It was favoured from 1860 to 1890. Distinguished by small horizontal, vertical or diagonal planks applied on top of exterior walls, it also features a bayside window perpendicular to the front window and large overhanging second-story porches.

Richardsonian Romanesque

Richardsonian Romanesque homes were built from 1870 to 1900 and are characterised by at least two types of brick or stone used in a decorative pattern. The Richardsonian Romanesque normally incorporates a tower with a conical roof, deeply set windows, short chimney stacks and large arched entry without support columns.

Queen Anne

The Queen Anne is the most decoratively ornate of the Victorian styles. Built from 1880 to approximately 1910, Queen Anne's have elaborate trim applied to nearly every surface. They're characterised by their varied roof lines, elaborate chimneys, balconies, towers, dormers, turrets, wraparound porches and stained glass decoration.

Shingle Style

As the name implies, Shingle Style Victorian homes are covered with unpainted wood shingles. They were common in the early 1880s among wealthy Americans who had them built as vacation homes, primarily along the Atlantic coast. They are recognised by their steeply pitched or long sloped roofs, large porches, rough stone surfaces and minimal external decoration.

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