Victorian Ceiling Treatments

Written by donna smith
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Victorian Ceiling Treatments
The medallion is a ceiling treatment used by the Victorians (antique ceiling image by John Sfondilias from

Victorian ceiling treatments testify to the Victorians' lavish, colour-saturated design preferences. The Victorians didn't believe in austere, unadorned homes, which is why their houses overflowed with decorative flourishes and embellishments. High ceilings 8 to 14 feet tall define interior Victorian architecture, and the Victorians considered white ceilings drab, naked and boring. Recreating the look of authentic Victorian ceiling treatments is not difficult, as many manufacturers offer products to easily produce the style.

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Victorian Cornices

Three-dimensional cornices give a ceiling an intricate frame. A cornice encircles a room by joining the ceiling and the wall together to provide a finished appearance. Materials used for original Victorian cornices included wood, plaster and papier-mache. Contemporary cornices are made out of fibrous plaster that's easily installed by gluing or nailing it to the wall. Cornices contain ornamental designs such as dentils, Greek key, fluting or leaf-and-dart motifs. For historical accuracy, paint a cornice a darker shade than the walls and ceiling and choose at least three different colours to highlight the intricate details. Victorians gave the cornice additional flair by painting small lines in gold gilt. Examples of colour combinations that existed in the Victorian home include light moss green, light salmon buff and medium moss green or gilt, green grey, cream, pink and green blue.

Victorian Medallions

Victorian medallions are also known as roses because of the popular flower design; the round disks are found in many styles. In a Victorian home, medallions were found at the centre of the ceiling above a hanging light fixture. Medallions are commonly 2 feet in circumference. Many homeowners prefer to keep their medallions white; however, Victorians painted the medallions to show off the motif.

Painted Victorian Ceilings

Victorians embraced colour. They painted their ceilings a lighter shade than the walls. Violet, lavender, blue, straw, peach and grey paint were all common on Victorian ceilings. From the 1830s up to the 1880s, Victorian ceilings also featured stencilled designs such as vines, flowers and leafs in rich, eye-catching colours.

Victorian Wallpapered Ceilings

Colourful, patterned wallpapers frequently adorned Victorian walls and ceilings. In Victorian wallpaper ceiling treatments, one pattern delineates a cornice while another pattern covers the ceiling. Layering various patterns brings the room together through harmonising colours. The general rule of the Victorian wallpaper ceiling treatment dictates that several borders of paper should occupy one-sixth of the total area of the ceiling. Victorians used handbooks that illustrated layouts for the application of the wallpaper.

Victorian Tin Ceilings

By the end of the nineteenth century, the trend in ceiling treatments began to turn towards a lighter approach with moderate ornamentation. The tin ceiling offered a cheaper, more durable choice for ceiling decoration while adding texture. Patterns stamped or tooled on metal came in a flat white colour, making the material ready for painting. Today, homeowners can purchase tin ceilings in copper and many other powder-coated finishes with a large range of colour options.

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