Characteristics of Victorian Homes

Written by anastasia leon
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Characteristics of Victorian Homes
Victorian facades are often highly ornate. (Victorian house image by Nini from Fotolia.com)

Victorian architecture is named for the period in which it was popularised, between the years 1840 and 1900. The era saw the rise of industrialisation and a larger middle class, which encouraged the mass production of ornate private homes as more people could afford them. Many different styles of Victorian-era architecture exist and although there are distinct differences, there are also many common characteristics.

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Queen Anne Architecture

Queen Anne architecture rose in popularity during the latter portion of the 19th century. It is the most recognisable form of Victorian architecture due to its highly ornate and rambling design. Often featuring a corner tower, bay windows and an intricate, asymmetrical shape, Queen Anne-style homes are lavish even when the architect shows restraint. These homes typically have a wraparound porch with rounded corners and walls textured with shingle, stamped masonry or planks, as well as "gingerbread" trim. Examples of Queen Anne houses can be seen throughout San Francisco, where they are often brightly painted.

Gothic Revival Architecture

Drawing inspiration from medieval architecture, the stone and masonry construction of Gothic Revival-style is reminiscent of castle and cathedral design. It was most popular between 1840 and 1860 before falling out of favour due to its high construction costs. Although it was mostly used in church architecture, Gothic Revival was sometimes used in homes, particularly in the northeast. One of the most readily identifiable features of this style is the deeply pitched roof and elaborate ornamentation, which was typically applied to the eaves, porch and around the windows. Pointed windows were often employed in the style, sometimes with leaded or stained glass and elaborate tracery. Later in its development, Gothic Revival was simplified and appeared frequently in farmhouses and cottages. The toned-down version of the style feature the same steep eaves, but with simple clapboard siding and rectangular windows.

Italianate Style

Inspired by the villas of Italy, Italianate style was among the most common styles of architecture during the Victorian era. It appeared in everything from simple cottages to ornate mansions, and was even used in commercial buildings. Typically two to three stories high with a flat roof, homes of this style have numerous identifying features. The most recognisable feature of Italianate-style houses is the wide cornice that surrounds the eaves. These were often ornate with curving brackets that appeared to hold the roof in place. Windows were most often four-pane, flanked by wooden insets and capped by decorative mouldings. A broad front porch typically graced the entryway of Italianate-style structures, but this is a trait common to many Victorian-era homes.

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