Victorian interior design is so named because it reached its peak of popularity during Queen Victoria's reign over the British Empire. Her reign began in 1837 and ended with her death in 1901. The architecture during this epoch featured elaborate exteriors characterised by gingerbread scrollwork on eaves and complemented by ornately embellished interiors. Victorian furniture carries out this theme and includes several characteristics to look for.
Carvings and Curves
Victorian furniture typically has intricate carving with curving lines and natural images such as leafy patterns, floral patterns, or animals. The Art Nouveau style, which came later, has similar patterns and decorations, making it trickier to determine if a piece of furniture is Victorian. However, unlike Art Nouveau furniture, Victorian pieces will have angular lines and shapes along with carvings added onto the furniture. The basic shape of a Victorian chair or table is straight but with curves along the seat back, the bottom or legs of the chair, or at the bottom below the cushions on a sofa. Decorative friezes and curved mouldings are common in Victorian pieces.
Victorians adored embellishments in the form of tassels, embossing, and layering of expensive materials. Victorian furniture pays special attention to detail and texture. Art Nouveau furniture does not have these frills. So if you spot a piece of furniture that has a lot of fancy carving and tassels, you've probably found a Victorian piece.
The upholstery during the Victorian era featured luxurious and textured materials such as velvet. Typical colours were very rich, lush and dark. Usual patterns involved using different shades of a colour or elaborate floral patterns that accented plain white backgrounds. Most upholstered furniture also sported embellishments such as tassels and fringes.
Victorian furniture was characterised by heavy pedestals, large sideboards, and other pieces in bulkier proportions. This design influence added substantial weight to the elegant style, providing character and balance to the decorations and adornments of the piece.
Most Victorian furniture was made from mahogany, rosewood, or walnut. Replicas of these pieces are stained with deep brown and cherry hues to resemble the deep and rich colours of the wood during the Victorian era. Similar dark-coloured woods also were used in Gothic furniture pieces.