Top sellers

How the Victorian Era Inspired some Modern Interior Designs Trends

Published : 24/03/2017 09:13:05
Categories : Expert Opinion

Background to the Victoria Era

The Victorian Era 1837-1901 was an illustrious time that started a housing boom. During the beginning of this period houses were still influenced by classic Regency architecture. The style signified the last phase of Georgian architecture and was elegant and decorative.


Caption: Large bay windowed houses were built for the rich.

Interior Design Inspiration from the Victoria Period

For a classic Victorian interior there are some key pieces that renovators hanker after today. Highly decorative and coloured encaustic tiles for hallways and kitchens were a key look. These days you can still buy originals though there are some fantastic reproductions available that will do the trick for half the price where the design is digitally printed on to the tile. Scour reclamation places for original designs that can be fitted and used successfully.

Encaustic Tiles

The name ‘encaustic’ means that the pattern is baked on in a kiln.

Image Credit:

From a decoration point of view, Victorian interiors were often quite full of character. It’s hard to attribute specific styles as the era combined many earlier styles in greater diversity.

Travels to Japan and India inspired exotic elements, the Arts & Crafts Movement led by designers including William Morris based on medieval architecture, brought pattern and print to the fore.

Fabrics and furniture began to be mass produced which made them more affordable. The middle-classes became more interested in the interiors of their homes, which they saw as a reflection of their status. A bare room was considered to show a lack of taste, so Victorian interiors appeared to be cluttered. The types of fabric used were heavy silk damask (reversible figured fabric formed by weaving) or velvet, these were mainly used for curtains. Floral patterns on either toile (a type of decorating pattern consisting of a white or off-white background on which a repeated pattern depicting a fairly complex scene) or chintz (printed multicoloured cotton fabric with a glazed finish) were used for cushions or seat covers. The Victorians were huge fans of patterns and often featured multiple within a room.

Victorian Fabrics - heavy silk damask, toile, chintz

Different types of fabric used, heavy silk damask, toile and chintz.


Wallpaper became mass produced in the 1840’s which led to a surge in part-wallpapered walls. The method for this was papering between the skirting board and the dado rail. William Morris style wallpapers featured large animals, birds or floral prints on water-silk paper. An alternative Victorian method includes plain, flat-painted walls for a simple interior.

William Morris Wallpaper

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

In regards to the floor either parquet flooring or mid-toned polished floor boards with a large interesting rug or patterned carpet.

parquet flooring

Victorian Interior Mouldings

Most wood was painted, mainly in dark colours, as they believed that pine (which was widely used) to be inferior and should be covered up. Victorian’s felt that dividing up walls visually with skirtings, dado rails and architraves was the epitome of artistic taste.

Dado rails became popular during the middle of the 19th century particularly in heavy use areas like hallways and dining rooms, this was to protect the walls from people passing through and chair-backs, in fact, originally they were called ‘chair rails’. The height of dado rails was derived from the height of a pedestal or a classical column which was around 24 inches from the floor, this later got extended to approximately 36 inches to accommodate the idea of protecting the walls from chair backs.

A post shared by Mercho (@mercho111) on

As mentioned previously more often than not each areabelow dado rails and above was usually wallpapered whilst mouldings tended to be painted in a colour that was richer than the wallpaper colour as painting woodwork white (which we now consider to be normal) didn’t become popular until the late 1880’s.

Skirting boards in Victorian houses tended to be tall, to keep them rooms in proportion with high ceilings. High ceilings were relatively new in the Victorian period as they were previously only a luxury for the rich.

Popular colours for the period were deep reds and purples, orchres, dark greens and browns, though hints of pinks and pale blues crept in as paint colours developed. The use of chemicals in paint production was still very limited, towards the middle of the century purple and blue was launched. Ceilings were always painted in white distemper - a creamy off-white. This was to offset the darker walls and heavy soft furnishings.

Victorian Interior Design Example

A good example of a traditional Victorian home is Carlyle’s House in Chelsea, London, lived in by Thomas and Jane Carlyle who rented it for £35 a year from 1834. He was an influential social commentator and historian who helped shaped the way Victorian’s thought about themselves. The house has been preserved by the National Trust and features authentic touches that can offer inspiration to anyone renovating their own Victorian house.

If you’re looking for interior mouldings which have been designed based on the Victorian period check out the following:

Victorian Skirting Board Style 1

Victorian Skirting Board Style 2

Victorian Architrave Style 1

Victorian Architrave Style 2

Victorian Dado Rail Style 1

Victorian Dado Rail Style 2



The Victorian Society - a charity who champions Victorian and Edwardian buildings in England in Wales.

Heritage Open Days - an informative website that runs Heritage Open Days every September.

About the writer

interior writer


Related Posts

Share this content

Add a comment

 (with http://)