What is a Victorian Style House?

Autumn Rivers

Some architectural designs that were popular in the past are still desirable today, and the Victorian style house is one of those. This style originated in 1840, and has stood the test of time in the minds of many. Most such homes are rather large, and feature two stories with various details in common. The features included in a Victorian style house are telltale of the time period from which this style originated.

Victorian style houses originated during the reign of Queen Victoria.
Victorian style houses originated during the reign of Queen Victoria.

From 1837 to 1901, Queen Victoria reigned in Britain, hence the name of the Victorian style. Technically, the Victorian style house was most popular from about 1840 to 1900, but there have been plenty of homes built in this style afterward, as well. The majority of homes built in this fashion are quite large, mainly because building materials were easier to obtain than during the nineteenth century. The introduction of the railroad allowed materials to be transported quickly and in bulk, and the typical timber for homes was slowly being replaced by brick, setting the stage for this style.

Bay windows were typical on the Queen Anne style of Victorian house.
Bay windows were typical on the Queen Anne style of Victorian house.

One of the most common characteristics of a Victorian style house is a large, wraparound porch with decorative railings. Oversized sash windows are typically set above the front door, and even the roofs are usually decorative and painted. Additionally, turrets, stained glass in windows and doors, and a tall, steep roof are all commonly found in this type of house.

There are many varieties of the Victorian style house, as it has evolved quite a bit over the years. The Gothic Revival was the first type, characterized by arch windows, vertical siding, and other Gothic features that one might find on a church. The Italianate style was next, and was inspired by villas found in northern Italy that featured an octagonal body, a flat roof, and squared off towers. In 1855 came the Second Empire style, which featured dormer windows, a cupola on top of the home, and a small porch. Stick Style was next, popular in 1860, and featured exposed trusses, wood siding, and a rectangular body.

The next variation on the Victorian style house was the Folk Victorian in 1870, which had decorative trim and a simple, symmetrical shape. These houses were devoid of elaborate features like bay windows and turrets, which made them affordable and attractive to many people. The year 1874 brought about the Shingle Style, which was as casual as Folk Victorian, but featured an asymmetrical body, cedar shingles, stone arches, and few extra decorations. The Queen Anne style took over in 1880, and was characterized by bay windows, ornate chimneys, multiple turrets, large balconies, and lots of colorful paint. Finally, the Romanesque Revival brought up the rear of the Victorian style house from 1880 to 1900, typically made of large stones with huge columns, Roman arches, and complex floor plans.

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Discussion Comments


@raynbow- I know exactly what you are referring to. In the town where I grew up, there was an old neighborhood filled with Victorian style homes. Many of them had bright color schemes, such as blue with maroon trim. Some of the houses were bright green, and others were yellow. I think they looked very nice and brightened up the area.

I was told that it was common in the late 1800s for these bold paint colors to be used on the exterior of houses. However, today the use of these colors could be controlled by the city ordinances that were put into place to keep older homes looking authentic and to keep neighborhoods from looking gaudy.

Before you sell the idea of bold colors for your house to your father, you should check the ordinances in your area to make sure that there are no restrictions in the neighborhood.


My father is planning to paint the family's Victorian style house this summer, and I am helping him choose the color scheme. I have seen bold, bright colors on these types of houses, and I love the look. He is not sold on this idea, though. Aren't paint colors that aren't typically used on modern homes appealing and even preferred on some Victorian style houses?

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