House Styles - The Victorian

You’re in the market for a new house. Maybe it’s your first time buying. Maybe you’re a seasoned homeowner ready to make a change. Whatever your experience, there are many factors for you to consider as you wade through the myriad of home listings in your chosen area. One such factor is style.

In today’s market, there are many different styles of houses available to buyers: Victorian, Bungalow, Mid-Century Modern, Contemporary and Center Hall Colonial for example. Each of these housing styles has its fan base, those who would live in no other—who laud the qualities and benefits of their chosen style. And truthfully, each have fine qualities to consider. So, how do you choose which style is best for you? Well first, you want to understand the differences between them, and specifically, what these differences mean for you and your family.


Victorian Houses

History

It probably comes as no surprise that the Victorian house style became popular during the reign of Queen Victoria (1863-1901). The Industrial Revolution, new wealth, and a population boom increased the demand for individual family housing. Concurrently, advances in technology (such as the steam powered sawmill), and the expansion of the railway system allowed for the rapid production of building materials and the ability to transport them over great distances. This meant that builders could offer a wide variety of ready-made designs to interested buyers, create the desired components at a remote site, and then ship it all to the building site to be assembled, eventually creating a house style that is more varied than any other.

Characteristics

An era of wealth, the Victorians prized decoration over practicality, so ornamentation was added whenever possible. Elaborate designs and woodworking are the hallmarks of the style, as is the use of color. Greater world travel, provided by the railway and steam engine, created a new awareness of different decorative and architectural elements. Consequently, the Victorian house is an amalgam of many influences, including French, Italian, Tudor, Gothic, and Egyptian.

The flexibility of design allowed the house to develop appeal among different classes. A home could be built to suit a variety of budgets simply by adding or omitting decorative elements and additional architectural features, such as turrets, towers, and porches. For this reason, Victorian houses range widely from fancy to plain and from grand to modest.

Simpler Victorian houses are often called Folk Victorians because they were more affordable for the average family (or folk) of the time. They are simpler in style and less adorned. Other more elaborate styles included the Gothic Revival, the Eastlake Stick, the Regency, and the classic Queen Anne style with its towers, grandeur, and lavish ornamentation.

A Victorian house might be perfect for you if:

  • you want a large house with large spaces: Victorians often have large rooms and are built to two or three stories. The addition of wings and large window bays often provide extra space in the home too.
  • you love decorative elements: These homes are known for their decorative woodworking, gingerbread details, colorful trim, and inviting porches. The style itself encourages the addition of decoration and will be happier for your personal touch. These houses were built to show off.
  • you want to own a piece of history: The average Victorian is about 100 years old. That’s a lot of history! It can be fun to live in a house that’s seen so much and been at the center of so many lives.

This might not be your dream home if:

  • you don’t want to deal with updates: While a century old house can be exciting, it might also be holding on to old heating, electrical and plumbing systems. These systems can be expensive and messy to replace so be thorough with the inspection and consider the cost of bringing the house into the 21st century.
  • you want a closet and your own bathroom: Of course Victorian houses have bathrooms, but when these houses were built, indoor plumbing was a luxury. Many of these homes had indoor bathrooms added after they were built, but many still max out at 1 ½. Closets too are a more modern convenience, so these homes often have small bedroom closets if they have them at all.
  • you’re allergic to maintenance: Again, older houses need more maintenance. All of that elaborate trim needs to be maintained, painted, and (inevitably) repaired. Steep roofs and gables are susceptible to mishap and aren’t easy to access without professional equipment. Keep in mind too, that many of these homes have an abundance of lead paint and asbestos. Though we are aware of their dangers now, these materials were one of the technical advances of the Victorian time (fire proof asbestos was hailed as a lifesaver). Making repairs on your Victorian home will require either your time and expertise, or the time and expertise of whomever you hire to take it on, so factor that into your investment.

(Stay tuned for our next House Styles article: The Bungalow)

Courtesy of our guest blogger: Mary Convertino, freelance writer from Slingerlands, NY