A Victorian house is a type of home that was built during the reign of Queen Victoria, from 1837 to 1901. These homes were highly influenced by the decorative styles, artistic influences, and rapidly growing economy of that time.
Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, many homes were built in the late 1800s, which is why you can still find so many of them today.
You’ll recognize a Victorian house (or a Victorian-inspired home) by its ornate wood exterior, steep roof, and large bay windows. In addition, Victorian homes often include many gathering rooms (like a library, den, and parlor) so that the newly wealthy families of the time could gather with friends.
What are the typical features of a Victorian house?
Although there are some differences in the various Victorian home styles, many key features remain the same.
- Steeply pitched roofs: Steep roofs are common among Victorian homes, as they allow for grand, high ceilings.
- Bay windows: Many Victorian houses have an asymmetrical design, and include bay windows in various spots of the home. Some homes also have stained glass windows.
- Ornate details: Perhaps the most quintessential element of a Victorian house is its ornate decorations. On the exterior, Victorian homes have ornate wood details and trim around the porch, windows, and doors. Inside, the same style is used to decorate doors, mantles, and molding.
- Towers: Many Victorian homes have a rounded corner on one side that creates a tower (the rounded rooms inside of the tower are called turrets).
- Two to three stories: Most Victorian architectural styles are two or three stories high. Unlike today’s homes, there were not usually bedrooms on the main floor (the laundry and kitchen were also sometimes on other floors). This separated the entertaining spaces from the family’s sleeping quarters.
- Bright or dark colors: Many Victorian homes are painted rich colors on the outside and utilize similar colors (or darker colors) and patterns inside.
- Many rooms: Homes during the Victorian era were very different from the open-concept floor plans you see today. While the rooms had high ceilings to give the effect of additional space, there were many more closed off rooms. For example, a Victorian home might have a closed-off library, dining room, and parlor on the first floor.
Related: What is a craftsman home?
Where can you find Victorian homes?
Victorian homes are found in places that were influenced by English society at the time: Europe, North America, and Australia. The majority of these homes are located in England and its colonized (or previously colonized) countries, like the United States and Australia.
→ Learn more about how to choose the best house location
What are the different types of Victorian houses?
While there are certainly common markings of a Victorian house, the “Victorian” time period was quite long and endured many influences. Due to the many different styles that influenced home design and fashion, there are several popular types of Victorian houses.
- Italianate: One of the earliest types of Victorian homes, the Italianate style drew inspiration from Italian villas that were popular at the time. They are more rectangular than most other Victorian homes, with flatter roofs than the styles that follow. They also have very tall and narrow doors and windows, with ornate trimming.
- Queen Anne: The Queen Anne style is perhaps the most common style of Victorian homes (along with the Italianate and Gothic Revival styles) and it is the type that is most commonly associated with Victorian architecture. These homes have steep roofs, wrap around porches, and round features, like bay windows, rounded archways, and towers with rounded roofs.
- Gothic Revival: This style is reminiscent of the Gothic architecture that predates it, like the large churches found in Europe and North America. Gothic Revival homes have large, pointed arches and ornate, castle-like exteriors.
- Second Empire: Second Empire style homes take inspiration from French architecture during the time of Napoleon III. These houses are rectangular in shape with a mansard roof. They also have dormers and ornate wood detailing.
- Folk Victorian: Folk Victorian homes strongly resemble the classic Victorian style (Queen Anne) but are less ornate overall. They have the same decorative trim and wood exterior, but have a simple gable roof. They are rectangle-shaped and don’t have the same asymmetrical design as the more ornate homes (so they don’t typically include towers or additional rooms like libraries). This style was considered more attainable for the everyday person.
What should you know about buying a Victorian home?
Just like any older home, there are many pros and cons you should consider before you decide to buy.
- Gathering space: These homes were designed for entertaining and gathering. While they may not have an open floor plan, they have many beautiful rooms for guests and family members to spend time together.
- Ready to renovate: If you’re interested in renovating a space, but love the Victorian exterior, these homes are prime for renovation. They have unique details (like the turrets and bay windows), high ceilings, and large porches that will only add to your own design.
- Character and charm: These older homes are full of character and charm that you simply won’t find in a new construction.
- Maintenance: Like any old home, Victorian houses will need additional repairs and maintenance work along the way (like all new plumbing or floors). These repairs can be large and costly at times, so if you purchase a Victorian house you will need to be prepared for the additional costs of homeownership.
- Outdated materials: If you plan to continue using traditional materials or keep the original designs, you may have a difficult time finding the materials, as many are no longer used. Additionally, many of the doors, windows, and roofs have unique shapes and cannot be easily replaced. It’s likely you’ll need to have replacements custom-made or specially ordered for your home. It’s also important to note that many of these homes are designated historical sites, so you may have to get design changes and repairs approved.
- Closed off layout: Although the Victorian floor plan is full of character, it may be less open and airy than modern home designs. Victorian houses have many smaller, closed-off rooms on each floor.
→ Find out what renovations need a permit