Like us lot today, the Victorians were obsessed with interiors .They placed a lot of meaning in their choice of furnishings, and reckoned their decor style reflected what type of people they were.
The Irish writer Oscar Wilde, although a lover of decorative arts himself, often made fun of this notion of better things equal a better person and once declared: “I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china.”
The key to Victorian style was individuality with excessive ornamentation, heavily upholstered furniture, patterned and textured wallpaper and rich colours such as reds and greens.
The Victorian decor was an age of imitation as the British industrial revolution meant mass production of home furnishings from styles dating back to the ancient Romans, Greeks, Egyptians and Chinese. Most Victorian decor borrowed heavily from elements of Gothic, 17th and 18th century Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical periods of Louis XIV to XVI. So if you feel your decor is a bit boring (death by beige!) why not mix up your clean lines with some more decorative Victorian touches? You don’t need to hike up some choice taxidermy pieces – which were very fashionable then. Just a few changes can warm up your rooms.
Designers today are constantly looking to the past so you should find it easy to source Victorian pieces, such as wing chairs, in large furniture shops. If you want the real thing – and maybe just one piece – you could trawl through antique shops and get lots of ideas and advice at the same time.
Hilary Hughes, of antiques magazine ‘Ireland’s Antiques & Period Properties’ says that the mixing of old and new in our homes has never been easier. “The Victorian home was renowned for it’s opulence in scale, decor and furniture. Today, the Victorian look can be achieved simply by upholstering sofas and chairs in bold stripes or floral prints or by using wallpaper with bold patterns on a section of the room. Dado rails, ceiling roses and brass light fittings can also be used to great effect to achieve the look,” she advises. Hilary added: “Rich colours such as burgundy, deep greens and even purple were very popular during this time. This season, purple has made a come back! Farrow & Ball have a great selection of paints or for a less expensive option Dulux, Crown or Colourtrend also have great palettes to choose from... If your budget stretches to a roll top bath in your bathroom or bedroom – this is the true essence of the Victorian period.”
Hilary would recommend Oman Antique Galleries on South William Street for Victorian furniture, or Michael Connell Antiques on Francis Street for brass fittings and all Victorian pieces. 01 4733898.
Get the Victorian Look
- Paint wicker garden furniture white to create instant Victorian-style patio pieces.
- Use highly patterned tiles for your hall and kitchen.
- Use rich dark colours such as ruby reds, forest greens, and purple.
- Roll top baths – if you can afford it.
- From the 1840s wallpaper went into mass production. Look out for flock, or water-silk papers featuring large flowers, birds or other animals.
- Overstuffed furniture is a key element. Look out for pouffes and chaises.
- For curtains use velvet in winter and billowing cotton and muslin for summer.
- When painting go for the elaborate look – try faux marbling and stenciling. Use old fashioned patterned wallpaper. All good DIY shops have a wide range.
- Fireplaces should be ornate and mostly cast iron. Fill with purple dried flowers.
- Use very stained woodwork on skirting boards, and doors.
- Opt for brass, cast iron and tin light fittings.
- Cover your mantelpiece with ornaments
- Use floral patterned table cloths that are too big for your table and billow slightly at the legs. Then place a smaller lace table cloth or a square piece of fabric that covers only the top of the table.
- Go for a large, guilded, over mantel mirror with carved detail in pale gold
- Look for nailhead-studded wing chairs (a fully upholstered chair. It has a pair of upholstered panels [or “wings”] that extend out from the top back of the chair and curve down toward the upholstered arms), and carved spider-leg and hoof-foot tables.
Some handy addresses:
- Oman Antique Galleries 20/21 South William Street for Victorian furniture
- Michael Connell Antiques 54 Francis Street for brass fittings and all Victorian pieces. 01 4733898
- Esther Sexton Antiques, 51 Francis St, T 01 473 0909
- Lantern Antiques, 56 Francis St,, T 01 4534593
- Powerscourt Centre, 59 South William St, T 01 679 4144.
- Renaissance, 114 Capel Street, T 01 475 2461