Stepping into a Victorian period home or business can transport you to another era. All the wood-paneled walls, ornate metal and stone work, and rich colors make you feel like you’re stepping into the shoes of the Bronte sisters, Florence Nightingale, or Alexander Graham Bell.
As fun as it is to experience times gone by and as much as you love the elegance of Victorian interiors, it’s simply not the way homes or commercial spaces are laid out anymore. Victorian designs tend to be dark, enclosed, and a bit stuffy—the complete opposite of today’s open, bright, and cozy designs.
There is a way to carry the ambiance of the Victorians into just about any design and combine them into one vintage Victorian interior design without giving up the things you love about your space. It’s called Neo-Victorian design and examples of it are everywhere.
The Foundry Hotel
A steel factory reimagined as a hotel in Asheville, North Carolina undertook to blend industrial with Victorian into one harmonious whole. The designers retained as many of the original structural features as possible. Thus, brick and iron define the exterior. On the inside there’s a unique blending of industrial structure with Victorian styling. If you look closely, you’ll even find hints of art deco accents here and there.
Though it sounds eclectic, the blended approach is seamless. Parquet floors, crystal chandeliers, and darker accent colors make connections between past and present. Liberal use of brushed gold-tones offer art deco elegance to the space while exposed brick, pipes, and wrought iron embrace the more industrial side of the space.
Guests simultaneously appreciate the history of the building, the ambiance of the time period, and the luxury of the environment at The Foundry Hotel.
Achieving a mashup of styles is something that more and more designers attempt today. There’s a general love for preserving history while still getting all the perks of contemporary living. Here’s a look at a few tricks designers are using to blend vintage Victorian into other aesthetics.
Color defined Victorian design. Bold and rich jewel tones along with darker colored floors, trims, and wallpapers blended the opulence of the era with a sense of restraint that grounded these designs. Color is one of the best ways to bring a sense of the vintage into your design.
Transform an open format with a rich sage green wall color or a sapphire blue feature wall. Don’t forget to save some space for an elegant wall paper with a large and richly colored pattern. Opt for black as an accent color on trims to produce the seriousness associated with the Victorian era.
Metallics are a very important part of the color scheme in a vintage Victorian interior design. Gold tones, like brass and bronze, were especially popular. Brushed and otherwise muted gold tones add the opulence of vintage design in a way that doesn’t overshadow the underpinnings of your space.
Adding vintage charm to any space can be as simple as including some antiques or refreshing some older elements. For instance, purchase vintage furniture then reupholster, create collections of Victorian art or decorative pieces, and don’t forget crystal in the form of vases and lighting which can be more affordable purchased at a flea market.
Stores that offer reclaimed items can be treasure troves of vintage items just waiting for new life. Reclaimed wood, tin tiles, ceramic tiles, hardware (door knobs, etc.) are the little details that can take a newer space and add the vintage Victorian vibe you want.
Look for more opportunities to add a touch of romantic vintage with larger items like crown molding and trims, doors, even refurbished furniture of the era to effortlessly add mood to your design.
Case in Point
The Foundry Hotel uses decor items from the Victorian era to bring something special to the space. In the lobby, behind the front desk, there hangs a framework of tiny boxes. Though the structure itself is new, each box holds an old fashioned skeleton key. This is the perfect example of how to blend the old with the new for a design that can do both.
They also have a collection of found items from the days when the hotel was a foundry. Various hammers, tongs, a hatchet, and other hand tools serve as reminders of the industrial history that was the foundation of the space.
Materials are heavy hitters when it comes to creating a vintage atmosphere. The space can still be fresh with the smell of new construction yet the materials can make it feel historic. Walnut, mahogany, and rosewood were popular choices for the Victorians and their liberal use of wood. Oak and ash were also popular.
Brick was the top choice for exteriors but limestone, basalt, and granite are often found in both interior and exterior stonework. Iron, brass, and bronze were added like accents everywhere from gates and fences, to railings, finials, and beyond.
Glass, especially stained glass, started to gain popularity in Victorian times in structures other than churches. It was the height of opulence to have such custom, colorful details.
Textiles of the time were touchable and architectural, think velvet, damask, and chintz—heavier fabrics. Trims were ornate with tassels, pom poms, and the like.
Case in Point
Any space can benefit from luxury materials to achieve a vintage undertone. The Foundry Hotel designers used luxury draperies and upholstery to help define the style of the space.
Touchable fabrics on the seating and bedding along with heavy, plentiful drapes set the stage for a bit of a historical feel. Even details like lampshades employ texture-rich fabrics. The tufted headboards in textile or leather add elegance.
Crystal chandeliers, stone countertops, wooden paneling, and other details figure heavily into the design as well. Even some of the lesser seen utility areas offer ceramic tiles and visible copper pipes for a display of vintage materials at their best.
The Victorians were notorious for their decor. It was not only opulent, but often, over the top. That kind of decor would overwhelm the more modern minimalist spaces that are favored today, but a bit of historic decoration can invite the right feel for a blended style.
Before the term “fifth wall” was coined, the Victorians were paying plenty of attention to what was on their ceilings. This was the era when tin tile was popularized. Tin tile can add a hit of Victorian influence overhead (or on a wall) subtly. Choose a lighter color or pattern to make it blend better with today’s designs and you’re set.
Wallpaper was another popular choice for the Victorians and is still a simple way to add interest to today’s designs. Choose one wall or one room for the paper to give the style an update that won’t become overwhelming.
To the Victorians anything and everything could be considered decoration giving you plenty of opportunities to add vintage details without going full Victoriania. Dishes, photos, art, furniture, rugs, lamps, etc. can add a touch of charm to any setting.
Case in Point
The Foundry Hotel used tin tile on the ceiling in the lobby areas as a key decorative element. The whitewashed, distressed finish lets bits of metallic silver peek through for natural blending of industrial and Victorian. They chose Pattern #2, one of the most recognizable Victorian patterns.
The overall effect is an important part of what makes the space work. It brings together the clean white vibe with the ornate vintage look and the metallic industrial aesthetic.
Vintage Victorian interior design style can be yours with the right design elements. Blend different styles by tastefully adding luxurious Victorian details to any space for a truly 21st century design.
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