What comes to mind when you think of Victorian architecture? Like many of you, I picture high-pointed roofs flourished with ornate wooden vergeboarding, colourful wood plank siding, and windows flanked by classic shutters or brickwork. But did you know that the Victorian architecture encompasses a wide range of different styles?
The name, of course, refers to Queen Victoria, who ruled the British Empire from 1837 to 1901. There were a number of different styles that were created during her reign, and many of them now fall under what we consider Victorian architecture.
Victorian house builders were all about the fine details. They embraced the romantic Victorian ideal that aesthetics was as important as function, if not moreso (just think of those impractical Victorian hoop dresses). Each home has something that sets it apart and makes it unique. The blend of different styles and eras in Victorian architecture have a way of mixing together into a unified design.
This collage of styles can also make it difficult to identify a true Victorian-style home. Many people point to any old, brick building with a pointy roof and bay windows and call it Victorian. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — but if you’re on the hunt for a real Victorian home, here are some things to look out for:
- At least two stories. You won’t see many Victorian bungalows. This style was all about excess, and most of these houses are quite grand, both in a literal and figurative sense.
- Wood or stone exterior. Most Victorian homes have ornate brickwork or a vertical wood siding. If one wants to renovate this type of home and preserve its true essence, they should stick with these traditional materials.
- Decorative roof trim. Vergeboarding, also known as gingerbread, exploded in popularity in the Victorian era. Few contemporary homes sport these stylish flourishes.
- Steep, multi-faceted roof. High peaks and gables are a common mark of this building style. Some even include round or octagonal towers! The exception is the Second Empire variation of this building style, which embraces flat-topped roofs for maximum space inside the house.
- One-story porch. First impressions were important in Victorian architecture, and many houses have a grand front entrance that includes a wraparound porch.
- Built before 1901. Though some builders kept this style alive well after the end of Victoria’s reign, a true Victorian home is one that was crafted during her time. These homes are becoming rarer and rarer each year, but fellow enthusiasts are helping to keep the style alive.
Few among us wouldn’t love to live in a Victorian-style home. They have a timeless beauty that evokes a sense of comfort and warmth, whether they are in a small town or a world-class city like Toronto. Happy house hunting!