Over the last few years, Victorian style has again been sneaking back into our interiors. You see it in pineapple accessories on a mantle or end table, in the big bold colours that were popular in Victorian art adorning our modern walls, and in the much-loved bird motif of William Morris, which is making a comeback in modern furniture design. Perhaps these trends are becoming mainstream because we all want to bring a little Downton Abbey into our homes, or maybe we’re just ready to embrace the stories of the past. Whatever the reason, we’re really enjoying the Victorian Revival here at Smartstyle!
With the British Empire spreading throughout the globe and a homegrown industrial revolution occurring on our own shores, the Victorian era was a time of mighty change. The Industrial Revolution allowed for a new kind of upward mobility for families in the UK and many a family fortune was built on the back of new manufacturing techniques and industry. At the same time, Isombard Kingdom Brunel was building a rail network across England that allowed people to traverse the country with ease and helped shape the cities that make up the UK we recognise today. To house the growing workforce, new homes were constructed throughout the country and you can still see evidence of this in the Victorian semis in towns across the country and those who made great fortunes during this period were building opulent homes to show off their newfound wealth.
During the Victorial period, interior design included a lot of Neo Gothic with a touch of French, Classical, Elizabethan, Baroque and some Neo Rococo influence thrown in for good measure, which culminated in opulent décor full of ornate details. One of the most amazing examples of this period’s style is Knightshayes Court in Devon. The exquisite and humorous Neo Gothic interiors by William Burges were created to demonstrate the newfound wealth of the Heathcoat family who made their fortune through manufacturing lace.
Knightshayes in Devon, England
The middle class in England was rapidly growing during the Victorian era and families with new money wanted to show it off in their homes. Furniture and household goods were being mass-produced for the first time in history and middle class families definitely adopted a more is more attitude when it came to home décor. People with a disposable income filled every inch of their homes with pattern, furniture, art and knick-knacks which, coupled with the city smog, often resulted in stifling atmospheres.
The Arts and Crafts movement, spearheaded by craftsman and artisans, was a reaction to the mass-production of this time. Though they, too, were heavily influenced by the past and created work that echoed medieval themes, they celebrated the handmade and championed the craftsman over the machine.
Now, let’s fast-forward to how the Victorian Revival is bringing Victorian style back into our homes.
Victorian architecture has always been sought after and many people love the period’s embellished fireplaces, tiled hallways, stained glass windows and fantastic coverings, dado rails and skirting. Unlike the Victorians, we now balance these features by keeping the rest of our décor more understated. Many styles, including contemporary, retro and classic contemporary, beautifully compliment Victorian features and really let them shine.
Fireplace Details in two Victorian Homes designed by Smartstyle
However, just as the Victorians embraced the Arts and Crafts movement, we are also seeing a similar shift to handmade, bespoke, and small-scale designs with many people choosing antiques or handcrafted goods over mass produced designs sold in large chain stores. Just like the Victorians, we are beginning to embrace the craftsman and the independent a little more.
An original William Morris Sussex Bench used in a Smarstyle design for a new-build home in Tunbridge Wells
When it comes to antiques, we are again falling in love with the solidness of old Victorian furniture. A great deal of furniture was produced during the Victorian period and it’s easy to get a great deal on pieces at unique shops and furniture markets, making it a great furniture option for those who are on a tight budget or buying furniture for their very first home. A beautiful Victorian chest or dresser can often be found for half the price of an Ikea counterpart, with the added benefit that this antique piece will be rich with personality and solid as a rock!
Antique markets and auction houses are great hunting grounds for sofas and chairs with decorative carved wood. To bring this Victorian style into the 21st century, we recommend getting this furniture reupholstered in striking bold fabrics, making them the perfect statement piece for your lounge or bedroom. Pieces like this look especially great in industrial loft-style interiors where other decorative elements are more scaled back.
a beautiful Victorian sofa reupholstered in Timorous Beasties fabrics
But no Victorian-inspired interior would be complete without a knick-knack or two! Especially with a touch of the exotic in the form of an iconic Victorian pineapple which became a popular status symbol at the time as only the wealthy few could afford them. Who would’ve thought that keeping up with the Jones would have included the contents of a fruit bowl! This pineapple craze resulted in many pineapple-themed home decor objects that are again popular today. Check out Graham and Green for this Pineapple Table Lamp Base or Urban Outfitters for this Pineapple Jewellery Box.