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Inspired Style: The Victorian

Design Trends

As summer heats up, the exterior of homes and buildings come back into focus. Key to the design of a home or building is the architectural style and --- with this in mind -- a proper color scheme can be used to make it stand out. As a refresher course on architectural styles, we first revisit the Victorian Era of architecture that is showcased prominently in San Francisco and other Southwestern U.S. cities and towns.

Historical Reflections
During the American Industrial Revolution, the Victorian Era of architecture sprouted up throughout the United States. From 1837 to 1900, the availability of mass-produced items made elaborate architectural details easier to utilize on homes and commercial structures. "Elaborate", "colorful" and "bold" describe many of these Victorian Era homes.

A Refresher of Victorian Era Architectural Styles

Greek Revival:
drawing Ancient Greece as inspiration, architects designed in the popular Grecian style with it classic clapboard siding and bold, simple lines. And colonnaded Greek Revival mansions, also called Colonial homes, were popular as plantation homes and estates. Characteristics included symmetrical shapes, bold and simple moldings, heavy cornices and wide friezes.

Architectural Examples:

  • Dunleith Plantation, Natchez, Missouri
  • Rose Hill Mansion, Geneva, New York
  • Rogers Hall, Florence, Alabama

Gothic Revival:
commonly referred to as “gingerbread” houses. Inspired by the homes in Europe, these homes have steep pitched rooflines and pointed windows and other architectural elements from the Middle Ages such as pinnacles, parapets, leaded glass windows with decorative ornamentation, and clover-shaped windows.

Architectural Examples:

  • Lyndhurst, Tarrytown, New York
  • Wedding Cake House, Kennebunkport, Maine
  • Humewood Castle, Wicklow, Ireland

a combination of Federal and Victorian era architecture. These homes have arched windows, symmetrical facades, elaborate porches, low rooflines and decorative eaves. Overall, these houses also feel inspired by Italian Renaissance villas.

- asymmetrical floor plans
- rectangular sections to imitate the look of Italian villas
- decorative features such as

  • wings
  • towers
  • flat roof lines
  • corniced eaves
  • angled bay windows
  • Corinthian-columned porches
  • square tower or cupola, sometimes referred to as "Tuscan"

Examples of Italianate architecture:

  • The Breakers, Newport, Rhode Island
  • John Denham House, Monticello, Florida
  • McCall House, Ashland, Oregon

Second Empire: inspired by architecturally ornate details of Paris and also known as the Mansard Style. Similar to the Italianate style with its boxy shape, Second Empire styles include square or rectangular floor plans, double entry doors, dormer windows, Mansard rooflines and facades that are tall and flat.


- modeled after the opulent architecture during the reign of Napoleon III

- high, mansard rooflines

- rounded cornices at rooflines

- long, dormer windows

- elaborate moldings and brackets

Examples of Second Empire architecture:

  • house featured in Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho"
  • Harry Packer Mansion, Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
  • Valley Knudsen Residence, Los Angeles, California

as implied, Stick-style Victorian Era homes are decorated with intricate stickwork and half-timbering. These boards create intricate horizontal, vertical and diagonal patterns. Beyond this detail, Stick-style homes are fairly simple with little to no extra ornamentation. Eastlake homes were named after furniture designer Charles Eastlake and featured more decoration. The two styles merged to become "Stick-Eastlake".

Examples of Stick-Eastlake architecture:

  • McConaughy House, San Diego, California
  • Sherman-Gilbert House, San Diego, California
  • Charles Dietle House, San Francisco, California

Shingle: often found in coastal areas, Shingle-style homes are large and simple structures. These large and informal homes were typically built for the wealthy as summer vacation homes. The predominant feature on these homes is the use of wooden shingles as siding.

Folk Victorian:
a generic, vernacular Victorian Era style of architecture. These homes merged the American homestead and English cottage and were typically found in rural or country settings. These farmhouses combined functionality with ornamentation and many included wrap-around porches.

Queen Anne: influenced by English architect Richard Norman Shaw who combined English cottages with Victorian Era styling.

Characteristics include:
- multiple steep rooflines
- towers and turrets
- glass-panel entry doors
- decorative windows
- corbelled chimneys
- circular or octagonal towers and porches
- wide selection of exterior colors.

Examples of Queen Anne architecture:

  • Carson Mansion, Eureka, California
  • The Gingerbread Mansion, Ferndale, California
  • The Grand Anne, Keokuk, Iowa

Victorian Era Color Schemes

Victorian Era color schemes highlight the intricacies of all the architectural elements that go into creating these homes and buildings. Here are 12 color schemes inspired by the Victorian Era in order of body color, trim and accents.

DE6194 Natural Bridge
DE6070 Chocolate Chunk
DE6153 Pyramid

DE6394 Eagle's Nest
DEC771 Shaggy Barked

DE6013 Amazing Amethyst
DE6215 Wooden Peg
DE6088 Musk
DE5746 Aspen Hush

DE6299 Limerick
DE5188 Ruddy Oak
DE6103 Copper Lake

DE6216 Barrel Stove
DEC761 Cochise
DE5299 Slightly Golden

DE6102 Hayride
DE6213 Fine Grain
DE6027 Antique Garnet

DE6165 Toasted Marshmallow
DE6028 Dark Ruby
DE6287 Italian Basil

DE5118 BBQ

DE6151 Warm Butterscotch
DE6250 Fairbank Green

DE6075 Wood Lake
DEC711 Cliff Brown
DE5535 Light Pine

DE6039 Monsoon
DE6355 Tarnished Silver
DE6270 Antique Coin

DE5720 Deep in the Jungle
DE6185 Light Aspiration
DE5215 Caramel Apple

DE5746 Aspen Hush
DE5795 Spirit Mountain
DE5821 Overcast Sky
DE5097 Red Rock

All images copyrighted and used with permission of Corbis and Fotolia