Victorian homes reflect the architectural styles of the Victorian Era in the United Kingdom (1837-1901). The style and era are named for Queen Victoria of England, who reigned during this period. The Victorian style--popular in American, Canadian and British residential architecture--is composed of a blend of older styles borrowed from different countries and eras.
Victorian homes come in many varieties. Some of these are Queen Anne, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Stick/Eastlake, Shingle and Richardsonian Romanesque. Architectural styles of the time shifted from the predictable English Gothic to Italian Gothic’s polychromy. The style is also marked by blending in the use of glass and iron as part of the building design. The Victorian style combines aspects of other revival-style designs, such as Tudor, Queen Anne and English vernacular.
Although it is named after Queen Victoria, the Queen’s husband, Prince Albert, is the one who endorsed the forward-thinking style of architecture. This style is also heavily influenced by the Industrial Revolution, which, for the first time, provided builders with mass-produced hardware and supplies. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, home builders had to use more expensive handmade tools and materials. The mass-produced supplies gave builders more creative alternatives to the box-shaped building styles and made homes more affordable.
Victorian homes are designed to be vibrant, bold and ornate. They can consist of one, two or three stories. Victorian homes in the eastern United States are typically three stories high, as opposed to the two-story and one-story Victorian homes in the West.
The different primary designs bear specialized markings that distinguish them from one another. For instance, the Gothic Revival Victorian style was influenced by European and medieval design forms, which mimicked medieval cathedrals. It is characterized by its multicolored and textured walls, pointed arches and windows, asymmetrical facades, intricate gingerbread vergeboard trim and steep pitched roofs. Meanwhile, the Italianate Victorian style was influenced heavily by Roman architecture, with complex detailing, including decorative eaves, low roofs, ornamental brackets, arched windows and elaborate porch decor.
It is common for people to refer to a house as a "Victorian era house." This terminology is incorrect. The Victorian era refers to a specific period in time, not to a style of architecture. The proper term is "Victorian-style house." Although it is easy to confuse the two, "Victorian-style house" points to a particular style that has been influenced by the Victorian era.