To redecorate a home in the style of the Victorian era, attention to detail is everything. If there was one thing the Victorians knew how to do, both in the U.S. and the U.K., it was using their space. From top to bottom, each and every room was an opulent showpiece, and anywhere gold gilt could be added, it was.
Victorian Era 1837 - 1901
The Victorian era was so named for the reign of Queen Victoria (reigned: 1837-1901), one of Great Britain’s most beloved and long-lived monarchs, and was characterized by dark woods, deep textures, and gilt. There was also a continuing fascination with marbles, classical statues, columns, friezes, medallions, and the like, courtesy of British Colonel Thomas Bruce, the Earl of Elgin, who “rescued” hundreds of pieces of ancient Greek statuary and other archeological prizes from the Parthenon and other sites, and deposited them in the permanent collection at the British Museum.
For the very first time, Western civilization had access to the sublime sculptural practices of the ancients, although the joke was somewhat on them. A new period of classicism, the neoclassic, sprung up during the Regency era (which came just before the Victorian), with westerners clamoring for marble and plaster statues, columns, moldings and more made in the ancient Greek style.
These marble and plaster works were displayed in their pristine, unpainted condition, or gilded with gold leaf, and set against the dark teak woods and heavy maroon velvets of Victorian interiors, with no one ever guessing what we now know—that the Greeks actually heavily painted their statues and frescoes in brightly saturated, almost garish hues.
For a simple redecorating or remodel to a “High” or Late Victorian sensibility, adding crown moldings and woodwork in deeply stained mahogany or teak color, painting walls in rich tones of green, goldenrod, or red, and adding patterned wallpaper, gilded frames, medallions, and other plasterworks for focal points. Luckily today, we have hundreds of laser cut plasters and metals to make the job much easier. The rule of thumb is if you can gild it, make it gold!