Victorian Chic Interior Design: Everything You Need to Know

Claire Nicholas

By Claire Nicholas

May 08, 2024

If you find yourself researching design styles for your apartment, you’ll likely discover that many of today’s trends are inspired by the look and feel of eras past. Take midcentury modern, for example, or the current craze around estate sales and vintage furniture.  

Another highly sought-after style rooted in history is Victorian chic. If you’re drawn to silver and gold accents, detailed fleur-de-lis–laden wallpaper and fabrics, and densely decorated rooms (as opposed to sparse minimalistic looks), chances are you’ll be a fan of the Victorian chic trend.

Victorian chic interior design tends to fall under the maximalist umbrella, displaying an evident “more is more” philosophy that’s consistent with its high society origins in the British Victorian era. But although the Victorian look was originally reserved for nobility figures and other prosperous individuals, it’s coming into vogue as a look (with your own spin) for anyone who’s hoping to immerse themselves in a world of colors, patterns, and utter timelessness.  

Where did Victorian chic design originate? 

The Victorian period refers to the 19th century time period when Queen Victoria reigned over the region — roughly the 1830’s to the turn of the century. England was undergoing an industrial revolution at the time, and the idea of home decor was becoming more commodified due to the uptick in mass production — essentially, people could go shopping for not only clothes and essential goods, but also household décor items like candlestick holders and light fixtures.  

As a result of this industrial revolution, the English middle class was prospering into a rather wealthy upper crust of society. This prosperity influenced the way they consumed those design elements and built homes; namely, they aimed to display their newfound wealth in every way possible. If a home was on the emptier side, its inhabitants were thought to have no taste. 

The result of this cultural shift was Victorian interior design, characterized by design elements like ornate moldings, dramatic stained glass built into large windows, fancy lighting like chandeliers and brass candelabras, and no shortage of rich colors, mostly jewel tones, in plush velvet upholstery and billowing drapes and tapestries that furnished the homes. The Queen Anne style also emerged from the Victorian era with its hallmark corner towers, wraparound porches, and detailed wallpapers. 

How do I apply a dated interior design style to a modern home? 

Although an authentic Victorian home will appear, well, old, that’s not necessarily the look that’s been becoming more popular in recent times (you don’t have to make your Victorian chic home look like a Victorian museum). To add the word “chic” to the name of this antique design style is then, simply to modernize it and make it your own, bringing it up to speed with modern living. Besides, many of the aspects of Victorian décor had practical uses that no longer apply in today’s households. For example, the fabrics in reds, greens, and blues were meant to conceal ash and smoke stains that came from the coal-fired heating mechanisms of the time.  

Victorian Chic Design Ideas for Apartment Renters

Your take on the Victorian chic style can lean more black-and-white-classy, more country, more minimalist, or more colorful, for example. But to sell the look with your flair and make it recognizably Victorian-inspired, consider implementing some of the following: 

Ornamentation and carved wood. Victorian-style homes were all about detailed woodwork. You can’t change the bones of your apartment to emulate Victorian architecture — so no adding wainscoting or crown molding, parquet floors, or window treatments — but you can find Victorian furniture with similar motifs of opulence. Think: clawed feet on a coffee table, thick and detailed arms on kitchen chairs, or a wooden lamp base with a curvy shape. 

Tiffany lamps and sconces. You don’t have to go running to Tiffany with your life savings to perfect your Victorian interior decoration, but you might consider making a trip to a flea market, antique store, or thrift store to see if you can get your hands on a lamp with a stained-glass lampshade. (Remember: Look for a color palette made up of deep and bright jewel tones like sapphire blue, ruby red, and emerald green.) This is a tried-and-true way to achieve the Victorian style.  

Gallery walls with ornate frames. Gallery walls are all the rage for filling large wall spaces, but they’re also a one-way-ticket to 19th century England. Work on curating a collection of frames and art that displays drawings of flowers, scenes of Victorian life, or just your favorite photos.   

Displayed china and glassware. If you’re looking to bring Victorian elegance to your dining room, look no further than your local antique or secondhand store. There, you’ll find a vast collection of donated glassware, namely ornamental plates and glassware. Look for detailed pieces to display on your bar cart or hand-painted glass plates to display on floating shelving or to hang on your wall using a plate hanger

Embroidery. When it comes to anything from decorative pillows to wall art, embroidery is a great way to achieve the Victorian chic vibe in your living room, especially if your aesthetic preference is less modern and more country or cottage adjacent. You can also have towels embroidered or monogrammed in cursive to bring the style into the bathroom.  

How do I make Victorian chic work for me?

When you implement some of these staple Victorian elements around your apartment, you can fill in around them with more of your own flair. If you’re equally inspired by country or modern farmhouse décor, for example, you can mix some rustic wooden frames into your gallery wall or disperse other farmhouse elements in ways that work with your existing color scheme.  

If you want to lean into the word chic and mix in some notes of feminine class, find a classy wall print that speaks to you and put it in an ornate gold frame in between two wall sconces with matching votive candles. And, as always, the internet is your friend, and focus is your friend. Use Victorian chic houses and apartments as inspiration and to boil down your color scheme; lay out your gallery walls on the floor before making holes in your wall; don’t just buy something because it’s Victorian — make sure you really love it first. Before you know it, you’ll be in your personal Victorian chic wonderland.

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