San Francisco has its painted ladies. Other communities boast collections of Gothic Revival or Italianate. Whatever they're called, the collection of Victorians, generally built from the 1840s to 1940s, adds a distinctive housing element to many communities. Here are some features you'll find.
Some large Victorian homes feature outdoor living spaces extending from the main level to the upper level. This one also makes use of a distinctive multihue paint combination and curved woodwork of all shapes and sizes.
Many Victorian homes were built in cities during times that experienced explosive population growth. That often meant small lot sizes, so homeowners looked up instead of out to gain square footage. A common setup for Victorian homes: The main level is halfway below ground with at least two more levels stacked on top. In some cases, homes were only a room or two wide.
The asymmetrical features of many Victorian homes also lend themselves well to a variety of window types -- bay, stained glass, and leaded glass, to name a few. Inside the home, many of the windows have additional features, such as ornate trim or built-in window benches.
Extending living space outside isn’t a 21st-century idea: Victorian homes made use of practical exterior “rooms,” often in the form of wraparound porches. These features offer a chance to extend details from the rest of the house -- here, intricate railings and columns on the porch.
Many Victorian homes were built on a grand scale, with sweeping interior spaces that translated into special exterior features, such as turrets or towers that add an asymmetrical flourish to the curbside view. Often these spaces were used as parlors, studies, or bedrooms, and some extended up multiple floors. Crow’s nests and diminutive balconies are also classic features ornate Victorian homes.
More geometric than many of the very whimsical Victorian homes, Italianate- or Mansard-influenced Victorian homes tend toward flat roofs, a boxier shape, and simplified details.
Many Victorian homes were notable for complex paintwork as well as stickwork. These intricate collections of vertical, horizontal, and diagonal wood elements create complex patterns that offer one-of-a-kind facades on many Victorian homes.
Standout decorative extras are hallmarks of Victorian homes. Features include different styles and designs, such as carved columns, intricate gables and gable posts, scrollwork, porch railings and spindles, brackets, ornate molding, and gingerbread trim. One interesting fact: Although many of the pieces look hand-carved, they were in fact mass-produced, as were many of the home styles and other fabrications of the era.
Victorian is a term that covers lots of different styles, and it's not uncommon to see bits and pieces of many styles all in one house. That includes Queen Anne, Gothic, Greek Revival, and Italianate, all combined in a home for something that's truly one of a kind.
A distinguishing characteristic of many Victorian-style homes: interesting paint combinations. Typically, Victorian paint combinations rely on no fewer than three colors of paint. Some Victorian color schemes resemble an amalgam of cotton candy colors, while others are more muted but no less distinctive.
Unlike other styles, including foursquare and neoclassic, Victorian houses are often disproportionate, with an entry that's not centered and two halves that don't match each other. That asymmetry enables designers to create varied rooflines for even more visual interest.
Many homeowners blended the simpler elements of farmhouse-inspired spaces with a touch of Victorian style. Typically these homes include fewer decorative details -- such as simplified spindles on a wraparound porch -- as well as the asymmetry apparent in more elaborate homes.
Some Victorian homes used design elements such as turrets not just as interior spaces but as ways to carve out unique entryways, too. Here, a circular space creates a small seating area and charming roofline to delineate the front door.
Stone, sometimes used on Victorian exterior facades, was often an indicator of Gothic Revival influences originating from European cathedrals. This type of home often had wooden trimwork with plain carvings and scrolls. This house also includes an expansive front entry, pointed porch roofline, decorative columns, and asymmetrical footprint.