As the focal point for design in the home, the living room has long been an outlet for personal style. And no more so than for those living in Victorian times – for although we often think of the popular, yet somewhat depressing, Dickensian image of 19th century poverty, the reality was often quite different. Consumption of commodities began in earnest as fashionable Victorians hurried to decorate their homes in the most up-to-date styles and the living room was transformed. Not only that, the influence of foreign travel, the reproduction Gothic designs and the significance of key designers began to play their parts in the changing shape of the room. No longer simply somewhere to relax, the living room became a visual indicator of wealth, style and sophistication.
For modern home owners, maintaining the living room as a museum in which to house and present prized possessions is not really practical. Yet there is much in the style and décor of a traditional Victorian living room which can be enjoyed today. From choosing reproduction designer furniture to defra approved multi fuel wood burning stoves, by replicating the accessories of the time, a Victorian look can be achieved whilst retaining a sense of the modern.
Experiment with colour
Too often considered a dull and downbeat era colour wise, many Victorian living rooms were in fact splashed with vibrant shades. However, to recreate a realistic Victorian vision, as this couple did, avoiding pastel and luminous colours is a must. Indeed, in order to compliment the array of ornate dark wood and intricate brass designs, sticking to forest greens, ruby reds and rich purples is best.
All about the detail
The word embellishment is synonymous with Victorian design and nowhere more so than in the living room. Mass production of wallpaper made a huge difference to 19th century décor and much of what was loved then remains popular today. Anything with birds or other animals, anything with large blooms or anything with a recurring pattern can be considered Victorian in style … and much of this is preserved in the continuing popularity of the work of William Morris.
Victorians loved to fill their living rooms with interesting furniture, fascinating trinkets and conversation-starting curios leading to the exhibitionist appearance so revered by magazines of the day. This may not be ideal for modern living, but using older pieces or stoves from businesses like stoveworlduk, then accessorising with candle-filled glass jars can create a vintage feel without the clutter.
More of the above-mentioned clutter remains popular now as Victorians loved to overcrowd their living rooms with often overly plush and highly patterned furniture. And just as reproductions of designer furniture are popular today, Victorians also loved looking back to inspire leading designs of the day. Their very Victorian velvet and brocade upholstery was enhanced by hand-carved wooden details in Rococo and Gothic designs, celebrating the fashion of the past with what was then a modern twist: a style guide we continue to follow today.