Restoration or Renovation of a 1800s Home

In this blog I have featured a beautifully Victorian Italianate style home. The chimney, bracketed eaves, four paneled front door, decorative iron lacework, rendered walls and iron roofing typical of the era.

Image via View on Design blog

Interior Design

The interior of the home has been completely brought up to date with smart contemporary features. Gone are the classical mouldings of elaborate ceiling roses and plastered cornices. Picture and dado rails have also not been replaced.

Renovation or Restoration

When working with period homes the question is whether to renovate or to do an extensive restoration. Restoration is the process of returning the building as nearly as possible to an earlier time in history; the exterior of the home featured in this blog is an example of this. Renovation is about renewing a building without too much concern for how the building was originally; the interior design of the home featured in this blog is an example of this. I have always preferred modern contemporary styles of architecture and interior design so I really like the interior design of this home. However I have come to a greater appreciation of older styles over the years. I wonder if the beautifully crafted classical mouldings could have been restored. Or maybe even one room could be recreated as a salute to the home's Victorian origins. It’s just a thought.

Image via View on Design blog

If the interior of this home was to be restored to its former glory and interior decorated and furnished as it was originally here are some of the things the restorer would need to know.

Victorian Interior Decoration was Ornate

Victorian interiors were ornate with exotic themes and revivals of styles from earlier periods. Furniture, rugs, drapes and accessories were highly decorated. In Australia the Victoria era was divided into three styles, Gothic Revival (1840 -1888), Victorian Italianate (1840, 1850, 1880, 1890) and The Late Victorian Boom Style (1870 - 1890). Colors used during the Victorian varied; the early Victorian era colors were bright and daring. Darker muted browns, olive greens and mauves became fashionable in the mid to late Victorian era. These colors were considered more elegant, mature and refined.


Color board created by Rosena on

Victorian Interior Design was Eclectic mix of styles

Furniture was an eclectic mix of styles for example, Chippendale, Jacobean, Adam, Sheraton and Hepplewhite. The new designs; balloon and spoon backed chairs became popular. Sideboards with broken pediments, chiffoniers, bookcases and cabinets in large sizes filled the rooms.  The timbers used were mahogany, cedar and rosewood. Upholstery was opulent with deep cushioned seats, thick and bulging. Materials used were colorfully woven patterns and woven black horsehair. Leather was also popular for men’s rooms. Furniture was not only massive but had excessive ornamentation.


Timber, marble, carpet, oriental rugs and Linoleum floors

Oriental rugs and wall to wall carpets were available in leaf, flower, arabesques and scroll patterns. Linoleum a new material for floors was produced in patterns similar to the carpets.

Floors were often covered in parquet patterned timbers, marble and colored patterned tiles. Wallpaper and borders in geometric, floral, oriental, scenic or of architectural designs of Greek key and egg and dart motifs were used. Walls were often divided into three with picture and dado rails. Strong colored floral patterns, diamond, medieval and large leaf motifs were most popular.

Image via View on Design blog

Rich velvet, silks, wool, cotton, damask, chintz, dimity and muslin fabrics

Fabrics had colourful patterns and were printed in large floral designs. Fringes, braiding and tassels were added to curtains. Pelmets or valances and curtains in velvet and elaborate silks were placed over sheer curtains of figured muslin or cotton lace.  Venetian and rollers blinds were also used for window treatments

Color board created by Rosena on

Venetian blinds, pelmets, fringes and braiding for windows  

New materials were also introduced bamboo or imitation bamboo, wicker furniture woven from rattan. The Austrian Thonet brothers designed and built the ‘Bentwood Chair’. This chair is made from thin strips of solid timber bent into curved forms. It is strong yet light and inexpensive and is still very popular. Plywood was also developed in Europe at this time. It was less costly than solid timber and is made up of layers of thin wood veneer making it less likely to warp.

Image via View on Design blog

Bamboo, Wicker and Iron and Brass Beds

Other materials synonymous with the era; iron and brass tubing used for bed frames, sofa frames, and tables used for the first time. Iron could be used to create items of elaborate designs; similar to the lace iron work on the front veranda of the Prahran house. Iron items were popular as they were much cheaper.

Color board created by Rosena on

Toward the end of the Victorian era bathrooms with flushing toilets, baths and basins were installed. Kitchens had stoves of cast iron. Oil lamps were the common source of light. Gas chandeliers of brass and crystal were popular. Electric light bulbs, then the electric fan followed in the late 1800’s.

Image via View on Design blog

The beautiful house featured in this blog is situated in Prahran a suburb of Melbourne. The images are via the View on Design blog. I have added a PDF of a Power Point Presentation with more examples of colors used during the different Victoria eras. It is important to note the different eras overlapped and the earlier styles and colors were used in later eras.

Image via View on Design blog


Author: Rosena MacFadzean for – concept creation online

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