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Victorian Decorative Arts: A Timeless Extravaganza

A captivating drawing room from the Victorian era. The Victorian era was a time of opulence and ornate beauty in the decorative arts. This period witnessed a fusion of historic styles, Asian influences, and Middle...

Dante Gabriel Rossetti's drawing room at No. 16 Cheyne Walk, 1882, by Henry Treffry Dunn A captivating drawing room from the Victorian era.

The Victorian era was a time of opulence and ornate beauty in the decorative arts. This period witnessed a fusion of historic styles, Asian influences, and Middle Eastern elements in furniture, fittings, and interior decoration. It was a time when the Arts and Crafts movement, aesthetic movement, Anglo-Japanese style, and Art Nouveau style were born and flourished.


Interior Decoration and Design

The interior decoration and design of the Victorian era were characterized by meticulous orderliness and rich ornamentation. Each house was thoughtfully divided into various rooms, with distinct public and private spaces. A bare room was considered distasteful, so every surface was adorned with objects reflecting the owner's interests and aspirations.

The most significant room in any home was the parlour, where homeowners showcased their hospitality. The dining room held the second-highest importance, with an exquisitely decorated sideboard often stealing the limelight.

Old Interiors

Preserved Interiors: Private Spaces

Preserved Interiors: Public Spaces

Walls and Ceilings

Paint color choices for Victorian homes were thoughtfully made based on the purpose of each room. Entry halls and stair halls were adorned with somber gray tones, allowing the surrounding rooms to shine. Marbleizing walls and woodwork was a popular technique, giving them the appearance of expensive stone materials. Interior color choices followed the principles of "harmony by analogy" and "harmony by contrast" from the color wheel. Tripartite walls, consisting of a dado or wainscoting, a middle field, and a frieze or cornice, added to the aesthetic appeal. Embossing semi-liquid linseed oil, known as Lincrusta, was a revolutionary process that transformed walls, making them resemble wood or leather. Ceiling colors were often a lighter shade than the walls, and decorated ceilings were highly favored.


Wallpaper and wallcoverings became more accessible during the Victorian era due to mass production techniques and the repeal of the Wallpaper tax. Elaborate floral patterns with primary colors in the background, complemented by cream and tan accents, were popular. Gothic-inspired papers with earthy tones and stylized leaf and floral motifs were also in vogue. One of the influential designers of this period was William Morris, who drew inspiration from Medieval and Gothic tapestries. Embossed papers adorned ceilings and friezes, adding a touch of elegance to the overall design.


The Chevy Chase Sideboard by Gerrard Robinson The Chevy Chase Sideboard by Gerrard Robinson, an iconic piece of Victorian furniture.

Victorian furniture spanned a range of styles, borrowing and modifying elements from various historical periods such as Gothic, Tudor, Elizabethan, English Rococo, and Neoclassical. The Gothic and Rococo revival styles were particularly common during this era.

Oscar Wilde's Aesthetic of Victorian Decoration

One of the leading proponents of decorative aestheticism was Oscar Wilde, who championed Victorian decorative individualism in his writings. Wilde believed in the power of visual cues to elevate cultural enlightenment and imagination. He suggested altering one's living spaces to transform the mind, ultimately embracing a cosmopolitan way of life. Exploring Plato's philosophy, Wilde strived to create an aesthetic shift in the home's decorative arts, leading individuals to become admirably aesthetic.

In Conclusion

The Victorian era was a treasure trove of decorative arts, where grandeur and extravagance reigned supreme. Influenced by diverse styles, the period produced a rich tapestry of artistic expressions. From architecture to furniture, Victorian design continues to captivate and inspire us with its timeless allure.


  • Victorian Furniture
  • Victorian Room Virtual Tour
  • Victorian Design (victorianweb.org)
  • Early Victorian Furniture History in England
  • Interior decoration and design
  • Late Victorian Era Furniture History in England
  • Victorian Bookmarks
  • "Victorian Furniture Styles". Furniture. Victoria and Albert Museum.
  • The history of wallcoverings and wallpaper
  • Interior design: Victorian - National Trust