Upper Class Victorian Homes
by Rachel Romanski
The Victorian era was a time of ornate decorum, and grandiose homes for the upper classes. Wealth was not to be concealed, but displayed in all aspects possible, most importantly in the home. The structure of an upper class home often had at least a few levels. The top and bottom floors, or basement and attic, generally reserved for the servants of the household. Food preparation, and laundry activities were common of the basements, whereas the attic often served as housing for those that tended the household. Beyond these reserved spaces however, the splendor of wealth could be found in every room, on every wall, of every floor.
The credo of the time could appropriately be stated as "if you got it, flaunt it," as the upper classes most assuredly did. Expensive floral carpets, lavish furniture, and heavy curtains were accents of almost every upper class home. According to the Bytown Museum, "A lack of clutter was to be considered "in bad taste." Consequently, the parlours and hallways were often littered with any number of pictures, mirrors, tables, bookcases, etc. The walls were decorated with as many pictures and mirrors as it could hold. Mahogany was often a staple in the upper class homes, other fineries included velvet, leather, and satin. There was also an abundance of color and wallpaper. During the first half of the Victorian era, "walls were usually light colors... the second half of the period gave way to much more vibrant rich colors," as a theory developed that "dark, rich colors enhanced the importance of a room" ("Interior Design"). Floral print was a popular choice for wallpaper. Many rugs had floral designs as well, but Aubusson and Savonnaire types were also popular. The tapestries were typically made of heavy fabrics, and coincided with the dark colors of the other furnishings. Of all the rooms in the house, the office was the least decorated, being the masculine place of business, but even then, the upper class could be counted on to have the finest desks and bookcases.
The bedrooms were decorated much in the same fashion as the rest of the house, with subtle changes depending on the sex of the occupant. Boys had more utilitarian rooms, with less frivolous items, whereas girls rooms were often adorned with lots of hand carved and painted furniture. (As crafts were seen as a woman's preoccupation.) The four-post canopy bed was popular for both sexes. The drawing room was considered a feminine aspect as well, and would contain draperies and carved furniture similar to what was seen in a female bedroom. Many homes would have a porch or veranda, with furniture to enable the occupants to take their tea outdoors.
There were grand staircases,
stately dinner tables, and Carriage houses (the olden day garages) to keep the
horses. Only the upper class could afford the new advancements in plumbing,
which meant running water and indoor bathrooms, usually extensively decorated
The upper class Victorians lived like royalty, sparing no expense in the decorum of the home. Among the material items that depicted wealth and power, the home was the greatest symbol. Your status was often shown by your material possessions of which the home was the largest, thus it was to be exploited to the fullest degree.
Helberg, Kristin. "The Victorian Coloring Book." Dover publishers, 1980.
"Interior Design." Victorian Station, 2001. <http://www.victorianstation.com/inter.htm>.
"Manchester Local Image Collection." Manchester City Council, 2004. <http://www.manchester.gov.uk>.
"Park McCullough: Photo Album." Park McCullough House Association, 2004. <http://www.parkmccullough.org>.
"Victorian Homes: Was There Much Difference Between the Rich and Poor Homes?" The National Archives Learning Curve, 2000. <http://www.centerforhistory.org>.
"Victorian Parlour Exhibit." The Bytown Museum, 2004. <http://bytownmuseum.com/victorian-parlour.html>