Whether you call it “Modern Victorian,” “New Victorian,” “Victorian Modern,” or even the more fanciful “Nouveau Victorian,” this popular design trend is not your great-grandmother’s decorating style.
While the term “Victorian style,” might conjure up images of the white ruffled blouses, tightly cinched corsets, and voluminous skirts popular during Queen Victoria’s reign, the period was also associated with luxe fabrics such as velvet, silk, lace, damask, and brocade on upholstery, drapery, and fringed lampshades.
After nearly a decade of streamlined midcentury modern home décor that emphasizes function over fashion – followed by one year of staying at home nonstop during the pandemic – many people are putting the money they didn’t spend on vacations and entertainment toward renovation or a home décor refresh that features luxury materials and more opulent looks.
While you might not be thinking, “I want to try something Victorian in feel,” the trends we’re seeing in apparel fashion (i.e. the return of puffy outerwear, quilted stitching, fringe and lace trims, bold floral patterns, and colorful prints on tailored jackets) recall styles rooted in the Victorian era. Now those same touches are showing up in home décor through whimsical wallpaper, tufted furniture, dual upholstery colors, and an artful mix of vintage hardware along with both modern and classic lighting fixtures.
Lighting and home décor manufacturers are recognizing this popular trend and introducing new products that give a nod to classic Victorian motifs, but with an updated edge. For example, the classic club chair or simple sofa shape is modernized with subtle tufting for visual interest. Fringe on lighting fixtures not only evokes a Victorian aesthetic, but also lends a Boho vibe that can suit a variety of interiors.
“If you think about classic Victorian design, every surface in the room – from ceiling to drapery to floors and walls – had a pattern. It was a cacophony of visuals,” explains lighting expert Jeff Dross, Principal at Lighting by Jeffrey in Cleveland. “This new version – what I call Nouveau Victorian – is more of a balance. For example, you might have a heavily tufted sofa, but the floor covering will be plain.”
One hallmark of the Victorian Age was the use of trim molding around ceilings as baseboards and decorative ceiling medallions. “What interior designers are doing now is using select elements, say an eight-panel door as a feature, instead of creating an entire room filled with trim,” Dross notes. Instead of wallpaper in a heavily decorated room (which would have been the classic Victorian way), the modern version would have plain painted walls as a counterbalance to all of the other patterns.
Today’s design goal is to balance the room. “Even the popular Farmhouse style is a balance between old and new, dark and light,” Dross explains. If there is busy wallpaper or upholstery in the room, go for a more streamlined chandelier shape that doesn’t compete for visual attention. Conversely, if the chandelier is in an Old World crystal antique style, the rest of the furnishings would be more muted so that the lighting fixture becomes the focal point.
The vast popularity of period TV shows set in past eras such as and Bridgerton and Downton Abbey have whetted the appetite for homeowners to recreate opulent environments using color in deep jewel tones, touchable luxe elements such as velvet and fringe on furniture, ornately framed mirrors, and bold patterns using either wallpaper or large artwork on walls.
Modern Victorian is about pushing the envelope in style and color without going over the top. While the style is a bit more theatrical and visually dramatic than the living spaces most of us grew up with, it provides hints of glamour and luxury that hold tremendous appeal for today’s modern homeowner.
Here are a few ways to bring Modern Victorian style and charm to your home:
- Arteriors Laura Kirar table lamp
- Hinkley Mara pendant
- Arteriors Yale sconce
- Quorum Madeleine bath light
- Currey & Company Zara pendant
- Metropolitan Victoria Park sconce
- Hudson Valley Orchard Park pendant
- Uttermost Dazzling Floral art
- Cyan Design Flowers and Flames candleholder
- Uttermost Arlette chair
- Cyan Design Sultry chair
- Cyan Design Charcroft mirror