Period Design – My Love Affair with a Victorian Property

I am incredibly passionate about period properties. The ornate architecture, intricate detailing and elegant proportions were built to be admired and have certainly stood the test of time. The British Victorian style is a very broad term that is generally used to refer to architectural and interior characteristics from the latter period of Queen Victoria’s reign, from 1837 to 1901.

Last year I had the pleasure of designing a stunning property in Derbyshire, constructed circa 1837 and boasting many characteristics associated with a classical Victorian villa. The brief was to create a contemporary living space whilst remaining sympathetic to the period architecture. It was important to design a room that wouldn’t date quickly. Using a predominantly neutral scheme is a great way of ensuring you won’t get bored of key pieces. Smaller items, such as accessories and soft furnishing are less expensive to replace and can therefore be updated easier.

I totally immersed myself into the design of the living room and took time to fully understand the client’s requirements before I got to work. When designing any property, I don’t suggest anything without considering the functionality and practicality first and foremost. I had previously designed other family living areas within the home so the ultimate requirement was to create a formal living space for the grown ups to enjoy!

By juxtaposing key elements of period architecture with simplified, contemporary design, the overall look is sophisticated and timeless. here’s a little more detail on the key features and how to achieve the look…

Window Treatments

Bay windows were almost an essential feature of most British Victorian houses. They allow much more natural light, however traditionally the openings would be reduced by heavy curtains. I ultimately wanted to enhance the original details and maximise the natural light entering the room without compromising on privacy. Cafe style shutters were the perfect option as they’re stylish, practical and they enhance the existing windows and intricate cornice details.


Appearing in most rooms, fireplaces were an essential feature of the Victorian home and still are to this day. They traditionally consisted of two main parts; the cast-iron grate and a wood, slate or marble surround.

I had the privilege of working with the existing, marble surround. The soft lilac tones ultimately determined the overall colour scheme. A large mirror has been placed over the mantel to bounce light across the room, adding a sense of space.

Colour Palette & Soft Furnishings

Victorian interior design colours were limited as chemical processes during this time were still developing. Generally colours were rich and dark, such as ruby rebs and forest greens. Schemes were often highlighted with gold detailing for the ultimate indulgence. Fabrics were ornate with an abundance of florals and decorative damasks.

Colour and texture had an important role to play in creating a contemporary feel within the space. The room has a warm and neutral palette with subtle touches of colour reflected in the furniture, soft furnishings, art and accessories. The floral cushions are bespoke by Just Living Interiors and show a subtle appreciation to the Victorian period.


Restraint is certainly not part of Victorian interior design and the more opulent, crowded and accessorised the better. To create a contemporary feel requires less indulgence and an element of simplicity. The spatial layout was designed with a thorough understanding of the client and how they wanted to use the space.

The armchairs and sofa were bespoke using fabrics from Just Living to compliment the colour palette and textural balance in the room.


I designed the lighting scheme during the initial stages of the process to incorporate task, mood and feature lighting. The wall lights were re-positioned either side of the chimney breast to reflect the typical asymmetrical style of the Victorian period whilst the table lamps were positioned either side of the sofa, also providing a sense of balance and adding the perfect finishing touch.

The stunning chandelier is the ultimate pièce de résistance. The elaborate and intricate detailing provides the ultimate wow factor when entering the room.

Walls & Ceilings

Traditionally, it was common practise for the internal walls to be made up of three elements: floor to dado, dado to picture rail or architrave level and architrave to ceiling, including the cornice. Halls and studies were often panelled dark wood and would form the back drop to impressive oil paintings.

I was keen to incorporate panelling into the scheme from the outset as I felt it naturally echoed the existing architectural style whilst adding an intentional formality to the space. The scale and style was sensitively designed with clean lines and simplicity to ensure a contemporary feel.

The stunning stag triptych adds the ultimate statement finishing touch to the walls.

High ceilings are associated with Victorian properties and traditionally offered plasterers great opportunities to demonstrate their skills with incredibly intricate mouldings. I wanted to reinstate a ceiling rose to add additional detail to the ceiling. When selecting a ceiling rose, it’s important you choose a style that compliments the period of the property and ensure the size of the rose is correct for your chosen light fitting.

For more information on how Just Living Interiors sensitively restore your period property, please contact us.

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