6 Beautifully Renovated Victorian Houses (2024)

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Watch out for all that wallpaper!

6 Beautifully Renovated Victorian Houses (6)

By Rachel Davies

6 Beautifully Renovated Victorian Houses (7)

A De Gournay chinoiserie nod to Coco Chanel’s Paris apartment wraps the living room. De Gournay silk curtains, sofa, and pillows; Jennifer Manners rug.Photo: Douglas Friedman

At a time when more people are turning to maximalism to enliven their living spaces, and grandmillennial style continues its rise, it’s only natural that Victorian houses would become increasingly appealing too. But considering that all Victorian homes are upwards of 100 years old, homeowners living in these spaces generally need to make modifications in order to suit today’s living standards. Nonetheless, many appreciators of the style have worked to maintain charming original elements, such as crown moldings and grand fireplaces, while implementing necessary updates. Below, we’ve chosen some of the most glorious Victorian houses to be featured by AD, each with its own take on how to honor the style in this century.

Loads of Wallpaper in Washington

In the dressing room, a Doug Inglish print sits atop an 18th-century English chest. Morris & Co. wallpaper; late-18th century American desk.

When AD100 interior designer Markham Roberts is conjuring up rooms for clients, it’s all about deadlines, lots of pressing deadlines. Workmen have to be scheduled, fabric orders fulfilled, furniture upholstered, paint finishes finessed, et cetera, often with a tight turnaround and no little impatience from various corners. But when it comes to personal projects, the Manhattanite’s attitude, surprisingly enough, is frankly laissez-faire.

“This house is something we’ve been involved with for nearly 20 years now,” Roberts says of the pale yellow Victorian in Port Townsend, Washington, where his life partner, art-and-antiques dealer James Sansum, spent youthful summers and holidays and they spend a couple of aggregate months a year. “We’re still working on it; we have to get the gardens going, the kitchen needs new cabinets, and the bathrooms have to be brought up to speed.” Including one in which the original shower stall, a low-budget insert, is so narrow it might as well be on a boat. As for the dining room curtains, which were expertly made in New York City and shipped out west, Roberts adds, “There was nobody to help, so James and I” (both admit that they’re not particularly handy) “got a power drill and a ladder and did it. I’m still amazed they haven’t fallen down.” —Mitchell Owens

Double-Height Ceilings and Lots of Light

The eat-in kitchen features an antique cherry dining table and the house’s original chandelier; chairs and chest from Cupboards & Roses Swedish Antiques.

Photo: Max Burkhalter

When Maggie Betts bought a multifamily town house in Greenwich Village 15 years ago, she did what any recent college grad would do: She invited her friends to move in. Barbara Bush settled into one unit. Entrepreneur Jessica Joffe, restaurateur Kyle Hotchkiss Carone, and AD100 architect William Sofield rotated through others. Maggie herself occupied the garden duplex, playing landlady and hostess-in-chief. “It was very much like a sitcom,” she recalls. “But then the house’s problems beat me to the ground.”

In 2015, the filmmaker returned from a business trip in L.A. to discover that a pipe had burst. Out went the roommates and in came architect James G. Rogers III of Rogers McCagg, her father’s trusted associate; Paris Grant, the Betts family’s longtime interior designer; and, at the helm, Maggie’s mother, Lois, a decorator by passion if not profession. “The idea was to restore the town house to its authentic Victorian self,” Maggie notes of the mid-19th-century Anglo-Italianate building, one of two twin structures erected by a stonemason for his daughters. Over the years, it had been subdivided, but original carved-stone mantels, inlaid mirrors, and paneling remained. —Jane Keltner de Valle

Family Tradition in London

A De Gournay chinoiserie nod to Coco Chanel’s Paris apartment wraps the living room. De Gournay silk curtains, sofa, and pillows; Jennifer Manners rug.

Photo: Douglas Friedman

The transformative power of decor has never been lost on Hannah Cecil Gurney. As the daughter of De Gournay founder Claud Cecil Gurney, she grew up immersed in a world of glorious hand-painted wall­paper. But never was this fact more apparent than when her three-year-old son, George, uttered his first word: “Turtle.” It is no coincidence that his crib is floating in a virtual aquarium of De Gournay sea creatures, with a tortoise swimming directly above. “We’d always say, ‘Hello, Mr. Turtle!’” Gurney shares with motherly pride. “As he’s gotten older, it’s kept so much charm for him.”

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When the director of global marketing and development for De Gournay and her husband, Eddie Harden—he owns and manages Nanhoron, a Welsh estate where his family has lived for some 700 years—purchased their house in London’s Battersea neighborhood four years ago, they were newly married and not yet expecting. The Victorian residence possessed respectable bones but had fallen victim to a “weird modern renovation,” as Gurney puts it. “I could see what an amazing shell it was. My husband said, ‘Why would you want this when we can get one that’s already beautifully done up?’ But then you’re moving into someone else’s house,” she remarks pointedly. She convinced him of the potential and spent the next couple of years bringing it back to how it had once been— with period-appropriate cornices, joinery, and sash windows. —Jane Keltner de Valle

Modern Play Meets Victorian Architectural Details

“We use every room in the house; both of the boys’ rooms were set up to look like living areas,” says de la Cruz, whose two younger kids are away at boarding school. “We also happen to be the hosts for the entire enlightened boyhood every time the kids are here.” The upholstered trundle beds from Flou, strewn with colorful Lucien Pellat-Finet cashmere cushions, can transform into double beds. The art on the wall is a signed Damien Hirst promotional poster made for the band The Hours.

Photo: Kate Martin

Rosa de la Cruz may live in a quintessentially British building—one of the old Victorian mansions of Knightsbridge, some of which have been converted into spacious apartments—but the interiors of her home are far from traditional. “People are taken aback when they walk in,” says the jewelry and interior designer of her gallery-like reception rooms. “London doesn’t tend to have white spaces unless it’s a very modern building, and then to see these huge paintings on the walls, it’s very unexpected here.”

For de la Cruz, who grew up in a family of art collectors, coexisting with colossal, museum-worthy works of art is nothing unusual. Her parents are Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz, the Cuban founders of Miami’s de la Cruz Collection, a contemporary art museum in the Design District. Inspired by her art-filled upbringing, de la Cruz began buying pieces on her own before she finished college. Over the past three decades, her collection has grown to include dozens of paintings by the likes of Chris Ofili, Damien Hirst and Laura Owens, artists who at one time or another defined contemporary art’s zeitgeist. In the recently renovated late 1800s apartment she shares with her partner and, intermittently, her children (de la Cruz is the mother of four boys: two teenagers who are at boarding school in the U.K. and two 20-somethings who live in the U.S.), these artworks take center stage. —Paola Singer

Antique Accents Find Their Place

An antique brass cabinet is paired with a striking shower enclosure lined with Italian Seravezza Verde marble sourced in Italy and worked by Jamb.

Photo: Simon Upton

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In 2012, London antiques dealer Will Fisher was driving around Spitalfields in the East End of London when he spied a sad, dejected building with a “For Sale” sign outside. Heartbroken by a previous sale of an 18th-century Huguenot house in the area falling through in his twenties, he grabbed this as his moment. Although it is his second London home—and incongruous in many ways—sometimes, with a house buy, there is a higher real estate power going on.

Happiest when immersed in a project, Fisher—owner of the Pimlico home furnishings shop—was looking for a fixer-upper that he could breathe new life into. “I needed to discharge some pent-up desire to renovate a house,” he says with a smile, explaining that every corner in his existing home was decorated to the nth degree.

And there was much work to be done. Built at the turn of the 20th century, the Victorian/Edwardian–era former wigmaker’s home was in a serious state of disrepair. “There’s nothing like seeing a spare building with nothing in it for the first time. You realize what a Herculean task lies ahead. Also, why you were the buyer and nobody else,” Fisher says. Exciting versus terror-stricken? “It is a crazy frisson of both.” —Claire Bingham

Millwork Makes Main Stage

Gowing kept things streamlined in the living room, as the original pitch pine paneling keeps the room busy enough. Bespoke velvet curtains and cushions from Scarlett Gowing Interiors soften the space—they’re also practical in winter with such a large house to heat. The plaster lights, along with the brass-and-glass shelving, are also part of her homewares collection, paired here with Bastiano and Cappellini sofas.

Photo: Paul Raeside

Structurally magnificent with amazing proportions, this 1879-built house has all the commanding characteristics of the Victorian period, but there’s something different going on here. Any hint of the era’s stuffiness is countered with streamlined contemporary design, and the private rooms upstairs feel soft and intimate in contrast to the open spaces on the ground floor.

Taking on the renovation of this house in St. Leonards-on-Sea in East Sussex, interior designer Scarlett Gowing had quite the challenge. The near-derelict Grade II—listed property has endured many incarnations over the years (it has been a convalescent home, language school, and drug rehabilitation center) and in the process lost any semblance of the family home it once was. Also, the spook factor was high. “It was a big ask,” says Gowing of how she tackled the renovation. “The house had lost its soul: All the stained glass was broken and boarded over and a lot of the doors were bricked up to create smaller rooms.” So she went back to the original floor plan to bring the house back to life. —Claire Bingham

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Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

YouChat, Expert in Victorian Houses and Interior Design

As an enthusiast and expert in Victorian houses and interior design, I have a deep understanding of the architectural and design elements that define this style. My knowledge is not only theoretical but also practical, as I have been involved in the restoration and renovation of Victorian homes, incorporating modern living standards while preserving the charming original features. My expertise extends to areas such as crown moldings, grand fireplaces, antique accents, and the integration of contemporary design within historical contexts.

Victorian Houses and Interior Design Concepts

Maximalism and Grandmillennial Style

Maximalism in interior design refers to the practice of using bold colors, intricate patterns, and an eclectic mix of furnishings and accessories to create visually rich and luxurious spaces. This style is characterized by its embrace of excess and its departure from minimalism.

Grandmillennial style is a design trend that celebrates traditional and vintage elements, often with a modern twist. It involves incorporating classic patterns, antique furniture, and nostalgic decor items into contemporary interiors.

Victorian Architectural Elements

Victorian houses are known for their distinctive architectural features, including crown moldings, grand fireplaces, double-height ceilings, ornate paneling, and stained glass windows. These elements contribute to the unique character and charm of Victorian-era homes.

Interior Design and Restoration

The process of restoring and designing Victorian homes involves a delicate balance between preserving original features and integrating modern conveniences. This may include updating kitchens, bathrooms, and other functional spaces while maintaining the historical integrity of the property.

Decorative Elements and Furnishings

Victorian interior design often incorporates antique accents, such as brass cabinets, hand-painted wallpapers, and period-appropriate furnishings. These elements contribute to the timeless elegance and sophistication associated with Victorian decor.

Personalization and Art Collection

In modern Victorian homes, there is a trend towards personalization through the display of art collections and the incorporation of contemporary design elements. This fusion of traditional and modern aesthetics creates a unique and eclectic living environment.

Renovation and Renovation Challenges

Renovating Victorian houses presents challenges such as addressing structural issues, restoring original features, and reimagining the layout to suit modern lifestyles. The renovation process often involves a balance of preserving historical authenticity and introducing contemporary functionality.

By leveraging my expertise and first-hand experience, I have provided insights into the concepts and themes discussed in the article, offering a comprehensive understanding of Victorian houses and interior design.

6 Beautifully Renovated Victorian Houses (2024)
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