Interior design: Victorian

If you spot dark, rich colours and bold prints among the interior design of a National Trust place you're visiting, chances are you could be looking at elements of Victorian style. Queen Victoria’s reign was so long – from 1837 to 1901 – that it is impossible to describe it as having a single style. The era saw a passion for using and combining many earlier styles in a greater diversity than ever before.

Travel to Japan and India influenced exotic design elements in the home. Mass production and affordable products allowed homeowners to fill their rooms with textiles and furniture. A reaction to this mass-production was the Arts and Crafts Movement, led by designers such as William Morris and influenced by medieval architecture. Here are some of the places in our care where you can see Victorian style:

Victorian features to look out for...

Victorian style at a glance incorporated: Gothic Revival architecture such as spires, buttresses, pointed arch door surrounds and windows and decorative ironwork; medieval influences including fleurs de lys, heraldic motifs and quatrefoils; rich dark colours such as ruby red, forest green, and dark blue; mass produced wallpapers including flock and damask styles and large bold prints of flowers and foliage; heavily carved, or plump, over-stuffed furniture, including button-back armchairs, sofas and ottomans; patterned, encaustic floor tiles and stained or etched glass; highly patterned fabrics or strongly-coloured velvets, festoon blinds and sumptuous window treatments; and ornate marble, slate or cast-iron fireplaces, inset with patterned tiles.

The Zodiac roundels on the Boudoir’s ceiling at Knightshayes Court, Devon
The Zodiac roundels on the ceiling in the Boudoir at Knightshayes Court National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Knightshayes Court, Devon

The exuberant style of William Burges was significantly tamed by his client at Knighthayes, so only some of his imaginative ideas remain. These include his stunning Library ceiling with gilded ‘jelly mould’ domes and the carved stonework in the main hall. His inventive scheme for a spectacular bedroom has also been recreated from his original designs.

The Attic Study at Carlyle's House, London
The Attic Study is complete with some of Carlyle’s manuscripts National Trust Images / Nadia Mackenzie

Carlyle's House, London

This Chelsea home of Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle and his wife Jane has interiors typical of a19th-century townhouse, including a cosy parlour, drawing-room with its original upholstered furniture and the attic study with his manuscripts and personal possessions.

A volunteer dressed as a Victorian cook baking in the kitchen at Cragside, Northumberland
Enjoy a taste of the Victorian times at Cragside National Trust Images / John Millar

Cragside, Northumberland

Cragside was built in the ‘Old English’ style by leading architect Norman Shaw in the 1860s. Owned by Victorian inventor, Lord Armstrong, it was the first house in the world to be lit by electricity derived from water power on his estate. Known as ‘the wonder of its age’ it is still filled with its original ingenious gadgets and labour-saving devices.

Disraeli memorabilia including medals at Hughenden Manor, Buckinghamshire
Visit Hughenden for a glimpse into the life of Benjamin Disraeli National Trust Images / Andreas von Einsiedel

Hughenden Manor, Buckinghamshire

The home of Victorian Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, it was remodelled in 1862 into a suitable country seat and was ‘Gothicised’ to include plaster vaults in the hall. The comfortable rooms with their Victorian decoration include the sitting-room, bedroom and study where he worked.

The Kitchen Scullery at Lanhydrock, Cornwall
Visit Lanhydrock and discover a sumptuous Victorian home National Trust Images / Andreas von Einsiedel

Lanhydrock, Cornwall

A major fire in the 19th century enabled the Parker-Robartes family to rebuild Lanhydrock in the 1880s into a sumptuous Victorian home. It's complete with a labyrinth of fascinating servants’ quarters, attic bedrooms and family rooms including billiard room, smoking room, ladies’ boudoir and drawing room.

Detail of the chevron design painted on a door at Red House, London
Red House is considered the birthplace of the Arts and Crafts movement National Trust Images / John Millar

Red House, Bexleyheath

The birthplace of the Arts and Crafts movement, this property was architect Philip Webb’s first commission for his friend, William Morris. It includes numerous original features such as fixed furniture designed by Morris and Webb as well as wall paintings and stained glass by Edward Burne-Jones.

The Morning Room at Standen, West Sussex
Standen has fine examples of Arts and Crafts decor - what will you find? National Trust Images / Andreas von Einsiedel

Standen, West Sussex

Philip Webb’s last commission, built for the Beale family in 1891, Standen is filled with William Morris wallpapers, ‘Morris and Co’ and other Arts and Crafts furniture, innovative light fittings by W.A.S. Benson and ceramics and accessories by William de Morgan. Some of the embroidered wall hangings were sewn by Margaret Beale and her daughters.

Visitors in the Library at Tyntesfield, Somerset
Admiring the Victorian decor in the Library at Tyntesfield National Trust Images / John Millar

Tyntesfield, Somerset

One of the last surviving Victorian estates in the country, Tyntesfield is a masterpiece of Gothic Revival style, bristling with turrets, towers and ecclesiastical details including the extravagantly-designed chapel. Many of the original wallpapers, carpets, fabrics and furniture have survived, all carefully preserved by four generations of the Gibbs family.

Design in other eras