Clas­sic Light­ing

Victorian Homes - - Contents -


Ar­chi­tec­tural ad­vances abounded dur­ing the pro­lific preVic­to­rian time­frame. Spencer-churchill de­tails the tran­si­tion from early to late Ge­or­gian de­sign. She also high­lights the work of pi­o­neer­ing Ge­or­gian ar­ti­sans such as Robert Adam, “the lead­ing ex­po­nent” of Neo­clas­si­cism. Chrono­log­i­cally, Vic­to­rian and Ge­or­gian time­frames be­gin to in­ter­sect around the turn of the 19th cen­tury, as the term Vic­to­rian of­ten ex­tends to the years pre­ced­ing and fol­low­ing Vic­to­ria’s reign. Thus, the first 30 years of the Vic­to­rian era (1800-1830) are also de­scribed as late Ge­or­gian, re­sult­ing in some over­lap.

One com­mon­al­ity be­tween late Ge­or­gian and early Vic­to­rian in­te­ri­ors is a force­ful color pal­ette. De­scrib­ing the grad­ual shift from un­der­stated color choices to more ex­pres­sive tones, Spencer-churchill writes, “There was lit­tle pan­el­ing on the walls,” in con­trast with early Ge­or­gian walling, which was of­ten elab­o­rately molded wood. Fur­ther­more, the walls “were painted in any of a va­ri­ety of fin­ishes and in­cor­po­rated strong, sharp col­ors such as acid yel­low and crim­son.” Vic­to­rian rooms, like­wise, would be painted in bold, al­beit deeper, hues.


Even new homes can ex­ude con­vinc­ing clas­sic el­e­gance. Spencer-churchill dis­plays a few homes which, de­spite ap­pear­ances, are mod­ern cre­ations, built in the Ge­or­gian style and dec­o­rated ac­cord­ingly. In one Las Ve­gas home, for in­stance, the architects used pil­lars or­na­men­tally, which would usu­ally sta­bi­lize the home. “The Tus­can col­umns in the huge hall of this Scot­tish house are not, in fact, struc­tural, but they vis­ually an­chor the large beam above them,” SpencerChurchill writes. As a re­sult, the pil­lars prove as foun­da­tional to the home’s ap­par­ent his­toric­ity as real col­umns to an au­then­tic Ge­or­gian model.

When it comes to adopt­ing an older de­sign for a build­ing’s ex­te­rior or in­te­rior, it is also im­por­tant to use real mod­els for in­spi­ra­tion. Look for con­crete ex­am­ples to em­u­late, in­stead of try­ing to work from a vague or overly-gen­eral con­cept. When Spencer-churchill worked on the Las Ve­gas build, the home­owner opted to repli­cate ex­ist­ing ar­chi­tec­ture. “The stair­case was in­spired by one that my client had seen in an orig­i­nal Ge­or­gian home,” Spencer-churchill writes. “It is an

ex­em­plary ex­am­ple of in­te­rior ar­chi­tec­ture and crafts­man­ship.” You don’t nec­es­sar­ily have to visit real Vic­to­rian build­ings for ref­er­ence, but it is a good idea to do your re­search, so you know ex­actly what you’re look­ing for.


Spencer-churchill also of­fers ad­vice for bring­ing old-fash­ioned homes into the present, while main­tain­ing their his­toric spir­its. For ex­am­ple, she rec­om­mends “add[ing] floor sock­ets in strate­gic po­si­tions.” That way, you can in­cor­po­rate the ease of elec­tric­ity, with­out dis­rupt­ing the pe­riod at­mos­phere. Af­ter all, peo­ple are less apt to no­tice out­lets on the floor than on the wall. Added bonus? Floor sock­ets pre­vent “trail­ing ca­bles.”

In clas­sic homes, kitchens tend to present a unique chal­lenge, par­tially due to their change in func­tion over the years, and par­tially due to the ad­vent of mod­ern ap­pli­ances. “Ge­or­gian kitchens were very much out of sight and out of mind,” Spencer-churchill writes. “To­day, of course, the kitchen has be­come the hub of the home and the pre­ferred venue for ca­sual fam­ily meals.” The dif­fi­culty is in “pro­duc[ing] some­thing time­less yet also er­gonom­i­cally ef­fi­cient, and bristling (un­ob­tru­sively) with mod­ern ap­pli­ances.”

In and out of the kitchen, Spencer-churchill works to achieve this goal. When pos­si­ble, she en­closes mod­ern fea­tures in wood pan­el­ing, care­fully match­ing the cover with the style and fur­nish­ings of the rest of the room. She cov­ers hall ra­di­a­tors “with a cas­ing to look like a piece of fur­ni­ture.” She cam­ou­flages TV sets by mak­ing an en­ter­tain­ment cab­i­net look like an old chest of draw­ers. Like­wise, she de­signed a Lon­don town­home’s me­dia room with “sur­round-sound speak­ers con­cealed within the built-in cab­i­nets.”

In ad­di­tion to mod­i­fy­ing fur­ni­ture to hide ap­pli­ances, Spencer-churchill also ex­per­i­ments with sur­face tex­tures. In or­der to tie the town­home’s hall­way to­gether from top to bot­tom, she mim­icked the wall pan­el­ing on the ceil­ing. The ceil­ing is, in fact, “painted with a trompe l’oeil fin­ish to look like plas­ter pan­els.” You may also opt to vary tex­tures to make a room ap­pear aged. As Spencer-churchill ex­plains, “A com­bi­na­tion of dif­fer­ent woods gives the im­pres­sion that [a] room has evolved slowly through time.”


Spencer-churchill also of­fers dec­o­rat­ing guide­lines for each space in the house. For ex­am­ple, she ad­vises that guest bed­rooms “should re­flect the gen­eral am­bi­ence of the house while not over­whelm­ing vis­i­tors with per­sonal de­tail.” Bath­rooms should re­main crisp and streamlined, with the in­tro­duc­tion of sinks, tubs and showers. “In or­der to give a bath­room a con­tem­po­rary cut­ting edge with­out go­ing too far, it is pos­si­ble to find or to com­mis­sion bath­room fixtures that are to­tally clas­sic or clean-cut,” she writes. “Free-stand­ing pieces are of­ten a good choice, as they tend to be more sculp­tural than built-ins.”

The teenager’s bed­room should be “nei­ther child­ish nor too grown-up.” Af­ter all, teenagers “need a space to ex­press their own per­son­al­i­ties

Chrono­log­i­cally, Vic­to­rian and Ge­or­gian time­frames be­gin to in­ter­sect around the turn of the 19th cen­tury.

and, while they of­ten don’t know what they want, they usu­ally know what they don’t want.” Sim­i­larly, chil­dren’s rooms should last the test of time, while em­brac­ing imag­i­na­tive el­e­ments. “Chil­dren’s rooms should be spe­cial,” SpencerChurchill writes, “a bit mag­i­cal, with­out be­ing too ob­vi­ously baby­ish or driven by a theme that the child (never mind the parents) will quickly tire of.”


When it comes to choos­ing your fur­ni­ture, don’t be afraid to com­bine re­pro­duc­tion pieces with true an­tiques. As Spencer-churchill notes, “Items such as cof­fee ta­bles are, of course, im­pos­si­ble to find as gen­uine an­tique pieces.” Like­wise, “find­ing gen­uine an­tique bed­side com­modes is of­ten dif­fi­cult.”

Thank­fully, in some cases, it is pos­si­ble to fur­nish a par­tial set, with re­pro­duc­tions com­plet­ing the col­lec­tion. “Oc­ca­sion­ally we may find a small set of suit­able orig­i­nal [ma­hogany] chairs in the right style,” Spencer-churchill writes, “but in­vari­ably there are never enough so we will have more copied to make up the re­quired num­ber.” Re­pro­duc­ing old fur­ni­ture is not a re­cent in­no­va­tion. In the 19th cen­tury, for in­stance, French de­sign­ers repli­cated 18th cen­tury fau­teuils, or open arm­chairs. Like­wise, ar­chi­tec­tural re­vivals through­out his­tory have re­peat­edly re­birthed past trends.

With its el­e­gant ar­ray of dishes, this sim­ply fur­nished din­ing ta­ble is, aptly enough, fit for a re­gent. Sur­round­ing the ta­ble, the paint­ing, grand­fa­ther clock and floor-length cur­tains com­plete the stylish space.

Dream of cen­turies gone by in this de­light­fully his­toric guest room, fur­nished with a tra­di­tional canopy bed and lovely clas­sic paint­ings.

With a lit­tle fore­thought, it is very pos­si­ble to keep mod­ern con­ve­niences in clas­sic homes. This gor­geous pe­riod bed­room con­ceals a tele­vi­sion, tucked neatly into the chest at the foot of the bed.

Ge­or­gian Style and De­sign for Con­tem­po­rary Liv­ing by Hen­ri­etta Spencer-churchill, pub­lished by CICO Books, © 2018; ry­lan­dand­

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