The Art of Restoration

Victorian Homes - - Contents - By Tori Young­bauer

Get a peek at this unique twist on Vic­to­rian style.

“Ini­tially, I went through the restoration process al­most like a sculp­tor.”


In or­der to play off of the nat­u­ral color of the floor, Vi­vian added sev­eral types of wood to cre­ate in­tri­cate pat­terns, unique to each room.

VIC­TO­RIAN de­sign is all about lav­ish or­na­men­ta­tion, and un­der this um­brella, an eclec­tic re­vival of his­toric styles thrives. The style is a re­flec­tion of var­i­ous cul­tures and a cel­e­bra­tion of dec­o­rat­ing a space to its fullest po­ten­tial. Artist Vi­vian Reiss stayed true to this fun­da­men­tal idea of Vic­to­rian aes­thet­ics when she re­stored her beau­ti­ful his­toric home in Canada. But she didn’t just re­store: she added her unique style and artis­tic back­ground. The re­sult­ing blend­ing of art and his­tory is a master­piece.


Vi­vian sees the world through the eyes of an artist, and that was a ma­jor in­flu­ence when it came to de­sign­ing her home. As a child growing up in New York City, Vi­vian ex­plored many dif­fer­ent facets of art, in­clud­ing dance, cook­ing, gar­den­ing and dec­o­rat­ing. “I was in­ter­ested in mak­ing any­thing that I could,” Vi­vian says, “and I’ve con­tin­ued that through­out my en­tire life.” As a painter, Vi­vian’s work is color driven, in­tel­lec­tual and has a pres­ence that touches view­ers emo­tion­ally. With her artis­tic style honed in, it’s no won­der she trans­formed her home into a max­i­mal­ist space as ex­u­ber­ant as her paint­ings.


Home trends to­day lean to­ward minimalist, monochrome de­sign, but this was not the vision Vi­vian saw when she bought her 1883 Vic­to­rian. “There were 20 un­re­lated peo­ple liv­ing there when I first pur­chased the house,” Vi­vian says. “The doors were cov­ered in steel to stay up to fire code, and the whole place was very de­crepit.” Vi­vian, who has al­ways loved old houses, was ea­ger to breathe new life into a space that was long over­due for a makeover. “Ini­tially, I went through the restoration process al­most like a sculp­tor,” she says. “I be­gan on the top floor and started tak­ing down walls, mak­ing my way down.” Vi­vian moved through the house one room at a time, feel­ing out each space and us­ing her at­ten­tion to de­tail to de­ter­mine what each room needed. “It was a creative chal­lenge for me, and the process was not for­mu­laic,” she says. Her dance back­ground is a large in­flu­ence, both for her paint­ings and for di­rect­ing move­ment and emo­tion through­out her home. “A good ex­am­ple is the hall­way,” Vi­vian says. “The wall color is a brown­ish color, which I usu­ally wouldn’t choose for my­self.” Be­cause the room was orig­i­nally very dark and had an in­her­ent Vic­to­rian vibe, Vi­vian de­cided to em­pha­size that feel­ing with dark col­ors paired with bright ac­cents, as well as a restoration of the orig­i­nal stained glass win­dow to bring in nat­u­ral light. By us­ing her in­tu­ition as an artist, Vi­vian was able to de­sign each room to have its own dis­tinct voice and am­bi­ence.

By us­ing her in­tu­ition as an artist, Vi­vian was able to de­sign each room to have its own dis­tinct voice and am­bi­ence.

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