Victorian Style Homes
Are You Ready To Remodel Your Victorian?
Your Victorian style home was a beautiful adventure when you toured it with your Realtor. You signed papers, moved in, laughed over fitting your furniture into the odd-shaped spaces, and learned to duck on your way downstairs so you would stop bumping your head on that beam. Over time you got rid of some of your ill-fitting furniture, added some extra lamps, resigned yourself to using the kitchen table to prep your meals while cooking, and pinned countless hacks on making your space look bigger. It might be time for a remodel.
But, Where To Start?
This is a good time to make some lists. You’ll need to evaluate your highest priorities and figure out what areas are the most troublesome to you. Are there inefficient spaces that make daily tasks take longer than they should? Are there dangerous areas you have to warn guests to stay away from? Is there a room that won’t fit your standard-sized furniture no matter what crazy configuration you try out?
Stick a list to your refrigerator for a week and as you go about your days make notes about anything you’re reminded of in your home that you wish were different. It might take the whole week to remember you’ve been subconsciously avoiding the left side of the stairs or that you have to duck to get in and out of your claw-foot tub. Number these annoyances in order of priority and you have a good starting point.
What To Keep?
The biggest fears when remodeling a Victorian style home is that you might remove some of its historical significance and/or charm. To retain as much of the historic significance and charm as possible, work closely with your contractors and try to reuse existing materials.
Keep the intricately designed medallions and brackets; bring them to a woodworker, like The Gingerbread Man in Placerville, to replicate pieces that are falling apart. Try to keep or replicate distinctive wood carvings and stencil-work unique to your home as well. If you have an original claw foot bathtub with crumbling porcelain, instead of throwing it out, have it reglazed.
If you’re going to add-on to your Victorian home, keep the original structure intact whenever possible. You want to try to be sure that any future traditionalist homebuyers would be able to restore the home back to its original glory.
Some Ideas For Updating Your Victorian Home
Create More Space
Some things to keep in mind when remodeling your Victorian home is the original layout. If you have a kitchen that is cramped with minimal counter space, you might try to keep the original layout of the kitchen (i.e.: typical and useful inward-oriented kitchen) and just expand it by moving a doorway or changing/adding hanging cabinets.
Often the rooms in Victorian style homes are so inconveniently odd-shaped and small that it’s hard to find spots for furniture that makes sense. When this is the case you might consider opening up your floor plan. Be aware though-the builders of the 19th and early 20th centuries didn’t have the capacity to build long expanses of building on upper levels without utilizing load-bearing walls. Because of this, many inner walls in Victorian style houses cannot be removed without causing the floor above to sag. Luckily there are some ways you can still open up a load-bearing wall:
- You can remove just a door and frame in the doorway for a more open feel.
- You can have a contractor cut an opening in the wall for a pass-through.
- Usually the contractor can remove the wall and support the floor above with an archway or decorative columns.
- Just remove a partial wall.
If you feel like you don’t have enough space for storage you can add storage by converting an under-the-stairs area into a closet. Gain square footage by building shelves and bookcases into the wall around windows and doors instead of using standing shelving units.
Create The Illusion Of More Space
Along the same lines of opening up a room, there are some tricks you can use to make the room feel lighter and brighter and thus larger and open. Painting a small dark space with whites and lighter neutral paints will help, as will decorating vertically, furnishing with daintier pieces, and painting your lighter ceiling color several inches lower onto the top of the walls so the ceiling feels bigger.
Work With What You’ve Got
If your Victorian Style Home was already added on to and the new addition is jarringly different from the rest of the house, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to remodel it. Sometimes you can get away with just continuing the same flooring as the rest of the house into the room, keep the décor and paint colors similar, and add some similar pieces as are throughout the rest of the house where possible such as molding, brackets, and stenciling motifs.
Preserve The Exterior
Victorian style homes were usually built with fanciful spindle work, gingerbread, brackets…etc… If yours is still intact, see what can be done to preserve it while you remodel and to restore it to its original beauty. If the façade of your home has been damaged or removed over the years and you don’t have enough of it to determine the original look, you can always take cues from neighboring homes. Chances are they are styled similarly.
Talk To A Contractor
A good contractor will be able to guide you toward the wisest changes for your home. Discuss your needs, wishes, and worries with them and bring your list along so that you get the most out of your remodel. Abby Palmer, at (530) 391-3268, is a great local Contractor for El Dorado County. Tell him I said “Hi!”
Stay tuned and follow along for more information and inspiration from this Victorian Style Home blog series! Give me, John Conca, a call at (530) 306-3494, to discuss your real estate options.
Need A Victorian Home Reality Check?
Victorian style homes offer romantic allure, but unfortunately, living in them can be more of a comedic adventure than a romance. Appreciating the beauty and visual interest of Victorian homes is easy and living in a historic building does have its appeal. Depending on the level of care put into the home and the level of desire for comfort, Victorian style homes can prove to be much more work than you’d expect. Even the most devout neo-Victorian may find themselves pining for 21st century comfort and ease.
Sometimes built with novel features such as dumb waiters and brightly colored, intricate gingerbread, Victorian style homes are eye-catching and tend to launch one’s imagination. Victorian style home attributes do not begin and end here, but isn’t that what pulls the eye and heart toward this style? They’re beautiful, old, have captivating details, wonderous charm…what’s not to love?
- Victorian style homes may fall victim to aging which can make them drafty, musty, and creaky.
- They are commonly known to have extremely odd floor plans which feel like a labyrinth.
- Victorians often offer too much space where it’s not needed and too little where it is.
- Staircases can be dangerously steep.
- Doorways and hallways can be extra narrow.
- Kitchens can be tight-built for servants.
- The wiring can be less than safe.
Since home buying is such an emotional endeavor for most people, buyers will often pay more money than appropriate for the status of the uncommon. However, that applies equally to buying price and selling price.
Follow The Series
I’m putting together a Victorian style home blog series. For the next month and a half or so I’ll be posting about Victorian style homes; how to live in them, how to update them for modern comfort, how to get away with adding Victorian style and Victorian practicality to your current non-Victorian style home, and some examples of all instances for inspiration. If you think of any other Victorian-style-home related posts you’d like to read about, please let me know and I’ll do my best to fit it in.
If you want to follow along with this blog series, click the “follow me” button on the upper right. Search properties on my website-here are the Eldorado County , but you can give me, John Conca, a call at 530-306-3494 if you want to discuss your real estate options or if you have any questions.