If you’re searching for a small home that looks and feels just as elegant and sophisticated as larger homes, Victorian-style construction could be your perfect fit. Not only will it help you save money, but it will also give you an authentic connection to history.
Victorian architecture tells a tale about its owners’ lifestyle. These homes showcase what people were seeking in a residence during that era, often featuring unique details not seen today.
Stick Victorians are a subcategory of Victorian architecture that was popular during the 1870s and 1880s. This style combines a hybrid of “Swiss cottage” folk houses from American plan books with shared traits of English Tudor and Gothic elements.
These homes have steeply pitched gable roofs, cross gables, and decorative trusses at the gable peak, overhanging eaves with exposed rafters, wood exterior walls with clapboards, rectangular windows, horizontal, vertical, or diagonal decorative wood trim stickwork, and porches with diagonal or curved braces and towers. They are influenced by half-timbered buildings from Medieval Germany and were pioneered by architect Richard Morris Hunt who shaped the Gilded Age in New York City.
The Stick idiom was a favorite among the brightest talents in the newly prominent architectural profession. The Emlen Physick House in Cape May, NJ is one of the finest examples.
In addition, the Stick idiom also has some very distinctive elements that are hard to find in other Victorian styles. They include:
The most obvious feature that sets the Stick idiom apart from the other Victorian-era styles is that Stick houses use a lot of wood in their construction. Wood siding (shingles or horizontal siding) is broken up by uniform patterns of wood (stick-work). This pattern of heavier wood, running horizontally, vertically, and sometimes diagonally, suggests an internal structure of posts and beams. The simulated beams are often seen in the steeply pitched gable roof, cross gables, and decorative trusses in the gable peak. They are most commonly seen in Victorian Stick homes. You can also see them in townhouses with the gable roof and in towers. Some of these towers are square or rectangular.
Folk Victorian homes are small, straightforward structures designed to resemble the more elaborate, high-end Victorian houses owned by wealthy individuals of their time. Like their more elaborate counterparts, these residences feature decorative trim around the exterior.
These homes are typically painted in bright pastels, though you may also come across some with more muted tones. Generally two stories tall, they typically feature a porch on the front facade as well.
One distinctive element of this style is its use of decorative woodwork. Thanks to railroad expansion and pattern books, mass-produced wooden features became widespread during this era.
Carpenters could easily add decorative accents to their houses, even in remote rural areas. Since these pre-fabricated trims and embellishments were machine produced, they could be quickly and cost-effectively shipped to any home.
This style of the house was widely popular in Western towns at the turn of the 20th century. It remains prevalent today, particularly along the Midwest and West Coast; however, it is less prevalent in deep South areas where families are more used to simpler design approaches.
Furthermore, mass production of these wood embellishments made them more cost-effective, making them accessible to do-it-yourselfers and less skilled professional builders alike. This allowed for the creation of more elaborate yet economical versions of classic Victorian houses.
Folk Victorian homes typically feature clapboard siding as the main exterior cladding, though the board and batten siding, shakes, shingles, or shapes can also be used to accent gables or other accent walls. Vinyl siding is often chosen for these houses due to its variety of colors that match perfectly with the look.
Gothic Revival is an architectural style derived from the European Middle Ages. While it’s usually associated with churches and historical buildings, residential homes were also constructed using this aesthetic.
These structures are distinguished by their steeply pitched roofs and large windows with pointed arches. Other notable features include soaring ceilings and flying buttresses that protrude outward from the exterior wall, supporting it a few feet off the ground.
This style of building was popular during the 18th and 19th centuries, with numerous architects advocating its use. At first, the Gothic Revival was seen as a suitable design choice for rural settings due to its intricate shapes and irregular forms that fit harmoniously into the surrounding landscape.
This style was a subversive take on Neo-classical orderliness that had become dominant in European architecture during this period. Early examples of this architectural revival included Horace Walpole’s country home Strawberry Hill and art critic John Ruskin’s Gothic designs.
Many Victorians viewed the Gothic Revival as an expression of their beliefs, uniting medieval concepts with Romantic ideals that were becoming increasingly popular at this time. These beliefs could be seen in various architectural works, such as governmental and educational buildings.
Architectural decorative details were inspired by Gothic architecture, such as pointed arches and intricate tracery. These elements were usually applied to windows and doorways but could also be seen on porches, gables, and bay windows.
To achieve a Victorian Gothic aesthetic, opt for bold, rich colors. Whether you opt for black or earth tones, there are plenty of ways to achieve this look.
The Italian Renaissance was a period of cultural development that occurred in Italy between 1300 and 1500. It marked an era when new ideas and perspectives emerged across various fields, culminating in humanism – an influential movement today.
This movement focused on the philosophy of man and his place in society, differing from earlier concepts that focused on God. Additionally, it brought about a change of perspective regarding social and political differences within Europe.
One of the major influences on Italian Renaissance thought was humanism, which promoted individual achievement across a variety of fields. This movement also expressed an eagerness to adapt and try out new ideas.
Another significant influence on the Italian Renaissance was the rise of powerful city-states. These wealthy communities were wealthy enough to support artists and other public figures, often acting as patrons for both religious and secular causes within their communities. Furthermore, these city-states encouraged artistic creations that could benefit their citizens.
As a result, the art and architecture of the Renaissance became increasingly prominent throughout Italy. The most influential city-states during this time were Florence, Rome, Venice, and Milan.
These city-states were especially blessed in terms of patronage for art, which encouraged creativity and an abundance of talented individuals. The Medici family, ruling over Florence at the time, was especially influential and funded many renowned artists’ works.
Italian Renaissance house designs are typically distinguished by hipped roofs with broad eaves and decorative brackets. Additionally, exterior walls clad in stucco or brick feature prominently, as do arch first-floor windows, doors, and porch openings.
The French Renaissance was a period of artistic and cultural development in France from the 15th to 17th centuries. It had an immense impact on design elements such as furniture, architecture, and music.
King Charles VII of France began this movement when he embarked on his war against Italy in 1494. Though he lost, he brought with him an appreciation of Renaissance art and culture that would later spread throughout France. Many castles in the Loire valley were constructed or renovated using this style, signaling an Italian influence that spread quickly throughout the country.
One of the most renowned examples is Chambord, a chateau built for Francis I between 1519 and 1547 by Italian architect Bernabei Domenico da Cortona which is considered to be the first great work of Renaissance architecture in France.
Many other Loire castles were also remodeled in the Renaissance style, providing stunning examples of how influential this movement was on architectural design. Notable examples include Chenonceaux, Azay le Rideau, and Valancay.
The French Renaissance not only had an impact on the arts but also on social structure. While nobility and aristocracy imported Italian architects and artists who were heavily influenced by this era, middle-class burghers continued to use their native Gothic designs.
Some burghers embraced Renaissance architecture because they perceived it to be more sophisticated than their Gothic predecessors, while others simply loved its look. This asymmetrical symmetry was considered more elegant than their earlier designs which were often found in tiny Victorian homes. While this style may not be commonplace in small victorian homes, it can be utilized when a house is intended to impress visitors or serve as a showpiece.
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