Decor Mash-Ups: Victorian + Contemporary

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If you’ve ever seen a Victorian decor, you know that it’s pretty busy, heavy with floral patterns, hanging fabrics and furniture coverings. (Hell, Victorians thought table legs–just as women’s legs–should be covered!) It’s definitely not trendy these days, and it might be difficult to find furniture and decor accessories outside of antique stores and discount fabric shops.

But here’s an idea for you: how about giving a contemporary twist to Victorian decor staples? After all, Victorians had a great sense of luxury and comfort. They knew how to furnish each room to its purpose while still giving it its own personality. And, most of all, they knew the power of a flower pattern.

Although nobody cares much about putting a lace covering on everything in sight, the Victorian style still has appeal more than a century later. However, clever decorators have updated it with contemporary trends to make it just right. Here are a few examples of successful Victorian and contemporary mash-ups.

It’s all about the flowers

You couldn’t find a traditional Victorian decor without flower patterns. It was the most basic requirements for a fashionable room. Even today, flower patterns are still used and popular. So why not update a Victorian style with contemporary flower patterns?

This design makes a clever nod to the ever-present Victorian flower. The bright carpet and painting on the wall are the major sources of flowers in this decor. Cushions also feature different flower patterns, and there are actual flowers here and there throughout the room. The shape of the furniture is definitely Victoria, but the colors and patterns are totally contemporary. I mean, I really covet that bright pink patterned love seat at the back!

Modern contrast

You can do more than simply update a pattern. You can also use a definitely more modern style that contrasts with some Victorian-inspired shapes.

The Victorian two-seater is framed (excuse the pun) with old, empty frames above it. A traditional Victorian room would have had an array of paintings and portraits, but the emptiness here is definitely contemporary. The transparent plastic table and the globe shape of the lamps are futuristic, and so is the painting on the right wall. This room is a fetching mix of old and new, of new ways to use old things.

Colors ahoy

Sometimes, designers rely on colors to indicate a different style. A different color palette can bring interest to otherwise monochromatic contemporary decors. Sometimes the effect is more traditional, but it still retains a touch of the modern.

This room, for example, doesn’t necessarily scream “Victorian” right away, but the color scheme is definitely from that era. The use of columns and window hangings also recalls the Victorian period. However, the black marble floor, the mirrored coffee table and the contemporary artwork adds a touch of modern to remind us of which century we actually live in. This space won’t suit everyone’s tastes (I find it a bit gaudy myself), but it’s another example of how to mix Victorian and contemporary.

Victorian Electric

Enough of living rooms. If you watch Downton Abbey, then maybe you enjoy the kitchen scenes just as much as I do. It’s fascinating how the kitchen becomes the focal point of the tension produced by technological innovation: the old cook who relies on time-honored methods vs. the new cook who wants to try the new electric kitchen gadgets to save time and energy. The old cook, rightly so, is worried that her job (basically cooking all day for a family of 4 adults, 2 children and guests, plus the staff) will disappear. The new cook makes a soufflé with the new egg-beater and gets compliments from the Dowager Countess.

But you can still have a nice Victoria kitchen… without having to spend your entire day cooking. It’s all about the space.

The central island surrounded by counters and open shelving would have been right at home in Downton–just without the fridge, the hutch or the gas stove. But Victorian cooks would recognize–and feel comfortable in–this spatial arrangement.

Whether you’re a total Brontë fan or just enjoy the shape of Victorian seating, there’s a way to bring 19th century England to your home while remembering that we still live in the 21st.

Your ideas about Victorian decor?

How would you update a Victorian decor in a contemporary context? Tell us all about it in the comments section of this post.

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Anabelle Bernard Fournier

Anabelle is a freelance writer, writing teacher and blogger. She spends a lot of time at home, so she likes to make sure that it's cozy and nice, especially in her reading nook. In her free time, Anabelle knits, walks and learns how to write stories.