1890s Home Decorating Styles

Karen Sweeny-Justice

The 1890s represented the last full decade of the Victorian era (1837 to 1901), and social changes were happening quickly. Homeowners decorated in dark colors and patterns with heavy furniture laden with knickknacks, anxious to keep up with their next-door neighbors. Re-creating an 1890s decorative look today does not have to be quite as heavy-handed.

Window Treatments

Victorian-style lamps and heavy drapery.

Victorian homeowners were keen on showing off their wealth and did so by purchasing extra fabric for window treatments that lay on the floor, creating a puddle of cloth with no real purpose. Windows themselves were often long and narrow. To create the puddled window treatment with drapes, measure from the top of the curtain rod to the floor and add 6 to 8 inches. Using a double curtain rod, hang lacy or sheer curtains on the inner rod and the drapes on the outer. Pull the drapes open halfway down the window frame and tie them back using heavy braided tassels. Fan the extra draping out across the floor. Puddling is not recommended for curtains or drapes that will be opened and closed frequently.

Wall Coverings

Dark rooms were favored by the Victorians; a couple coats of dark paint will help you achieve this 1890s look. Paint a large room first to make sure you can live with the color; the darker the color, the smaller the room will feel. Victorian decorators also used patterned wallpapers to add color. Whimsical designs by artists such as Walter Crane included cherubs and birds in colorful and busy prints, while William Morris designed papers based on nature. Many of these antique patterns are still available. If you prefer a more hands-on approach to wall art, use stencils and paint a faux wallpaper treatment onto the walls. A small entrance hall or guest bathroom is a good place to start before tackling a larger room.


The Victorians loved their knickknacks and felt a home was not finished until it was cluttered. Shelves and tables were often covered with runners, upon which were placed stuffed birds, wax flowers, china, mirrors, candles and trinket boxes. Place similar collectibles around your room, but don't try to keep them in groupings of like objects; you want to call attention to them.


Oversize furniture was a necessity to accommodate women's fashion in the Victorian era. Shop antique stores and look for furniture made with dark woods such as mahogany. Seat backs in rounded shapes will convey the era's feel; look for balloon-back chairs upholstered in dark velvet fabrics, caned chairs and love seats. Mix modern pieces into a Victorian room by reupholstering them to match antique pieces or draping them with dark-colored throws.