A well equipped Victorian kitchen should have a pot board or shelf between the legs of the table. Often equipment also hung on rack above. If possible, a marble topped table for rolling pastry should be included.
Kitchen dressers, or as we would call them in America today, cabinets, were usually built in to the walls of the room or fitted into an alcove. In England they were often painted chocolate brown or bottle green.

Plasterwork was expensive well into the 1700’s, but by the Victorian era it had become the cheapest most reliable finish. Wooden paneling had become a status symbol, and if one could not afford the real thing, one could simulate it with paint effects or anaglyptic paper embossed with wood-grain patterns. The full height paneling of the gothic revival
period was rare for most of the 19th c., because it made the room so dark. Towards the end of the century, with the introduction of electric light, the very wealthy could and did have oak paneling.
The Queen Anne revival introduced a new kind of paneling that was often painted off-white to complement bright chintzes and William Morris papers. They were the smallish
square panels that ran ¾ up the wall with a display rail on top. This was first done in Britain, America lagged behind in returning to painted woodwork.

The ideal for woodwork was the authoritative oak, but since it was expensive cheaper woods were often grained to look like it. Doors were often grained or stenciled to imitate marquetry. Upstairs doors would not be grained.

For door and window trims and other interior woodwork, white pine was often recommended by architects because it was the cheapest. Quoting a source from 1884: “It may be stained, if too light the transparent stains merely darken the wood and do not conceal the natural grain. Under no circumstances try to imitate oak or walnut by graining. Such shams deceive no one and are in the worst taste. If we use paint for interior work let us use it frankly, carefully selecting the color, and avoiding a shiny surface, a flatted or dull finish being preferable“.

Another source, published the same year declared; ‘The panels of doors, etc., may be tinted to give a good effect, It is fashionable just now to lay on a pale French gray to the principal parts of the woodwork, and then make the panels a shade or two darker‘.

I thought it interesting that several books noted that a bedroom should have space for a bed, so that it need not be placed in front of a window or a closet, which leaves one to believe this must have been a not unusual condition.


The final quarter of the 19th c was the era of the wide front or side porch, called in those days, a veranda, and it was regarded as a “particular American feature”

From a mid 1880’s source….
“……Naturally the more expensive houses were the first to get the benefit of the architectural inspiration drawn largely from England. But now that English gables and dormers have spread so widely, now that we realize the beauty of our own colonial architecture, and that the Queen Anne craze is subsiding, so that only its best features remain, the less ambitious dwellings must not be left to the mercy of those builders whose ideas of beauty are limited to scroll-saw brackets and French roofs. ……”

“We have discovered that considerations of cleanliness do not require us to paint our houses white, which, even with the addition of green shutters, is hardly satisfactory. “

Writers had been criticizing the monotony of white houses with green shutters, or blinds, for the past 30 years. They would continue to do so for another 30, during which time householders continued painting their houses white with green shutters.

The Gothic style was more correctly known as Pointed, and the Greek was also called Horizontal, though a source from the day pointed out that the American house was built more in the Roman style than the Greek. Moreover, the Italianate style had subcategories like Tuscan and Venetian. During this period of architectural history people were also building in the Colonial, or more properly known, Georgian, the Queen Anne and in something that was referred to in several books as the American style. Just quite what the American style was has eluded me.

In a book published in 1908, the author looked back with modern eyes at the styles of just a few years past.
“The houses of 1880-1900 had only portholes punched through the side of the house wherever there seemed to be a chance to destroy a restful space, and these holes were sometimes accentuated by making all the sash lines invisible from the outside by painting them in dark colors.”

I’ve enjoyed the writings of a noted 19th c American architect, E.C.Gardner.
From 1875

. You may have learned that life is a succession of compromises. Building in New England certainly is. No sooner do we get nicely fortified with furnaces, storm-porches, double windows, and forty tons of anthracite, than June bursts upon us with ninety degrees in the shade. Then how we despise our contrivances for keeping warm, and bless the ice-man! We wish the house was all piazza, and if it were not for burglars and mosquitoes, would abjure walls and roof and live in the open air. Just here is our dilemma. We go "from Greenland's icy mountains to India's coral strands" and back again every twelve months, whether we will or no, and are obliged to live in the same house through it all. It's really a desperate matter. I've been to the ant and the beasts and the birds. They recommend hibernating or migration, but our wings are too short for the one, our fur too thin for the other!
Seriously, you must not forget to prepare for extremes of climate. Fortunately the walls that most thoroughly resist the cold are effective against the heat. The doors and windows—the living, breathing, seeing, working part of the house—demand the twofold provision. You must have double windows in winter, to be taken off (laid away and more or less smashed up) in summer; outside blinds to ward off the summer sun, which may, in their turn, be removed when we are only too glad to welcome all the sunshine there is. The vestibules—portable storm-porches are not to be tolerated—must also be skilful doorkeepers, proof against hostile storms, but freely admitting the wandering zephyrs.

No comments: