Victorian Colors

Decorating a Victorian period home, or even a room in the Victorian style, is one of the most exciting design challenges.   Where else can you use lots of lace, antiques, rich furnishings and velvet and not have the room look overdone? 

While picking the furnishings and accessories is fun, color choices can frustrate even the most seasoned designer.  Old photos don’t help much, as they were in black and white!  What did the Victorians do about color choices in the home?

Location, Location, Location

Homes that were located in towns tended to use darker colors due to the pollution.  Lighter colors could be used in country homes and farmhouses and were more popular during the early portion of Victorian era.  The lighter colors in the earlier years may have also been due to the low availability of pigments, and color options were dependent on what could be obtained.  Local, natural ingredients often had to be used to mix colors, which limited the selections.

Luxury Lifestyles

The Victorian era was all about opulence.  Those who had it flaunted it, and those who didn’t found ways to mimic it.  Mass production came into play to bring the look to the middle cloass.  To highlight the luxurious looks, deep rich colors such as hunter green, mauve and mahogany were used as technology came into play making colors and décor more widely available.

Faux Facts

The Victorians used faux finishes to bring texture to the walls.  Wood graining in particular was popular.  What wasn’t faux finished was wallpapered.  The wallpaper was usually a shade of red blue or green with lighter colored florals.

Rooms of Color

A typical Victorian parlor would have a wood grained door, a deep green wainscoting, a wood grained chair rail, a bold wallpaper on the upper wall and a pale salmon colored ceiling.  The dining room was often a deep ruby red and flaunted wallpapers of damask and flocked designs. 

The dark interior we often think of with Victorian rooms was not due to the lack of color, but the lack of light.  Dark velvets and damasks were used for window treatments and gas and oil lamps kept the interiors dim, and sometimes dirty.

Choosing your Palette

Choosing modern day Victorian color palettes has become much easier with the introduction of historical color palettes by the major paint manufacturers.  Sherwin Williams offers a wonderful selection of historical palettes for every era.  For Victorian palettes, they recommend selections such as:

Walls: Cajun Red
Trim: Empire Gold
Accent:  Sheraton Sage


Walls: Queen Anne Lilac
Trim: Pewter Tankard
Accent:  Deepest Mauve

Whether you decide to stick to historical accuracy or use a blend of new and old color palettes, consider the lifestyles and the limited technology of the Victorians to help you find colors that will not only please you, but fit right into your Victorian style.