Victorian House Book: A practical Guide to Home Repair and Decoration / Edition 4

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Historical information plus design ideas and advice for a Victorian vintage home.

[Praise for the UK edition:] Well-researched and documented... Essential for anyone interested in Victorian design and decoration.
- Library Journal

The Victorian House Book is a fascinating and essential guide to a rich and varied design age. The book details numerous interior and exterior styles — from the High Victorian and Queen Anne Revival to the Classical and Gothic — and showcases homes from the United States and Great Britain.

Full of inspiring ideas and fascinating information, the book is organized room by room including conservatories, libraries and billiard rooms. More than 500 color photographs and 1,500 line drawings show the beauty and elegance of Victorian homes and reveal details of their architectural features. A wide range of design elements is examined, including:

  • House styles and plans
  • Traditional colors and finishes
  • Construction features
  • Furniture styles
  • Roofs and gables
  • Ceilings and fireplaces
  • Wallpapers and upholstery
  • Decorative glass and moldings
  • Curtains and floor coverings
  • Railings and ironwork.

The Victorian House Book also includes a trouble-shooting guide with information and advice on renovation techniques and care and maintenance. A source list provides the names, addresses and websites of manufacturers and suppliers.

This beautifully illustrated volume fully describes the rich and eclectic designs of the entire Victorian period, including a detailed source directory for Victoriana.

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Editorial Reviews

Reno & Decor
How to live in a real Victorian home.... This is the best guide available.
— Patrick Tivy
[This] is a beautiful hardcover book that allows homeowners a chance to learn how their houses can be adapted to modern living without losing the character they love... The organized so the homeowner would find it useful - from foundation to roof and room by room. It offers a practical guide to various Victorian styles, furnishings and decorations.
The Toronto Star
A lavish guidebook to the excess and eccentricities of the period
— Kathy Renwald
Waterloo Region Record/The Guelph Mercury
Packed with 500 photographs and 1,500 drawings.... It's guaranteed to offer inspiration.
— Carol Ross Williamson
Reno and Decor
This book is the best guide available.
— Patrick Tivy
The Globe and Mail
Victorian homes are well known for their rich detail, and that's apparent here through the photographs, text and...architectural drawings.
— Gift Books Christmas 2008
Heritage Matters Vol 6 No 3
In this comprehensive workbook, interior designer Robin Guild takes you through every room in the Victorian house, explaining how to recognize original fixtures and fittings, and suggesting ways you can use them to put a personal stamp on your home while staying true to its Victorian origins. He also provides details on how to modernize features to meet the convenience and comfort demands of the 21st-century homeowner. Drawing on his professional experience, the expertise of an advisory panel of architects and historians specializing in Victorian architecture, and the vast array of resources in this book, Robin helps you decide what changes or improvements to make, which should come first, and how to work through them all step by step.
Reno & Decor - Patrick Tivy
This book is the best guide available. It includes detailed descriptions of all aspects of Victorian construction methods, as well as precise sketches of all the elements of true Victorian-style decor, from wallpaper to doorknobs.
The Toronto Star - Kathy Renwald
A lavish guidebook to the excess and eccentricities of the period.
Waterloo Region Record/The Guelph Mercury - Carol Ross Williamson
Packed with 500 photographs and 1,500 drawings.... It's guaranteed to offer inspiration.
The Globe and Mail - Gift Books Christmas 2008
This book serves two purposes: It can inspire those who wish to lovingly restore or sensitively alter a fine, old 19th-century home and offers instructions for those who might execute the plan. Victorian homes are well known for their rich detail, and that's apparent here through the photographs, text and handy architectural drawings dealing with everything from floor plans to baluster profiles.
Library Journal
In this well-researched and documented guide to Victorian buildings and interiors, the author offers a comprehensive discussion of the Victorian achievement in such areas as exterior wall decoration, gables, fireplaces, wallpaper design, furniture, lighting, floor treatments, and upholstery. Over 2000 illustrations, 500 in color, demonstrate room by room the variety of detail inherent in Victorian style, encompassing such important elements as moldings, plaster work, cornices, cupboard doors, joints, and cabinet fittings. An extensive historical introduction grounds the reader in the design aspirations and successes of the age. Throughout, an appreciation of style is accompanied by practical sections on decorating, renovating, and maintaining a Victorian home. Essential for anyone interested in Victorian design and decoration.-- Margaret Jean Owens, Santa Ana P.L., Cal.
A guide to the architecture, interiors, and often whimsical details of Victorian homes. Historical information is combined with design ideas and advice on how to decorate, renovate, and maintain a vintage home. But the pictures are the important thing--400 illustrations, 300 in color. No bibliography. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554073719
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 2/15/2008
  • Edition description: Fourth edition
  • Edition number: 4
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 9.25 (w) x 12.25 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Robin Guild established an international reputation as an interior designer, with a client list that included celebrities and royalty. He designed Ralph Lauren's groundbreaking London stores, co-founded Designer's Guild in London, restored a wide variety of Victorian homes, and wrote several highly popular design books, including The Finishing Touch and Homeworks.

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Table of Contents


Chapter 1: The Victorian Inspiration

  • Standard House Types
Chapter 2: Exterior Features
  • The Masonry House
  • The Row House
  • The Balloon Frame House
  • The Front Entrance
  • External Walls
  • Roofs and Gables
  • Exterior Color Schemes
  • Decorative Ironwork
  • Windows
Chapter 3: Fixtures and Fittings
  • Planning Ahead
  • Halls, Stairs and Landings
  • Interior Walls, Ceilings and Their Dressings
  • Joinery
  • Bookshelves and Cabinets
  • Fireplaces
  • Floors and Floor
  • Tiles
  • Decorative Glass
  • Lighting
  • Brassware, Metalwork and Porcelain Fittings
Chapter 4: Decorating in the Victorian Style
  • Period Decoration
  • Color and Paint Effects
  • Wallpapers
  • Carpets and Floor Coverings
  • Curtains and Blinds
  • Furniture and Upholstery
  • Drawing Rooms
  • Dining Rooms
  • Studies, Libraries and Billiard Rooms
Chapter 5: Kitchen and Bathrooms
  • Kitchens
  • Bathrooms
Chapter 6: The Private Rooms
  • Bedrooms and Nurseries

Chapter 7: Gardens
  • Railings and Garden Walls
  • Gazebos and Summer Houses
  • Conservatories
  • Furnishing the Garden
Technical Advice Chapter 8: Keeping Faith with the Past
  • Assessing the Condition
  • The External Inspection
  • The Internal Inspection
  • Structural Alterations
  • Conversions
  • Additions
  • Heating and Insulation
  • Energy Conservation
  • Adapting Victorian Fixtures and Fittings
  • Care and Maintenance

Suppliers of Goods and Services
Museums and Associations
Bibliography and Picture Credits


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Architecture is a vulnerable art; like the landscape, it is subject to meddling by succeeding generations. In this respect, music and literature are more fortunate, for however much abuse or neglect they may receive, the essential integrity of the original will probably survive. This is not at all the case with buildings, and very few houses over a hundred years old have survived unaltered. In many cases, the effects of weather and pollution — together with the additions, alterations and repairs made by several generations of inhabitants — have changed them to such an extent that their builders would have difficulty in recognizing them.

The United States still affords little protection to historic buildings, even those landmarks that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Ownership normally confers the right to pull down anything considered obsolete or which stands in the way of future development. In contrast, Britain began serious preservation many decades ago. Starting with Scotland in 1933 and followed by England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 1947, buildings of architectural importance began to be surveyed and actively protected from unsympathetic changes or demolition. For this preservation attitude the British must thank William Morris, the instigator in 1877 of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. True, Morris would probably not have cared much if all the houses of the 18th century had been pulled down, but at least he brought to public attention the state of many medieval buildings which were then suffering serious neglect or were threatened with demolition.

Although we think of ourselves as more enlightened today, our aesthetic vandalism is more insidious. If a roof needed railing in the 19th century, the chances are that the replacements would have been made of the same clay — or even in the same kiln — as the originals. The brick and stone, and even the mortar used for pointing, may all have come from local clay beds, kilns and quarries; the building materials quite literally arose from the surrounding landscape, and blended naturally with those of neighboring buildings.

Nowadays there are countless substitutes on the market, and nearly all of them are visually inferior to the originals. A glance down any Victorian street will illustrate this sad decline. The roofline will probably have suffered most, with slates replaced by asbestos shingles and cast-iron gutters by plastic ones. Nor will the façades have survived unscathed; good brickwork may have been painted over or repointed in coarse cement, and wood sashes may have given way to aluminum-framed or plastic-coated windows.

Each age works within the cost limits and technology of its time. The industrial components of the suppliers — concrete tiles, plastic rain-water goods,
mass-produced bricks and blocks, metal windows, flush doors and building boards — can be seen as the only architectural currency capable of satisfying present housing demands. Houses built of these new materials are truly houses of today, and for better or worse, homes throughout the country reflect their dubious standards. Unfortunately these same materials are quite unsuitable for repairing and restoring the older housing stock in which a large proportion of us still have to live, or choose to live.

The building heritage of the United States may be divided into four periods: pre-1830; the loosely categorized Victorian period, extending from the 1830's to the outbreak of World War I (1914-18); "between-the-wars;" and the post-war period from 1945 to the present day. Pre-Victorian buildings represent a very small percentage of the private housing stock. A look at properties in Cambridge, Massachusetts or Alexandria, Virginia will confirm that in urban areas Georgian and Federal houses are highly sought-after and well beyond the reach of most buyers. In smaller towns, however, they may still be found at more realistic prices.

The housing of the inter-war period continued the themes of the turn of the century; it drew on the aesthetics of the Garden Suburb Movement and drew from newly published books of photographs and details of European houses to build handsome adaptations. The location of many of these houses, in well planned, close-in suburbs, makes them attractive to those who prefer contact with city life. In much post-war housing, these standards have been reduced to the absolute minimum. With the aesthetics of the Modern Movement, they house people; they keep them warm and dry, and as such they have a respectable function.

For many people, however, this is not enough. More and more of us are coming to appreciate the character and craftsmanship of older houses, to value the special atmosphere of a place that has been lived in for generations and to take pleasure in the wealth of architectural detail so lacking in more modern homes. And of the earlier housing stock, a large and accessible proportion will have been built in the 19th century. In the United States alone, it is estimated that more than five million houses were built during Queen Victoria's reign.

"Victorian" — the very word that was shunned for years by real-estate agents — has now become a positive selling adjective. This has its ironic and even absurd aspects, but it is also an accurate gauge of public opinion. Real-estate agents may like to believe that they lead trends, but in reality they merely reflect the changes in public taste. In the United States, in Britain and on the Continent, the real trendsetters have been artists, followed by architects and craftsmen. Greenwich Village, Chelsea and the Left Bank were all infiltrated by artists and poorer professionals such as architects, who wanted homes with some character and were able and willing to renovate a run-down property. They created a pleasant and lively atmosphere which attracted the richer professionals and pseudo-artists — lawyers, bankers, advertisers and public relations people. In due course, the new arrivals pushed up the prices, forcing the artists to look elsewhere; in London the move was northwards to Islington, in New York to SoHo, and in both these districts the pattern is now repeating itself.

Nostalgia may be an element of the charm which Victorian buildings hold for us, but it can be a misleading quality. We can only see Victorian houses through 21st-century eyes, and cannot transport ourselves back to the aesthetic, moral and social climate of more than a hundred years ago, any more than the Victorians could feel empathy with the Georgian era. Their dislike of 18th-century architecture was echoed in our own age by the condemnation of Victorian taste by many "enlightened" people until quite recently.

This was a natural enough reaction. The generation which knew at first hand the darker side of 19th-century life — the grinding drudgery of factory life or the suffocating respectability of a middle-class Sunday — felt little nostalgia for the period. After World War I, the blueprint for the Modern Movement in architecture often called the International Style - was drawn up. Its basic tenets — austerity, the absence of ornament and the simple lines created by the machine tool — were the antithesis of everything Victorian architecture stood for. The widespread building after World War II allowed the architects of the International Style to put their ideas into practice on a large scale, and the urban renewal that followed saw many old buildings swept away as the impractical, squalid survivors of a recent, unloved past.

With the passage of time, however, the art and architecture of the Victorian age can be reviewed in a more sympathetic light. The new theories, case studies and aesthetic polemics have failed to solve the problems of society, and are actually felt by many to have aggravated them. High-rise building has come to be seen by some as a blight on the landscape, a hostile and impersonal environment that does little to foster human values or community spirit. Victorian ho

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