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Juliette Hohnen Design Series | Victorian Architecture

Juliette Hohnen Design Series | Victorian Architecture

It’s Halloween and we’re highlighting the “spookiest” of housing styles, the Victorian. Personally, I love an old Victorian, with all the ornate details and intricate woodwork that showcase master craftsmanship, but I wondered why are these houses now synonymous with horror and haunted houses?

According to JSTOR Daily’s How Victorian Mansions Became the Default Haunted House, when the Victorian homes were first built, their intricate details, turrets, and gables were all a sign of the owner’s wealth, but by the 20th Century, the Victorian style was seen as extravagant and excessive and the style declined in popularity. Many Victorian houses were demolished or abandoned, so the image of a decrepit, run-down Victorian house was a common sight across the country. It’s not hard to see why people started associating these decaying houses with ghosts, ghouls and other spooky phenomena associated with death. Pretty soon, artists and writers used old Victorian homes as the setting for their macabre tales and Hollywood followed suit. From American Horror Story’s Murder House, to the Bates Motel in Psycho, to Vecna’s house in the most recent season of Stranger Things, when Hollywood needs a scary house, you better bet it’s gonna be a Victorian house.


Img Src: Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, American Horror Story: Murder House

Whether you find them creepy or appreciate their lovely details, all Victorian homes have defining characteristics that set them apart from other house styles.


  1. Grandeur: Large Scale and Intricate Ornamental Work 
    In the mid to late 1800s, the original Victorian owners built these beautiful mansions to show off their wealth: the larger the house and more detailed the woodwork and painting all announced that the owner could afford the best materials and skilled craftsmen.


  2. Steep Roofs with Decorative Shingle or Clapboard Exteriors
    The silhouette usually has a pointy top and a rounded rectangle base. A typical indication of this style is the steeply slanted roof, usually layered with decorative or clapboard shingles. These iconic roofs lend themselves well to the Halloween mood! However, when taken out of a spooky context, these types of homes usually exude a warm and comfortable atmosphere, the roof creating high ceilings on the inside.


  3. Wooden Infrastructure with Bright Color Paint 
    Thanks to the wooden materials, it is easy to paint Victorian houses. Classically, people have opted for bright colors to highlight the decorative aspects of the facades. The Painted Ladies in San Francisco are a prime example of the colors and style used in this era.

  4.  2-3 Stories and a Large Front Porch 
    Usually, there are two to three floors and an expansive front porch, which has the bulk of the ornamental work of the house. Great for leaving out candy for Trick-or-Treaters and for Halloween decor.

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Juliette Hohnen

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