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Design Focus: Victorian/Queen Anne Style

Canada is known to be a melting pot of traditions, fashions and style, including the designs of their homes. The development from a British colony to a modern, industrial, independent country was reflected predominantly in its architecture. This influence mainly came from America and parts of Europe, who were also affected by other traditions. This symbiotic period was largely marked by the Industrial Revolution, which opened new doors of expression.

Although Canadians sought to cultivate their own unique style, post Industrial Revolution architecture was dominated by Victorian stylistic revivals which were also popular in the neighbouring U.S. Victorian is not so much a style, but an era that rose from the 19th century reign of Queen Victoria in Great Britain.

Falling out of fashion in the early 20th century, the style has been making a comeback. This iconic style era has never left the consciousness of those who fancy the flamboyance of Victorianism. Even though it is difficult to pin down a singular description, several styles spawned from this stylistic period, the Queen Anne style is one of them.

HISTORY OF VICTORIAN, AND THE QUEEN ANNE STYLE

The 19th century reign of Queen Victoria categorized an entire period in time and lifestyle in England. The Victorian architectural design style came from this and reflected the ornate and excessive decoration of all things at the time. The homes from this era were marked by multiple styles and features which, included the Gothic Revival of 1840 – 1880; the Italianate Style of 1850-1890; Stick-Eastlake homes from 1860-1890 and eventually the most recognizable style, the Queen Anne from 1870-1910.

One of the many styles classified under the Victorian heading, the Queen Anne and the architectural style named in her honour came about 150 years after her reign. This means the design had nothing to do with the Queen Anne herself, who oversaw an entirely different period in time known as the Renaissance era. But history would have it that her impact would come at the time it did – during the Victorian era.

A common trait among Victorian homes has been the mixing and matching from other styles to create a distinctive look. The style is characterized by its ornamental turrets and towers and steeply pitched roofs, which demonstrated the opulence of the Victorian period. Of all the Victorian Styles, Queen Anne is the most outstanding and elaborate. The style is often classified as romantic and feminine, which is ironic, as it came out of a very mechanical, unromantic age.

IDENTIFYING THE VICTORIAN AND QUEEN ANNE DESIGN

The Victorian style speaks to an era influenced by a variety of other styles, namely the Queen Anne. Therefore, the Queen Anne is a singular architectural expression, while the Victorian is more of capturing an essence to create a particular aesthetic.

When most people describe a Victorian home it is actually a Queen Anne home they envision. Easily recognizable by its towers, the home is made from wood, brick or stone, and clapboard siding. They typically have wrap around porches with graceful curves, porch lattice, shingles, ‘gingerbread’ details and scroll work, intricate spindles and staircases.

While the initial inspiration came from England, the Queen Anne took on its own unique personality when it crossed over to the Western Hemisphere, becoming a true design style. Although varied elements influence the style, a definitive feature is the use of varied wall planes and forms, with towers, overhangs, wall projections and other elements added to avoid flat expanses. Fish scale shingle siding in various patterns and cuts as well as bay windows and bump outs are frequent Queen Anne features. Known for its massive multi-storied form, the size can vary to fit its environs, with smaller Queen Annes described as cottages.

Victorian styles hold a special place in house lovers hearts across the continent. Tall, intricate and highly ornamented, the aesthetic was that of affluence. The grandeur and acquisition of majestic pieces is a sign of good taste in a Victorian household. Extravagance should not be spared or at least perceived to be.

TYPICAL VICTORIAN AND QUEEN ANNE FEATURES

Eclecticism, asymmetry and excesses are hallmark features of the Queen Anne Style. Elaborate ornamental designs and materials including patterned stone, wood shingles, and to a lesser extent, stucco and terracotta panels define the look. Decorative stone panels and coloured bricks were set into the wall which allowed some detailing and variation. The steeply pitched and complex roof of the Queen Anne style home attracts much interest with its gables, towers and turrets for a colonial mansion effect.

The entrance captures your attention from the panelled front door, where its upper portions often display delicately carved decorations. The porch is usually framed by decorative columns and brackets, and is used as a way to segment the multi-storey Queen Anne style home. In urban areas, Victorian townhouses will often feature a second story porch connected to gables or towers.

Queen Anne towers come in many shapes and are a favourite feature of the style. The tower is supported by a corbel projected from the second floor. They are capped with an artfully shaped roof and finished off with slate shingles, among other ornaments. Framing the house, the least decorated feature of the style is the window. Lower window sashes have a single pane while upper windows display multi-paned glass. More elaborate window sashes sometimes feature stained glass.

Ironically, the same qualities that made the Queen Anne Style regal also made it fragile. They can prove to be expensive and difficult to maintain.

VICTORIAN AND QUEEN ANNE IN CANADA

Many of the historic buildings in Canada were designed in the Queen Anne Style; the Central Chambers being a prime example. They are an important part of Canadian heritage and help to reflect the country’s expansion in the late 19th and 20th century. Most of the original buildings have endured and the style has again grown in popularity. New homes are being built in the Victorian style, even to the point where entire modern subdivisions are being constructed with a tribute to the more whimsical features of the Queen Anne style. The style’s real beauty shines through the picturesque look it has given to row houses, and small to mid-sized apartment houses.

CREATING YOUR OWN VICTORIAN OR QUEEN ANNE HOME

No design style offers more opportunities for individuality and personal expression. And you don’t always have to build a new house. A beautiful Victorian feel can be achieved by choosing a few of the style’s elements for your own decor. One of the easiest ways is by adding ornamentation, trim and wallpaper where tastefully possible.

A typical Victorian structure features siding, stone and brick. If you are matching this style, consider Cultured Stone® or Cultured Brick® veneers to give your home the elegant appearance, without the expense and structural considerations that accompany traditional materials.