Paint Your Walls in the Victorian Style

Karen Bateman has always “loved Victoriana and became a collector in high school”; when she and her husband redid their new home in the Victorian style, she began by by revving up the color scheme.


On the exterior she turned the gray and white gal into a real painted lady, picking out the two-story house’s rich architectural details in purple, black and two shades of gray. When it comes to painting a home’s façade, Karen advises homeowners to select colors from the same value card—if you do, they’ll coordinate perfectly.


victorian style


Inside, she used decorative wall treatments and vintage-style paint colors to highlight the home’s Victorian details. Karen opted for the compartmentalized look that was so characteristic of these houses of yesteryear. “I painted each room a different vibrant color,” she says. The master bedroom, for instance, is a midnight blue imbued with regal purple that Karen says “changes color by the hour as the sun moves through the room.” It’s the perfect setting for the 1920s Egyptian Revival chaise lounge. The mantel, which was bought on eBay and shipped from Philadelphia, is in the Eastlake style.


In the dining room, acid green apple walls set the table for Spanish Revival chairs upholstered in burgundy damask. “I thought it was going to be difficult to find fabrics to match the wall colors,” she says. “But in the bedroom, for example, I made the draperies out of the curtains.”


victorian style


In the guest bathroom, Karen’s chosen color scheme—celery green with lots of gray—is picked up in the lacy shower curtain, and a coordinating 19th-century French cabinet that houses the sink.


And in other rooms, Karen used decorative painting to make bold statements. In the foyer and parlor, for instance, Karen defined the walls with the Victorian dado-filler-frieze treatment. But instead of wallpapering the three sections, she used ragging to create texture and elaborate decorative stencils to bring in period detailing.


She also brought ornamentation to the plain side panels of the front door by painting their clear panes to resemble stained glass. “This is really easy and inexpensive to do when you use a paint epoxy product like Gallery Glass,” Karen says. “It doesn’t take much training.”


Have you recently repainted your home and want to share your story? Are you considering repainting in the Victorian style and have questions? Please let us know in the comments below.

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By Nancy A. Ruhling

Photography by Mark Tanner

Styled by Karen Bateman and Rebecca Ittner



2 thoughts on “Paint Your Walls in the Victorian Style

  1. I have a “new” Victorian my husband and I built 7 years ago. I have painted the walls and am not happy with them. I wish you could see them so you could help! The great room is celery green. The dining room is hunter green, the kitchen is katsup red, the library is burgandy, the foyer and hall way are baby blue ( I hate it) with faux. The bathroon off of the hall way is dark blue. The loft upstairs is primer gray, because I have no idea what to do with it. The library is off of the baby blue hallway and clashes. I do not know what to do. I don’t know what to do for curtains for the dining room. Frustrated.

    Mrs. Renee Bishop

    • Dear Mrs. Bishop,

      It’s great to hear from you!

      You’ve tried the “authentic” Victorian look by painting each room a different color. But it sounds like you’re displeased with your home’s “compartmentalized” feel. The rooms don’t flow in and out of each other well; as you mentioned, the burgundy library and the baby blue hallway clash.

      Since replicating Victorian style exactly by painting each room a different color is extremely difficult, it’s fortunate for us all that color experts these days advocate neutrals. So try painting the whole house a warm, neutral color; then, for Victorian flavor, choose two or three deep, vivid colors (bold jewel tones popular in the Victorian era like sapphire and ruby red) to use as accents throughout the house, assigning only one color to each room. You could use the dark colors to highlight Victorian architectural elements, a favorite antique or a window with a fantastic view. Bring the deep color into the room with an accent wall, window coverings, an area rug, etc.

      When it comes to choosing your Victorian accent colors, here’s the most budget-friendly way to go: look at your existing furnishings. If the decor you already own seems to have a consistent color scheme, play up those colors throughout your home.

      Or, if you want to redecorate from scratch, study a color wheel. Choose colors in a split complementary color scheme (like orange-yellow, indigo and turquoise) or a triadic color scheme (equally spaced colors like orange, violet and teal). For more help choosing colors, check out Victorian Homes contributor Robert Schweitzer’s website (

      There are also lots of online resources for Victorian-style window coverings, including lists of types of historic window treatments ( and of companies that sell Victorian decor products (

      I hope I’ve given you a few ideas. If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to ask!


      Elaine K. Phillips
      Editorial Assistant, Victorian Homes

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