How to Restore your Victorian Home’s Curb Appeal, Part 2

Want to restore your Victorian home’s historic curb appeal? In “How to Restore your Victorian Home’s Curb Appeal, Part 1,” renovation expert Eric Hollenbeck showed you how to research your home’s facade. Now, in part 2, learn the nuts and bolts of restoring your Victorian home based on historic photographs.

victorian home

Photo: Thinkstock

Phase Two: The Math

Whether you are working from a photo of your Victorian home, an inspiration/similar house or a piece of millwork you like and want to duplicate, start out with your known measurements. If you’re using an inspiration photo, you’ll also need a picture of your home.

1) Make several black-and-white copies of your house’s photo. Using a straight edge, draw the outside dimensions of the area you want the millwork to fill (for example, see photos at top). These are the “fixed” measurements.

2) Next, on the historic photo, using a pair of dividers (you could use a compass) and an architect’s scale ruler (office-supply stores have them), break up the millwork into proportions. At right, you can see that the long, skinny section is about 1.5 times the length of the upper part (known as the “golden proportions”).

home curb appeal

Photo: Thinkstock

3) Now do the math. The lower part is 60% and the upper part is 40% of the total length of 96”. By multiplying 96 by 60% and 40%, you get 57½” for the bottom leg and 38½” for the top. Using the architect’s ruler, find a scale that best fits these measurements, then just read the measurements off the scale for each element you plan to recreate (photo 3).


Tip: Whether you’re making the millwork piece or having a shop make it, keep in mind the shadow lines. This means that millwork on the third story will be cut from thicker pieces; the higher the molding, the more it should project shadows so it can be seen from the ground. So, if the piece is on the home’s first story, the molding and trim details can be cut from ½- and ¾-inch stock; on the second story, use 2-inch and 1-inch stock so the cuts can be deeper; and on the third story, use 2½- and 1½-inch stock with really deep cuts and transitions. New York architect Kirby Grimes puts it this way: “It needs light to ‘read’ it. The guys who invented these moldings thought about the light they would have and the height on the building. The higher the molding, the more it would project.”


By Eric Hollenbeck, founder and master craftsman of Blue Ox Millworks, grew up in Eureka, California. Eureka’s rich architectural heritage, with its reputation of more Victorians per capita than any city in the state, inspired his 38 years in the Victorian millwork business. Nationally, hundreds of buildings have benefitted from Hollenbeck’s passion and commitment to quality workmanship. For more information, call (800) 248-4259 or visit



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