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You have so many choices for styling Victorian front doors that it can get a little overwhelming. Those choices range from door mats to decorative planters to period hardware. That’s why we’re here to break down an otherwise overwhelming list of possibilities that fit every budget.

The many faces of Victorian style give you oodles of choices for your front door

Our front doors make a statement, and in the Victorian era, that statement could be elaborate. Gone was the uniformity and balance of the Georgian door. Victorian architecture allowed for variety and room to elaborate on style. Put another way, Victorian doors gave homeowners a chance to show off their money and taste.

Early in the Victorian era, adornments and hardware for front doors were still being carefully created by skilled craftsmen. But the Industrial Revolution was changing that. As products such as door hardware were being mass produced, a burgeoning middle class could join in on creating a front door worthy of greeting guests and impressing passersby.

It was no longer just the wealthy who could afford nice things. Victorian front doors hinted at the grandeur at what might lie beyond. No matter the size of the house, the front door was the first place one wanted to get things right.
“Builders worked tirelessly to design newer and fancier ways to add decor and ornamentation to houses of this era,” according to the pros at Home Advisor. “Patterns, shapes, and detail worked together to create a visual effect that was both imaginative and impressive.”

What was the Victorian era known for?

According to British history, the Victorian era spanned approximately the years between 1820 and 1914 – which doesn’t quite align with Queen Victoria’s reign of 1837 to 1901. Why the difference? The major hallmarks of the Victorian era — industrialization, societal unrest, and political reform —  were already starting and continued some years after her death.

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8 events in history every Victorian enthusiast should know

  • Industrialization brought on a rapid rise in city populations and a drain on rural life.
  • The telegraph and telephone were invented.
  • The railway boom starts in Great Britain and the United States.
  • Great Britain abolishes slavery.
  • The four year potato famine begins in Ireland and results in millions of deaths and millions immigrating to Northern America.
  • Charles Darwin publishes his controversial book on the origins of humans.
  • Florence Nightingale rises to fame during the Crimean War.
  • Jack the Ripper murders four prostitutes.

What does Victorian architecture look like?

For starters, Victorian architecture comes in more than one style, or what we might call subcategories.

Gothic Revival (1830 – 1860). The style was inspired by medieval design. Its most common distinguishing feature is the pointed arch, used on doors, windows, gables, dormers, and porches.

Italianate Style  (1840-1885). Inspired by European villas and Italian farmhouses, Italianate Style houses are distinguished by square towers, cupolas, and wide, decorative cornices that extend out in a dramatic effect.

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Second Empire Style (1855-1885). Also known as Napoleon III style,  this period of Victorian architecture was characterized by an eclectic mixture of historic styles. As the nickname suggests, much of its influence came from France. Second Empire Style was monumental and ornate. The mansard roof was its most defining characteristic. Residences typically had double front doors. One of the best known examples in the U.S. is the Old Executive Office Building in Washington D.C.

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Queen Anne Style (1880-1910). The Queen Anne style was undoubtedly the most popular of Victorian Architecture in the United States and nothing like its British counterpart. Wrap-around-porches came from this style. Other features included an asymmetrical facade, towers in a variety of shapes, second story balconies or porches, unconventional color schemes, and elaborate chimneys.

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Stick Style (1860-1890). As the name would imply, Victorian Stick Style architecture involved a lot of woodwork. The design is decorative, not structural. Thin strips of wood are laid over the exterior facade to create patterns.

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Folk Victorian (1870-1910). Other Victorian styles were often associated with wealth, but this sturdy structure was something of a combination of a cottage and Victorian style that the masses could afford. We still see so many variations of this style in our historic homes. This style of house is perfect for homeowners who want control over Victorian style. You can adorn your home with your favorite features.

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Traditional Victorian door

Whether you were a factory worker or industrialist, your Victorian front doors had much in common. 

Just like the Georgian era, a traditional Victorian door was a paneled wood door. But unlike the 6-panel Georgian door,  Victorian front doors had 4 panels. 

A mail slot is another standard feature that arrived in the late 1930s. Style experts say the popularity of the Victorian mail slot paralleled the advent of the Penny Post, which cost a penny compared to the 6-cent cost of the elite newspapers. Cheap and crude, the penny newspapers were the forerunners of  today’s sensational tabloid press.

What color were Victorian doors?

Early Victorian front doors (1830-1870) were typically painted with muted colors, such as grays, browns, and dark blues, because the elaborate ornamentation and brick exterior of early Victorian homes were rich in color and thought to clash with some colors.

“These color choices were made by trendsetter and Victorian landscape designer, Andrew Jackson Downing, who believed a house should blend in with its natural surroundings,” writes Sally Painter, a former commercial and residential designer.   “He accomplished this by selecting colors found in nature.” 

Also, the muted color palette was less expensive. During this time, paints were still mixed with natural pigments into a lead and oil base. Natural or stone-colored pigments were the result. 

As the Victorian era progressed, so did technology and Victorian styles. Paint could now be mass produced and brought home in resealable cans. Strong contrasts in color was the popular choice. This is the period in which Victorian houses were called “painted ladies.”

Color palettes included pastels and classic colors, such as red and black.

Victorian front door wreaths

The tradition of hanging a wreath on the front door was not a Victorian invention. That tradition started centuries earlier. But the over-the-top Victorian style called for something bigger and more ornamental than the typical wreaths of the day. 

You may remember the phrase “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” Well, think in a similar vein when it comes to wreaths for Victorian front doors. 

For Victorian wreaths, think flowers for all seasons. The wreaths can range from simple to elaborate florals.

Most Victorian wreaths are large and full of florals and foliage (holly, ivy, and yew) and often decorated with pine cones and fruit. But your Victorian front door wreath doesn’t have to be overdone. You can certainly adjust to your taste. Just remember that Victorians were all about dramatic contrast in their décor. You can even find wreaths that fit a rustic look.

Planters for Victorian front doors

Victorians were just as concerned with their gardens as they were their houses. Planters were used everywhere from the front door to their yards. Huge cast-iron urns in a Greek or Roman style were overflowing with vines and other greenery.

Cast-iron was a status symbol for the Victorians. Features of these sturdy, ornate often include:

  • Solid pedestal
  • Scalloped edges
  • Fluting (grooves running vertically)
  • Elaborate handles with ornamentation such as cherubs, fruit, or even snakes!
  • Scroll handles

These old urns can still be found at auction houses, estate sales, and antique dealers. But you can also find good quality fiberglass reproductions. You can also find Victorian urns in marble, cast concrete, and terra cotta. 

Another option for planters are decorative stone urns and cast iron urns. These planters and urns had been around long before the Victorian era but had declined considerably in popularity. However, Victorian times brought them back into fashion and the more decorative the better. 

You can use a variety of planters and urns to create a garden vignette around your Victorian front door. Use a large urn with a pedestal to create a focal point. Fill with greens such as ivy and cascading flowers.

Victorian front door mats

Wrought iron door mats would be the most authentic choice, but you have plenty of alternatives. You can find wrought iron-like styles in rubber and a combination of coir and rubber. The patterns should give the appearance of intricate iron work.

Victorian front door hardware

If you own a period home, then you most likely want to adhere to strict Victorian style guidelines. You still have a leeway with your Victorian door hardware.  Early Victorian homes in Great Britain used simple but elegant door locks and knobs

Even if you don’t home a period home, Victorian door hardware reproduction can be used to give your front door a vintage flair. 

You have your choice of cost and styles. Reproductions of Victorian door hardware can be of excellent quality nowadays. Antique selections were most likely handcrafted by an ironmonger.

What is ironmongery used for?

In a definitional sense, ironmongery simply means something made of metal, such as hardware for doors. An ironmonger, much like a blacksmith, would hand craft objects from iron. 

For Victorian front doors, ironmongery would refer to the following hardware:

  • Closers
  • Locks
  • Hinges
  • Handles
  • Mailbox

Victorian front door light fixtures

Victorian front doors are a focal point of your home so you certainly want to ensure your door is well illuminated. Not only does door entrance lighting shine the welcome light for your visitors but exterior lighting also plays an important part of home security. 

You should match your door entrance lighting with the exterior style. Fortunately, the wide range of choices in Victorian outdoor lighting give you more than enough options.

Be careful about do-it-yourself Victorian outdoor lighting projects. Although it may be tempting to turn an antique into a hanging porch light, you need to make sure that the light fixtures are up to code for your area. Look for UL-rated fixtures for damp or wet locations. 

If you live in an historically designated area, consult the official guidelines published by the district.  

In addition to style and safety, you want to get the size and positioning correct. From the street view, light fixtures will appear about half the size. If you are purchasing Victorian outdoor wall lights, such as sconces, experts recommend that the light fixtures should be ¼ to ⅓ the height of the front door. When mounting, place the entry light fixtures at eye height.

Victorian transom windows for front door

Victorians learned how to make use of natural light. Victorian front doors were often surrounded by windows called transoms and sidelights. Sometimes, even the doors had glass panels installed on the upper half of the door. 

The windows helped illuminate the home’s interior, which often consisted of an entryway and then another set of doors into the actual house. You can opt for clear or frosted glass, but stained glass is a popular choice for Victorian homes.

Victorian front doors with sidelights

Sidelights are sets of windows that frame your front door. They are usually placed on each side of your door to achieve a balanced design. However, in some situations, you can add just one sidelight window. 

You have the opinion of adding sidelights around an existing door, but you can also purchase sidelights and transoms as part of the front door package.

Victorian front door transoms

Transoms are windows that are placed above both exterior and interior doors. Historically, transoms, which open, were meant to help with the airflow in a house. Nowadays, you can purchase transoms as purely decorative to allow extra light into the house or you can also find transom windows that open. 

Transoms were also used in Georgian, Colonial Revival, and Arts and Crafts architecture; however, historians can trace the use of the transom to the 14th century.

Other front door styles you may enjoy

If you love architectural styles even a smidgen as much as we do, then definitely read about Julie’s obsessions with Spanish style doors

There is a beauty and Old World feel to the materials and design elements used in Spanish Colonial Architecture. The combinations of details are endless.

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